Artist to create owl sculpture during festival

Submitted  Molly Wiste with one of her carvings. Submitted photo.
Molly Wiste with one of her carvings. Submitted photo.

Craig Moorhead

The Caledonia Argus

Molly Wiste’s skilled hands can turn a stump of wood, into a wolf, an eagle, or a Minnesota bass leaping from it’s watery haunt. She’s even carved an angel. The Minnesota artist has been invited to travel as far away as Australia as a competitive wood carver, where she represented the United States. Her tool of choice is a chainsaw.

“I can usually carve just about anything,” Wiste said recently. That includes raptors of the night.

During this year’s International Festival of Owls, Wiste will demonstrate her craft as she turns a cutoff ash tree in the Houston City Park into a group of owls.

“Thanks to a grant from the Falck Foundation the Owl Center was able to hire Molly, whose parents-in-law live in Houston, to do the carving for us,” International Owl Center executive director Karla Bloem reported. “The carved owl tree will become a part of the public Parade of Owls Art Tour in Houston.”

The ash tree was one of three in the park which were topped after being lost to Emerald Ash Borer, Bloem said. “We hope other organizations will sponsor the other two trees in the future,” she added.

“My in-laws are Paul and Joann Wiste,” Molly told the Argus. “They live in Houston. My husband was born and raised in Houston.” Wiste teaches art in Pequot Lakes, and lives in nearby Hackensack. In January, she was one of 10 carvers invited to compete in Melbourne, Australia. “It was a pretty big honor,” she said.

Submitted   This cut off ash tree in the Houston City Park is where Wiste will work.
This cut off ash tree in the Houston City Park is where Wiste will work.

And the carving? “I’m planning on fitting at least three, maybe four or five owls in the tree. It will all depend on what I find when I get into the wood.” Items like rotten spots or knots can alter the best-laid plans. But that’s also part of the appeal.

“I love working with natural materials and all the flaws that come with that,” Wiste stated. “Another thing I like is the speed at which I can take an idea or something I want to say and create it. The chain saw is so fast…

“Chainsaw carving has a long history,” she noted. “The neat thing right now is, chainsaw carvers are starting to study more art, looking at bronze sculptures and marble sculptures, getting into ice sculpture. All those other art forms are starting to influence chainsaw art.”

Wiste is scheduled to carve on Saturday, March 4 from 8 a.m. to Noon, and again from 1 p.m. to 5 p.m. She will also work on Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The sculpture will require additional time to complete, so she’s planning to return to Houston later in March to finish the commission.

The art tour gained six metal owl sculptures a couple years ago, which, when added to several already-existing pieces brought the total to 10. The first owl sculpture in Houston actually dates from about 2003 to 2005, Bloem explained.