BY BILL PHILLIPS
Elmer Gunderson is well-known for his carvings in the bark of trees in Cottonwood Park.
Those carvings, while no less impressive, are quite small compared to some of his other carving … most notably a life-size bust of a horse that was on display at Northern Hardware earlier this month.
“It was a lot of fun because it was a recycled piece of wood that I got from the old picnic shelter in (Lheidli T’enneh Memorial) Park,” says Gunderson. “When I got the piece and took it home, the log still had people’s names carved in it. So it was kind of nostalgic, taking it apart, shaving things off and thinking there were people connected to it.”
The cedar tree was about 150 years old and has been a part of the picnic shelter for probably the last 50 years, making it about 200 years old.
It took Gunderson about four weeks to complete the carving.
“I’ve done quite a few horses,” he says. “To me they’re such an incredible animal, I try and reproduce it.”
Gunderson started carving about 25 years ago with a different twist on the old ‘starving artist’ cliché.
“I saw a piece I really liked and couldn’t afford it, so I decided I’d try and make it myself,” he says. “I kept working at and working at it. It took quite a while but I finally had something.”
After that he read a few books on carving, took a few courses, and started with chainsaw carving. From there he got into some of the more intricate work he does now.
So how does he come up with his ideas of what to carve into a specific piece of wood?
“Sometimes you go in with an idea and look for a piece that will accommodate it,” he says. “Other times the piece of stone or log will show you what it wants to be. This one, I knew wanted to be a horse. I wanted to make it look good, strong, powerful.”
The goal, of course, is to sell it. That’s where Blair Moffat and Northern Hardware came into the picture. Moffat, who is more than willing to help promote local artists, agreed to display the horse in the store.
“I’m very grateful to Blair Moffat for helping me out and displaying it,” says Gunderson.
The high visibility location paid off as it was on display for less than a week before a horse-lover came into the store, fell in love with the piece, and bought it on the spot.
That horse-lover was John Brink of the Brink Group of Companies.
“I was on my way to the airport and I had very little time,” Brink says. “I had to quickly pick up something at Northern Hardware. I saw the horse and I asked Blair who did it. He told me it was for sale and I said I’m buying it.”
Brink and his wife own eight horses and both ride dressage. The carving will be the centrepiece in an arena he’s building for his horses.
“Elmer is such a well-known artist,” says Brink. “To see a piece from him, which has so much history behind it, is just great.”
Gunderson couldn’t be happier.
“I always hope they go to a good home,” he says of his carvings. “It’s nice to see.”
His next project? A six-foot-high bear set on a piece of stone.
“It’s got character,” he says.