Sculptors 2021

Meet the sculptors!

A total of 31 sculptors will participate in the Bear Sculpting Championships from Friday to Saturday 13- 14 August 2021, of which 23 will also participate in the Speed Sculpting Competition on Sunday 15 August. Up to 10 sculptors will compete in Ilomantsi for the first time.

Sculptors are introduced here in alphabetical order by surname.

Vladimir Almanov, Russia

Vladimir says that you should understand wood when you sculpt it – it seems to tell you what to do with it. He has participated in wood, ice, snow and sand sculpture competitions professionally both in Russia and in Europe since 2010. This is his second appearance at the Bear Festival, and the bear is, indeed, one of his favourite subjects. Vladimir will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August, as well as the Speed Sculpting Competition on Sunday, 15 August.

Roman Ermakov, Lappeenranta

For Roman, chainsaw sculpting is an art form. He finds his inspiration in the forest. “I usually sculpt forest animals and birds, such as bears, wolves and eagles, and I also make art benches.” Roman has practised chainsaw sculpture for a couple of years, and he will take part in the Bear Festival competition because he wants to assess his skills. Roman will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August, as well as the Speed Sculpting Competition on Sunday, 15 August.

Jani Grönlund, Helsinki and Mikkeli

Jani became immersed in the world of chainsaw art so fast that it took even himself by surprise. It all started when he made a wooden spoon with an axe and a knife in 2019, and he now makes videos on the subject. “I hadn’t even cut firewood with a chainsaw before, so I’ve been learning how to use the tool while sculpting.” Jani will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August, as well as the Speed Sculpting Competition on Sunday, 15 August.

Ulla Haglund, Alaveteli (cancelled)

When Ulla saw someone sculpting with a chainsaw for the first time, she was amazed. “The sculptors managed to create such beautiful and graceful works with a rather clumsy instrument.” When she got home, she decided to sculpt a bear herself as there was a chainsaw and a small log to hand. Ulla has since sculpted other statues, such as her statue of Gustav II Adolf of Sweden, located in Kokkola. Ulla will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August, as well as the Speed Sculpting Competition on Sunday, 15 August.

Raimo Hautaluoma, Jalasjärvi

Sculpting is an essential part of Raimo’s life. When he has time off from his job as a farm helper, he sometimes sculpts with his chainsaw for up to seven or eight hours a day. “While carving is physical, just like working on a farm, it helps me to recover, relax and calm down.” What attracts him to Ilomantsi is the relaxed atmosphere and meeting his fellow-sculptors and friendly locals. Raimo will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August, as well as the Speed Sculpting Competition on Sunday, 15 August.

Esko Heikura, Kuhmo

Esko starts his bigger chainsaw sculptures by drawing a sketch and making an image from at least two perspectives – this helps him to visualise the work in its three dimensional form. His works are characterised by carefully executed details. Esko loves nature. ”I’m a keen ornithologist, and I also photograph birds.” In Ilomantsi, Esko will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August, as well as the Speed Sculpting Competition on Sunday, 15 August.

Urpo Huotari, Paltamo

For Urpo, wood sculpting is a natural continuation of his decades-long career as a lumberjack. When he starts sculpting, he is not always sure what the outcome will be, and often his plans change during coffee breaks as the work progresses. Urpo has mainly sculpted bears but also some birds and dogs. Urpo will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August, as well as the Speed Sculpting Competition on Sunday, 15 August.

Christian Häggman, Ytteresse

Christian admits that he’s a bit nervous about competing at the Bear Festival for the first time. “It’ll be a new experience; I’ve only made sculptures in my own backyard up until now. I first started watching chainsaw sculpting videos online, and in 2017, I started practicing. I have mainly carved bears, but also other animals such as lynxes, hares, otters and eagles.” Christian will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August.

Timo Kareinen, Ilomantsi

Timo comes out of his chainsaw sculpting hibernation in the spring as the days get longer, the soil thaws and the snow melts away to reveal logs. He usually only uses a chainsaw for carving as he thinks that it gives a good enough result. Timo thinks that what makes a good sculptor is patience. In Ilomantsi, he will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August, as well as the Speed Sculpting Competition on Sunday, 15 August.

Volodymyr Kravchuk, Ukraine

Volodymyr has never been to Finland before, and he came across the Bear Festival on Facebook. Volodymyr has been making chainsaw sculptures for more than 15 years. He loves the forest and wants to use his art to bring a felled tree back to life in another form, to create a new story for it. Volodymyr especially enjoys making animal figures such as fish and birds. He will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August, as well as the Speed Sculpting Competition on Sunday, 15 August.

Kari Kulmala, Rääkkylä

Kari has dreamed of taking part in the Bear Festival competition for years. He comes into the competition armed with the strengths he learned from his mother. “My mother was a logger and taught me how to use and repair a chainsaw.” Kari sees chainsaw sculpturing and ITE art as a unique type of Finnish folk art, one form of contemporary art. “Handling a chainsaw and an axe is relaxing and keeps me fit.” Kari will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August.

Jari Kuokkanen, Iisalmi

Jari sculpts traditional forest animals such as birds and bears, and he has also carved human figures such as musicians Lemmy Kilmister and Juice Leskinen. Drawing was one of Jari’s hobbies when he was young, and he learned to use a chainsaw at an early age while working in the forest. His work is characterised by the use of lots of colours and added details made with paint. In Ilomantsi, he will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August, as well as the Speed Sculpting Competition on Sunday, 15 August.

Igor Kyllinen, Oulu

Igor says it as it is: he’ll be taking part in the Bear Festival competition to win. “I want to show what I can do. Of course, the Bear Festival is also a nice opportunity to get to know other sculptors.” Igor first tried his hand at using a chainsaw at the age of 10, when his father taught him how to cut firewood. “The best thing about carving is that it gives a log a new life.” He will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August, as well as the Speed Sculpting Competition on Sunday, 15 August.

Juha Käkelä, Ylöjärvi

Chainsaw carving is like a religion and a dream come true for Juha – he does it for a living. He feeds his creativity by visiting art exhibitions and travelling. His favourite subjects to sculpt are Indians and horses, and though he can’t quite explain why he likes them, the Tex Willer comics that he read when he was a child might have something to do with it. Juha will be back in Ilomantsi to take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August, as well as the Speed Sculpting Competition on Sunday, 15 August.

Leo Laakko, Orimattila

Leo was ten years old when he cut trees with a chainsaw borrowed without his parents’ knowledge. He became interested in sculpting in 2017 when he bought a pile of logs, and there were a couple of bigger trunks among them. “I wondered what I could make out of them and just started carving.” Leo’s favourite subjects are bears and owls. “The bear is a mystical forest animal and the owl an impressive bird.” Leo will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on

Aimo Laitinen, Oulu

Aimo is hooked on learning new things, which keeps him interested in chainsaw sculpting. His ambition in wood sculpting is the same as in his other favourite pastime, dancing, which is the expression of movement. This calm and composed man clearly has a Latin heart as his preferred dance is the rumba. The first time Aimo used a chainsaw for sculpting was on a course in spring 2017, during which he created a bear, an owl and a piglet. He will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August, as well as the Speed Sculpting Competition on Sunday, 15 August.

Heikki Laurila, Lumijoki (cancelled)

Heikki’s garden is full of chainsaw sculptures and the walls of his house covered with oil paintings. He is also in the middle of a four-year project to build a log house, and this started right from the very beginning: felling, debarking and carving trees. Heikki thinks that chainsaw sculpture is the best hobby there is. It makes him happy and he finds it a great counterbalance to his job as a special educational needs teacher. Heikki will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August.

Timo Nevalainen, Pyhäsalmi

When Timo started woodcarving at the age of ten, he made wooden spoons and clubs and was encouraged by his family and neighbours to pursue his hobby. Timo discovered chainsaw sculpting in 1990. For him, sculpting is a means to keep fit, and it also exercises his brain as he plans his next piece. “What I find rewarding about carving is developing my skills and coming up with new ideas.” Timo will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August, as well as the Speed Sculpting Competition on Sunday, 15 August.

Sari Nikola, Siuntio

Sari is eager to take part in all kinds of art projects, both communal and personal. She also uses a wide range of materials. “I’ve tried a lot of things: plaster, ceramics, stone, metal, glass, concrete, painting, prints, photographs, mixed media – and wood.” This will be Sari’s first time sculpting at the Bear Festival, and she will take part for fun and to get to know other sculptors. She will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August.

Pekka Niskanen, Haapajärvi

Pekka’s family is known for sculpting skills as both his grandfather and father made wood carvings. Pekka has been carving since about 2015 and has mainly created animals such as bears and dogs. “I think the bear is a popular subject because you don’t want to see one in the woods, but it’s a great decorative object as a wooden figure in your garden.” In Ilomantsi, Pekka will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August, as well as the Speed Sculpting Competition on Sunday, 15 August.

Kari Onninen, Lahti

Kari sculpts bears, mainly, but he also likes making objects such as motorcycles and aeroplanes. Kari thinks that sculptors have very different characters, but they have one thing in common: “You have to be a bit mad to do this, it isn’t a very sensible hobby.” Kari sculpts almost every week, even in winter. He will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August, as well as the Speed Sculpting Competition on Sunday, 15 August.

Taisto Pehkonen, Lieksa

Taisto has created thousands of works over the decades. Even his woodshed is full of sculptures instead of firewood. When Taisto carves with a chainsaw, he has music playing in his earpods – without fail. There is no playlist, as he prefers to listen to the radio. Taisto likes sculpting animals as well as abstract subjects. “I like carving curves.” Taisto will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August, as well as the Speed Sculpting Competition on Sunday, 15 August.

Jari Rantanen, Kuhmalahti

Jari started chainsaw sculpting on a whim a few years ago when he was chopping firewood. “I got really excited about carving a simple bear, and it’s another nice hobby along with painting with acrylics and drawing.” He finds his inspiration in nature, people and culture. In chainsaw sculpturing, Jari is fascinated by the element of surprise. This will be Jari’s first visit to Ilomantsi, and he will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August.

Timo Teittinen, Juva

Timo always carves his sculptures outdoors, and he won’t be stopped even by the cold winter weather. For Timo, chainsaw sculpting is a way to relax, more than anything else. “Sculpting keeps my head together and my mind sharp. I’ve been making things with my hands all my life. It’s not for me to be sitting in a chair, reading the paper. I always have to be doing something.” In Ilomantsi, Timo will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August, as well as the Speed Sculpting Competition on Sunday, 15 August.

Markku Tuominen, Nurmijärvi

Markku Tuominen, who lives in Nurmijärvi, makes sculptures not only from wood but also from sand and ice, and he also draws and paints. He often draws sketches of his wooden sculptures first. When Markku makes his works of art, his imagination is the only limit. He doesn’t have a favourite subject, but he sculpts just about everything: human figures, animals, reliefs, and texts. Markku will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August, as well as the Speed Sculpting Competition on Sunday, 15 August.

Arja Tuovila, Pudasjärvi

Trying your hand at chainsaw sculpting can be a terrifying experience for many, but not for Arja Tuovila from Pudasjärvi. “I hadn’t even touched a chainsaw before 2013, but I didn’t find it intimidating at all. My skills have improved little by little.” Arja thinks that chainsaw sculptures are art. “I’ve seen ITE art especially on Facebook. It is a really diverse art form in Finland.” Arja will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August.

Pekka Vahtera, Naantali

Pekka has been hiking and kayaking in Ilomantsi for decades, but he only came across the Bear Festival in summer 2020. “I saw the story about the Bear Festival on TV and became immediately interested. I admire all these people who take part in the competition with a brave attitude and a twinkle in their eye.” He has now decided to take the plunge for the first time and will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August, as well as the Speed Sculpting Competition on Sunday, 15 August.

Asko Vihavainen, Savonlinna and Helsinki

Sometimes Asko ponders on a theme for a sculpture for months, even years, before he starts sculpting. His favourite subject is the human figure. Asko finds wood an easy material to work with, but it is not without its problems: “A log can be destroyed in no time with the first few cuts and the wrong proportions.” Asko will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August.

Elli Viinikangas, Pyhäjoki

When Elli heard about the theme of the 2021 Bear Festival, Bear and cub, she decided to take part in the competition. “I’m going to implement an idea that has been on my mind for a long time. I have such a strong idea about the theme that I want to make it real for all to see and experience.” Elli is familiar with the Bear Festival as she has taken part both as a spectator and assistant, but this time the theme made it absolutely necessary for her to participate in the competition. Elli will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August.

Kari Viinikangas, Pyhäjoki

Kari thinks that wood is a wonderful but unforgiving material. “If you cut out too much, it can’t be replaced.” Eco-friendliness is important to Kari even when he is sculpting. He sculpts with electric and cordless saws, uses vegetable oil-based chain oil and finishes his works with wood preservatives made of birch tar oil. What he likes about the Ilomantsi Bear Festival is its community spirit and meeting other sculptors. Kari will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August.

Marjanpoimijat

Ari Vähäkangas, Ylivieska

Ari got the sculpting bug about 20 years ago when he was working in a forest clearing. “The forester had left a long stump on the site. As I was drinking a cup of coffee, I was thinking about what I could do with it.” Ari’s favourite figure to sculpt is the bear, and that’s what the first stump turned into. “Carving with a chainsaw is an interesting skill because you never know what kind of character will be revealed from inside the wood.” Ari will take part in the Bear Sculpting Championship event in Ilomantsi, Finland on Friday and Saturday, 13–14 August, as well as the Speed Sculpting Competition on Sunday, 15 August.