A wildlife scene, carved by Eric Berson, is found at The Dreamer’s Wood in Sterling. (Photos by Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

A wildlife scene, carved by Eric Berson, is found at The Dreamer’s Wood in Sterling. (Photos by Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

Chainsaw artist carves out niche

As the sun sets on the Kenai Peninsula’s busy tourist season, Eric Berson is closing up shop for the winter. You won’t be able to see his carved bears, or Berson himself wielding his chainsaw to make a new creation, instead, Eric and his family will be making their way to Port Angeles, Washington, where he’ll get to work.

Eric’s year is one long busy season when it comes to chainsaw carving. During the summer, Eric, his wife, Jennifer, and their family live on site at The Dreamer’s Wood in Sterling, selling his chainsaw work along the Sterling Highway. In the winter, Eric returns to Washington, where he sources the red cedar he uses for nearly all of his work, and spends the winter cutting wood.

“I draw with my saw, really,” Eric said. “I can’t really sketch worth beans and I don’t really do anything else artistic.”

Eric taught himself how to chainsaw carve after finding himself cutting down trees on his property in Clam Gulch.

“I was born and raised in Clam Gulch,” Eric said. “I had all these trees that had to come down, so I cut them down to make sure they wouldn’t fall on the house. Then, one day, I saw some carvings and thought, ‘Hey, that’s pretty cool.’”

With those early pieces, Eric saw an opportunity. He put them on the side of the road and sold them.

“When I was living out there, I was single and was living pretty cheap so it was enough to get by,” Eric said.

Then, Eric met his wife and his family started to grow, but chainsaw carving still maintained a big role in his life.

“One day, we were talking to each other and realized that we could either move full time or really try this for real,” Jennifer said. “So, we decided to go for it and he’s been carving and we’ve been selling ever since.”

Eric prefers to work with red cedar for his pieces, since they can be found in bigger sizes and are prevalent in the Lower 48.

“Sometimes I just can’t find a log for as big as I need up here,” Eric said. “So, I’ll ship a lot of the logs up here. … You can glue and screw stuff together, which is what a lot of other carvers in the area have had to resort to to get anything big, and there is an art to that, but I’m not so good at it.”

Eric is good at cutting, though. After years of teaching himself the intricacies of the machine and the wood, he’s mastered the small, Alaska themed wood carvings that make him a living, while still being ambitious on the work that fuels his artistic side.

“Wildlife is what interests and inspires me,” Eric said. “What I like doing is more of the scenes, the snapshots in time of wildlife.”

These scenes can be spotted across Eric’s property — a wolf stalking the corner of the front porch or a mama bear and her cubs being watched over by a raven outside of the work shed.

“You have to be bold,” Eric said. “Just start making cuts and hope it comes out good in the end. There is something that some old carver said, ‘The trick is removing everything that doesn’t look like a bear.’”

Eric is teaching his son, Joshua, how to be bold too as he shows the 10-year-old the ins and outs of chainsaw carving.

“It’s fun, I made a bunch of trees,” Joshua said. “And I sold every single tree I made, except for the first one. They said I couldn’t sell it.”

“Yep, that one is hanging on your wall,” Eric said. “You have to keep the first carving you made … but he’s only 10, so I don’t let go of the saw, yet.”

Next summer, though, the tourists that pull off of the Sterling Highway to visit The Dreamer’s Wood can go home with a Berson original, by Eric, or even Joshua.

Reach Kat Sorensen at kat.sorensen@peninsulaclarion.com.

A line of in progress wood carved bears wait to be finished at The Dreamer’s Wood in Sterling, Alaska on Monday, August 21. (Photo by Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

A line of in progress wood carved bears wait to be finished at The Dreamer’s Wood in Sterling, Alaska on Monday, August 21. (Photo by Kat Sorensen/Peninsula Clarion)

Eric Berson’s chainsaw carvings stand tall, waiting for the finishing touches at his shop in Sterling.

Eric Berson’s chainsaw carvings stand tall, waiting for the finishing touches at his shop in Sterling.

More in News

Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities Commissioner Ryan Anderson answers questions from state senators during a Senate Finance Committee hearing on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 in Juneau, Alaska. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)
State officials working to meet Friday deadline for revised transportation plan

The federal government rejected the plan on Feb. 9, citing numerous deficiencies

Travis Every, top left, speaks in support of fishing opportunity for the east side setnet fishery before the State Board of Fisheries at the Egan Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska, on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Local fishers talk conservation, opportunity before Board of Fisheries in Anchorage

Local fishers from the Kenai Peninsula traveled to Anchorage this weekend to… Continue reading

Sen. Jesse Bjorkman, R-Nikiski, presents information on a bill establishing a voluntary buyback program for Cook Inlet’s east side setnet fishery on Monday, Feb. 19, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)
Bjorkman bill would pay bonuses to nationally certified teachers

The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development estimates that the bonus program would apply to about 215 of Alaska’s estimated 7,315 teachers — about 3%

Alaska senators meet with members of the media to discuss education legislation after a press conference by Gov. Mike Dunleavy on the topic on Tuesday, Feb. 27, 2024, in Juneau, Alaska. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)
Dunleavy threatens veto of education bill if more of his priorities aren’t added

It is not certain there would be the 40 votes necessary to override a veto by the governor

A map displays a wide-ranging special weather statement, published Tuesday by the National Weather Service, covering Southcentral Alaska. (Map courtesy of National Weather Service)
Strong winds, low wind chills forecast through Friday

Wind chills over night may reach as low as -20 to -40 degrees in much of Southcentral

Snow falls atop the Central Peninsula Diabetes Center in Soldotna, Alaska, on Monday, Feb. 26, 2024. The office opened in October, but a grand opening was held this week. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Central Peninsula Hospital adds Diabetes Center

The center has been seeing patients since October and held a grand opening Monday

Gary Hollier pulls a sockeye salmon from a set gillnet at a test site for selective harvest setnet gear in Kenai, Alaska, on Tuesday, July 25, 2023. (Jake Dye/Peninsula Clarion)
Findings from pilot setnet fishery study inconclusive

The study sought to see whether shorter nets could selectively catch sockeye salmon while allowing king salmon to pass below

COVID-19. (Image courtesy CDC)
Kenai Peninsula COVID-19 case rate continues to climb

State reports three consecutive week-over-week increases to new high

U.S. Rep. Mary Peltola delivers her annual address to the Alaska Legislature on Monday, in Juneau. (Mark Sabbatini/Juneau Empire)
Peltola celebrates federal intervention in Albertsons, Kroger merger in legislative address

The one-term lawmaker said collaboration between stakeholders has helped produce wins for Alaska’s fisheries and the state’s economy

Most Read