For this month, Winnipeg River Arts Council updates the profile of chainsaw carver, Jim Niedermayer. Born and raised in Powerview-Pine Falls, he’s spent plenty of time in the boreal forest, especially when he’s harvesting wild rice on his assigned lakes. From a young age, Nature intrigued him and he learned early to have the utmost respect for all living things.
When he’s creating his art, his main goal is to repurpose dead trees. He often goes to people’s yards and carves the stumps left behind after their beloved mature spruce, pine or oak is removed. He said, “I enjoy putting life back into them, carving animals and birds that had once depended on the trees.”
Niedermayer’s skills with a chain saw are self-taught. In 2009, when the paper mill in Pine Falls shut down, he decided to start carving. People responded positively to his first efforts and their reactions made him determined to improve. His persistence paid off.
He began to take part in competitions, where he met lots of amazing carvers, in places ranging from Peterborough to Moosejaw to Winnipeg, and many other communities. He said, “They push me to do my best and exceed expectations. It’s challenging and gratifying getting together and competing with so many talented artists.”
Niedermayer enjoys competitions because the participants give each other a helping hand when needed. He said, “It’s a small world. We’ve become a carver family.” He also values the support and work of his wife, Joanne. “She serves as my assistant at most events and is a big part of my carving career.”
Niedermayer notes that chainsaw carving is a fast-growing pastime, combining sport, entertainment, and art. It involves great physical effort, such as moving logs and equipment, controlling the various saws, and standing for as long as it takes to complete a carving. The act of carving also offers unlimited opportunities to explore creative concepts and keeps crowds enthralled for hours.
As a carver, Niedermayer has won many awards and met many interesting people. He notes two of the most memorable. When Sean Penn visited Manitoba to film the movie, “Flag Day,” he purchased a carving and took it back to the United States.
Another time, Niedermayer was working on a spruce tree at a city golf course. The course was closed to the public and the Winnipeg Jets were participating in a fundraising event. The players became so fascinated by his project that Niedermayer ended up hanging out with them. He said, “Mark Scheifele signed my saw. We joked how it was the first time for him, signing a chainsaw. I think he’ll remember me.”
As will many other people who have seen Niedermayer doing what he loves, making beautiful art out of a log or a stump.