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Molly Wiste combines passions through chain saw carving

Molly Wiste of Hackensack loves art and the outdoors. When she carves with a chainsaw, she draws from both passions.

Wiste grew up in Winona where she graduated from high school and then from college with a Bachelor of Science degree in art education. She was a daddy’s girl.

“He didn’t have a son in the beginning, and my sister wasn’t really into it. My dad was a really big bow hunter. I went with him and spent a lot of time with him,” Wiste said. “It’s been a few years now, but not too long ago we went on a bear hunting trip to Canada. We’re kind of planning a fishing trip to Canada when the kids get a little older so they can come with. I’ve gone on a lot of motorcycle trips with my dad.”

As the oldest of three siblings, Wiste and her father spent the most time together. From bow hunting to fishing to motorcycle rides through Sturgis, S.D., Wiste’s father got her hooked on the outdoors.

Wiste has a similar relationship with her son, Ian.

“I always try to make sure it’s something they are interested in and not forced, but he (son Ian) talks about hunting and fishing all the time. We got him some pocket knives and he whittles on sticks (with supervision),” Wiste said.

Wiste has been teaching art in the Pequot Lakes School District for eight years. Her approach is flexible. She says she teaches her students the fundamentals of art, but they get to design their own projects.

Wiste understands that everyone has different interests. That’s why she is teaching her 5-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter in a similar way.

Wiste always teaches her students “the creative method.”

“It’s kind of like the scientific method,” she said.

Like the scientific method, the creative method involves research, planning and peer review, most of which rarely come into play when she is doing her chainsaw carvings.

“I’m pretty good at winging it,” She said.

Wiste’s approach to carving is virtually the opposite of her approach to other types of art.

“I liked the speed of it, but that’s kind of funny. When I do oil paintings, I take forever and work on them longer than anybody else would,” Wiste said.

It’s like carving is the combination of Wiste, the indoor teacher, and Wiste, the outdoor explorer.

Wiste has been chainsaw carving for six years, since she was accidentally introduced to the activity while picking up building material for her home.

“I went into a carving log shop to get a slab to make a countertop. I was talking with the person. He found out I was an art teacher and told me if I came back with a chainsaw he would teach me how to make a bear. I bought a chainsaw and came back. Before that it had never entered my mind,” Wiste said.

Wiste had used chainsaws in the woods before, but never for art. Soon after learning, she was invited to do a quick carve event in Hackensack, but refused. Friends insisted that she should join the event. She eventually gave in. She joined the event doing quick carves to be auctioned off after the event.

“I did it and I loved it. I was hooked,” Wiste said.

Wiste has participated in quick carves for 10-15 events. Her favorite carving was a Winona red canoe with a black lab and a badger inside of it.

“I have been a judge several times. They like me as a judge because I’m an art teacher, so I have the background, but I’ve never actually been a competitor at an event that has been invited and paid to be there,” Wiste said.

Wiste is getting her chance to compete. She was recently invited to compete in the U.S. Open Chainsaw Competition.

“I’m so excited. Ever since I was in my first quick carve it has always been my dream to be in the competition,” Wiste said.

Wiste grew up in a competitive household, always competing with her sister. In school she competed in sports and water-skiing tournaments. Chainsaw carving is just the next competition in a long line of competitions. Unlike quick carves, Wiste will plan her competition carving.

“Since I haven’t been in a lot of competitions, I look up reference photos. I do sketches ahead of time, I might even pre-carve my carving and have a practice one that I’ve made at home first. I’ll have to move fast to get to the level of detail I need,” Wiste said. “I want to do a good job so I can go back again.”

The U.S. Open is Aug. 7-10 at the Eau Claire, Wis., Paul Bunyan Logging Camp. She will be competing against professional chainsaw artists from around the world.

Find Wiste’s chainsaw artwork at

Travis Grimler can be reached at Follow him at and on Twitter @PEJ_Travis.