Chainsaw sculptor's stepson brings craft back to Seaview
SEAVIEW - "I never touched a saw until I was 17," says master chainsaw carver Joshua Blewett of Seaview. "My stepfather Fred Bero took me in about 10 years ago and told me I was going to start carving."
Bero had sculpted the Lewis and Clark statue that was east of the Chinook tunnel and the mermaid and sea lion in Long Beach, among other works.
Blewett went to work. Using a heavy 044 Stihl saw, he began cutting lengths of wood that Bero was using to make a fence. Soon Blewett developed into a master at his craft and was employed in the Seattle area doing chainsaw carvings for much of the 27-year-old's working life.
He moved to "the old blue house" just across from Chico's Pizza in Seaview in September and set up shop.
"I won third prize in the first annual Washington State Sculpture Invitational last year," Blewett relates, "but I could have done much better if my small saw hadn't broken down. I had to use just a big one."
Blewett, who was born in Alaska and spent his early years in Nahcotta, still uses a Stihl 360 saw with what is called a dime-tipped bar. "The sprockets are geared differently to go faster and the bar goes down to a tip about the size of a nickel, but they call it a dime bar," Josh explains. The bar is only 20 inches long on the powerful saw that woodcutters would likely use at least a 28 inch bar to make firewood.
"I use the Stihl to cut out most of the carving and then go to an Echo for the detail work," he goes on to say. "I do not use measurements or even drawings to make the carvings. Fred always taught me to use a free-flowing method where I see the whole design. That helps me not get too caught up in the detailing until it is time."
Blewett almost magically takes cedar or a "cool" piece of driftwood as his medium to transform the carvings into unique works of art. "I try to have every animal be different, to have different facial expressions even if the pose is the same or to have them different sizes. Probably the hardest thing I've done is to try to make a pair of bears match," he says, flashing his easy smile.
The other "toughest work" Blewett has been commissioned to do was a carving of a Scottish bagpiper. "It was not easy making it all in one piece," he says of his masterpiece. Some of Blewett's largest carvings have been a nine-foot eagle scene, a 29 foot high totem pole, and a scene that measured seven feet across and six feet high of a coyote on a rock. "It was beefy," Blewett describes.
The Seaview artist says, "People are always telling me I make doing the carvings look easy, but each one has its own challenges. There is no back space key when you are carving. Sometimes I go too far."
He adds, "I like the chance to open my own shop. In Seattle I had to drive 40 miles one way because they didn't allow chainsaws where I lived because of the noise. I wait until the afternoon so I don't bother anyone here."
As with any chainsaw activity, there is always the danger of a kickback, especially since Blewett uses only the tip for most of his work. "About a week after I began sawing I got a kickback that came within six inches of my head. I sat down for quite awhile," Blewett says, remembering the close shave. "The most serious injury I had happened when a wood chip got behind my eye and caused an infection that lasted four weeks. I use ear and eye guards all the time now."
Bears and eagles are Blewett's favorite subjects, but dolphins, lighthouses, or whatever the customer wants may be his next challenge. "I would like to carve Lewis and Clark in a canoe for the bicentennial, and I would like to redo Oscar in front of the high school," he said, as the ideas poured out.
And if this amazing talent of free-flow chainsaw carving isn't enough, Blewett creates unbelievably detailed pencil drawings and fabulous acrylic paintings in his spare time. "I taught myself to draw and paint, but haven't sold much yet." His drawings are predominantly of motorcycles and Blewett's paintings are of underwater seascapes as well as bears, eagles, and wolves.
"Each drawing takes me about 200 hours," Josh says of his incredibly intricate works. "My drawings are a personal thing. I doubt I could make much money on them as I take so much time on each one, but I'd like to sell some of my paintings."
Blewett has his art on display most nice days outside his home in Seaview and can be reached by calling 642-7101 if you have an idea for a custom carving or would like to see his paintings and exquisite drawings.
"When I create something, I make sure nothing is missing from it," Josh says with well-earned pride. "I guess you could say my motto is: Have saw, will travel."