MERRIFIELD, Minn. (WCCO) — With a sharp tug of his chainsaw’s rope, Pat Scrimshaw looks every bit a logger heading to the north woods. But the big white pines he slices up produce looks – not logs.
“I think it’s the greatest challenge to take a piece of wood and make anything you want,” Scrimshaw said. “The sky’s the limit.”
For the past 10 years, the longtime carpenter and furniture maker has been on a personal mission to become an accomplished chainsaw artist. But that can be a tough task when you lack the talent to even draw.
Scrimshaw admits that his brothers had all the artistic talent in the family. That is, until he forced himself to think differently.
“So I went out and made a mushroom and tree and a bear that looked like a pig – I knew I was in trouble,” Scrimshaw laughs.
As a carpenter, Scrimshaw had no problem thinking in terms of precision and measurements. But as an artist, being original and creative is a whole different challenge. Those talents reside in the right side of the brain, which controls things like form, function, color and shape.
But patience and persistence paid off as Scrimshaw got advice from other carvers and went to work.
As he explains: “You have to see the carving in the tree before you star.”
Now his carvings grace living rooms and log cabins across the country. His creations are in demand because he’s one of the best.
His carvings of bald eagles appear so lifelike it’s as if they’re ready to take flight. And his carvings of wolves with their mouths stretched open to the sky lack only howls.
Why do customers clamor for his creations?
Scrimshaw says it’s simple.
“I think it’s just part of the human spirit to say: I want to be close to nature,” he said.
Like snowflakes settling to the ground, wood dust and chips fly as Scrimshaw carves away with his chainsaw. He pauses only briefly to see where he’s at.
Unlike other art forms, carving with a chainsaw is a slow process of removal – take off too much and the piece becomes nothing more than expensive kindling.
It was WCCO-TV legend Don Shelby who once told Scrimshaw that people need to be surrounded by nature to bring their lives back into balance.
“I heard [Shelby] speak, and one of the things he talked about is how nature heals you,” Scrimshaw said.
That’s very likely the reason Scrimshaw’s eagles, owls, bears and loons quickly leave his studio to fulfill the dreams of those in need of nature.