Fishing… with a Chainsaw

Jessie Groeschen

.Jessie Groeschen

By Kathleen Ryan

“I like to go fishing—not with a pole, but artistically, with a chainsaw and some wood,” said Jessie Groeschen, a California chainsaw artist and the author of The Art of Chainsaw Carving published by Fox Chapel Publishing.

Over the past 20 years, Jessie has created innumerable carvings covering a wide range of subjects, but she always comes back to fish. In fact, the first thing she ever carved was a fish. “I had been painting on wood at the time and never thought about using the chainsaw until I got one as a Valentine’s gift in 1992,” she said. As soon as she picked up the saw she started carving a fish almost instinctively. They have been swimming through her themes ever since. “I believe fish can sustain people physically, mentally, and emotionally. People fish to relax, they keep fish in ponds and aquariums, and they like to go snorkeling with fish in oceans and rivers. In a sense, fish are symbolic reminders to swim through life.”

Jessie carved Grizzly Bear and Salmon Spirit, 3' by 7', into reclaimed old growth redwood.

Jessie carved Grizzly Bear and Salmon Spirit, 3′ by 7′, into reclaimed old growth redwood.

Jessie was born by the sea in a small fishing village in the Philippines. Her father, an American, was a fisherman like his father before him. “My mother was a fiber artist who used to tell the best stories—tales of mermaids and fish,” she remembered. Later the family relocated to United States and lived in several locations from the desert of Southern California to Whidbey Island, Wash. Jessie received a bachelor’s degree in art, sculpture, and art history and spent a decade developing her unique techniques for capturing fish in chainsaw carvings.

3.Salmon Creek is a white oak bench and table that Jessie carved where it fell one snowy winter day.

Salmon Creek is a white oak bench and table that Jessie carved where it fell one snowy winter day.


This albacore column, 2′ by 11′, carved in old-growth redwood was one of four columns that Jessie made for use as an entryway at a business.

To accomplish her work she uses 10 gas chainsaws in different sizes with different bars. “I like to call them my chisels,” she said with a chuckle. “I would like to incorporate more traditional and standard woodcarving tools in with my repertoire of tools, but mostly it is just the chainsaw because chainsaws have evolved into great woodcarving tools. They have become super light, with a really short bar that can get the job done quickly—plus, there is just something about the immediate results of carving with a chainsaw.” For relief carvings she prefers a small chainsaw with a carving bar because it is easier to control.

Jessie’s work is characterized as a blend of imaginative abstract and whimsical creations grounded in realism. Rather than carving specific species of fish, Jessie likes to carve generic types to represents all fish. “Fish are one of the easiest things to create artistically: a tail, a body, a head, some fins, eyeballs, fish lips. And if doesn’t work out exactly like the technically correct fish I imagined . . . it becomes an abstract fish,” she said with a laugh. “Either way, once the inspiration hits, I’m on fire and I just go for it.”

Visit Jessie online at http://www.groeschen.com.

King Salmon was carved in spalted maple and measures 3 1/2" by 20".

King Salmon was carved in spalted maple and measures 3 1/2″ by 20″.

Want to learn more about chainsaw carving? Consider attending the Ridgway Rendezvous in northwestern Pennsylvania. The event takes place March 5-12, 2016. For more information, visit http://chainsawrendezvous.org/.


Comments are closed.