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  • Writer's pictureCalli Townsend

Quarantine Story: Kathy & Michaela Nelson

Trying out chainsaw art

Michaela Nelson recently graduated from Carroll University, and with a week and a half before starting graduate school, she and her mom, Kathy, tried their hands at a new project: chainsaw carving.

“My mom just kinda popped up with the idea,” Michaela said. “She was out shopping and saw a morel mushroom and thought, ‘Hey we can do that!’”

Kathy said the mushroom would be perfect for her strawberry garden.

“I lost a bush last year due to some crazy weather so we decided to leave the bush and put in a strawberry garden instead,” she said. “I needed something for the center of the garden and that led us to chainsawing a morel mushroom.”

With a design in mind, the two headed out to their backyard in Roscoe, Illinois. At first, the project proved to be a bit more challenging, but after about an hour of getting the chainsaw to work, Kathy and Michaela made some great progress.

“We watched a video on YouTube quite a few times, which made it seem like it would be really easy. It was just slicing through the wood like butter but we were like hand sawing it,” Michaela said. “And we had to make our own home made vice out of cement blocks to keep the wood from going everywhere.”

Kathy said she even enjoyed trying to figure out the chainsaw, as it was a time for her and Michaela to work together and problem solve.

“It was really fun just being Michaela and I because neither one of us know a lot about chainsawing, so it was fun trying to problem solve together,” Kathy said. “And of course, we had to go ask Mike, my husband, once in a while for help. But it was fun to rely on each other to mostly figure out how to get the chainsaw started.”

Once they got that all set up, they cut the wood into a basic mushroom shape. From there, they added in more details like carving the lines and then burning and sanding them.

“It just took a long time. Carving out the shape was difficult, but the lines on the top weren’t too hard,” Michaela said.

Michaela is very artistic and a talented painter, so it was interesting to see her translate those skills to a new medium, Kathy said.

“I just helped shape it, but Michaela went after the fine detail in it,” Kathy said. “It was fun to see how artistic she is.”

Kathy and Michaela are known for their creativity and craftiness. They’ve completed many fun projects together, but this was their first time trying out chainsaw art.

“I’d say it was one of our more challenging projects,” Michaela said. “We do a lot of sewing or painting things, but not chainsaw cutting things.”

At the beginning of the quarantine before they crafted their mushroom, the mother-daughter duo sat down and began sewing masks to hand out to friends and family they knew would need them. This kind of craft is much more within their comfort zone, but they have had some past experience in wood working.

The closest she’s ever come to chainsaw carving, Michaela said, was a recent Christmas-present project she completed with her cousins. They worked together to make benches for their parents as a memorial for their grandpa who passed away in September. Each bench had “In loving memory of Duane Nelson” carved into it.

Kathy and Michaela said they might try to make another mushroom. They recently got a new chainsaw that’s lighter and easier to use, which might let them take on even more designs.

“I don’t think I'll try anything else besides a mushroom for now, but I have had requests in the comments for a dog, a bear, and an ostrich,” Michaela said.


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