By Gale Fiege Herald Writer
ARLINGTON — Thor sharpened the Viking’s spear, sword and hatchet.
It’s the details that matter in chain saw art, he said.
Bruce “Thor” Thorsteinson, a self-described “gypsy chain-saw carver,” is putting the finishing touches on a 10-foot sculpture of a fierce Viking cut from a large cedar log. The statue was commissioned by Everett’s Normanna Lodge, a chapter of the Sons of Norway.
The Viking will be placed on guard this week at the grounds of Normanna Park on Lake Riley, northeast of Arlington, a private park for members of the lodge.
Eric Ostlund, 44, a lodge member who lives in Snohomish, came up with the idea for the giant Viking. He is the grandson of Torchy and Helen Ostlund, who were longtime leaders in the Everett lodge and among those who helped establish the park.
“So working with Thor on this statue is one way I am trying to continue our traditions at the park. I grew up on Lake Riley, as have my kids and stepkids,” Ostlund said. “The Viking may be my smartest idea yet, besides marrying my wife, Heidi.”
It’s been 50 years since the Norwegian families of Everett established the park, a recreational benefit of membership in the Scandinavian fraternity. About 100 cabins surround the lake, where people swim and fish. The Viking is to be named and dedicated at the lodge’s annual midsummer celebration at Lake Riley, in honor of those who established the park.
With the anniversary of the park on the horizon, Ostlund was thumbing through the Sons of Norway magazine a few years ago when he saw a photo of a 20-foot-high chain-saw carving of a similar Viking.
“When I went to get bids, I found that the cost of commissioning such a thing was ungodly, way out of the lodge’s price range,” Ostlund said. “You know the old joke about how copper wire was invented by two Norwegians fighting over a penny?”
Lodge member Luree McGee, also a carver, had met Thorsteinson at a chain-saw gathering on the East Coast, and she put the men in touch with each other. A deal was struck for the carving of the Viking at a price substantially less than what Ostlund anticipated. He declined to say the exact price.
“I gave Thor a basic outline of what we wanted and he went to town,” Ostlund said. “He’s Icelandic, so he claimed the Viking as his ancestor, too.”
Thorsteinson’s great-grandparents on his father’s side came to Washington from Iceland in the 1890s, and there’s Scandinavian blood on his mother’s side, too, he said.
Thorsteinson, 49, grew up in south King County with an artistic bent, loving cartooning and painting.
“I’ve never been interested in much else except ice cream and women,” he said.
Following a stint in the Navy, Thorsteinson became an itinerant artist. After carving signs and figures throughout Western Washington, he left home to participate in chain saw carving competitions across the United States and Europe.
“I’ve been hungry in almost every state and later I became an international starving artist,” Thorsteinson said. “But I have faith in the Lord that I am doing what I was meant to do.”
The work on the Viking began in December at the home of his friends, Dave and Debbie Tremko, who are Arlington-based chain-saw carvers. A couple of summers ago, the Tremkos got married during a chain-saw exhibition in Arlington. At 3 p.m. Saturday during the annual Arlington-Stillaguamish Eagle Festival, the Tremkos plan to host an auction of newly carved pieces by numerous chain saw artists, including Thorsteinson.
Thorsteinson has been living at their place, which is covered with chain-saw art, logs and a lot of sawdust.
Under plastic sheeting and surrounded by scaffolding, he started the carving by roughly shaping the Viking’s head from the top of the cedar log, which Sons of Norway bought from Bruce Blacker at his sawmill in Oso.
The carver stopped for a while after Christmas when his father, Larry Thorsteinson, 76, disappeared from an assisted living facility in Morton, Wash. The elder Thorsteinson was last seen in Portland at a Home Depot.
“I had to take a break from the Viking because my head wasn’t in it,” Thorsteinson said. “My dad is hitchhiking. He is missing four fingers on his left hand. If you see him, call the police.”
Ostlund said he is grateful for the carver’s help and his expert artistry, especially under the circumstances.
“We really appreciate Thor’s enthusiasm for the project,” Ostlund said.
Thorsteinson said it’s been a pleasure and a good distraction, even when sawdust gets in his mouth.
“A high fiber diet is a by-product of the work,” he said with a laugh as he sanded the statue’s spear. “I love the Viking. The Vikings were traveling men like me.”
Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; firstname.lastname@example.org.