People in the Terrace area will be familiar with the intricately carved “Welcome to Thornhill” sign, the logger on Lakelse Ave., the “Wings” art installation across from the Scotiabank and the wooden eagles on Howe Creek Trail.
Each of those works, and many others in the area, were carved by Joerg Jung of JJ’s Woodart. Incredibly, Jung didn’t start carving as anything more than an occasional hobby until he moved to Canada in 2010 as a 34-year-old with his wife, Angie. His last job in his native Germany was in road construction.
“I did maybe a carving and then I never did anything for months or even years, so that doesn’t really count as a career,” Jung said about his time in Germany.
“But since we arrived in Canada, I pretty much started doing this full time and jumped in it with both feet.”
Jung had no formal art training and arrived in Canada on a working holiday visa. He came to Terrace with the plan to go fishing with a friend and never left.
It was here that his skills as a carver were honed, learning from himself and using a variety of tools from chainsaws to custom, handmade tools. Other than a time a couple of years ago when he ran into some health problems, Jung has continued to improve his craft and build his profile.
“When I lost my health, I was questioning all this because I within no time went from handling big saws without any problems to barely being able to lift a wrench, but other than that, I always thought ‘I’m good at this and I know I can do this,’” he said.
Jung said that his preferred style is realism, and he wants his work to be so realistic that if he put out deer carvings, for example, hunters would shoot at them.
“I love that the most and the ticket is to get my creations, or some of them at least to a point where you really have to look twice to say ‘whoa, it’s not real, this is cool.’”
As a carver, Jung has had the opportunity to participate in competitive competitions like the prestigious Chetwynd International Chainsaw Carving Competition. He has competed in Norway and had invitations to competitions in Russia and Australia.
One of his favourite competition memories comes from an event in Germany.
“The German one was really cool, because at the time I got invited to go to the so called ‘world competition’ and compete there for Canada, but still being a German citizen, to go back to Germany and carve for Canada was so cool.”
Jung’s first time in such an event was the Chetwynd competition — one of the world’s best — after an American dropped out at the last minute.
“All of a sudden me, bloody beginner just starting out with trying if this will work full time, getting the invitation to one of the best carving competitions there is,” he said. “All the guys I’m looking up to, I’m on the other side of the fence with them.”
“I was there just smiling all day, 36, in my first carving competition in Chetwynd.”
Through his carving, Jung has also developed his skills as a painter and airbrush artist. In his pursuit of realism he realized that some of his carvings needed colour. He started out with fish carvings. Without paint, it is nearly impossible to tell if a carving is a rainbow trout or a cutthroat trout. So he took up airbrushing, again with no formal training.
“I started airbrushing and all of a sudden [the carvings] looked like really good and people were like ‘whoa, you’re a taxidermist now,’ that was good compliment,” Jung said.
“Then I didn’t have fish to paint anymore, and I painted all my other sculptures because it’s so fun with the airbrush and well then I didn’t have sculptures and I couldn’t keep up carving fast enough to paint it and I started painting on paper, too.”
Now, Jung is at the point in his career where he is working entirely on custom pieces, and is becoming so well known he was tasked with entertaining the Vancouver Canucks with his artwork when the team visited Prince Rupert. It was Nanaimo artist Jeff King’s idea, and Jung did not know how popular the team was.
A selection of his work was set up in the team’s hotel, and he ran into the Sedin twins in the elevator.
“I didn’t know who they are, they were speaking with an accent and I’m like ‘oh, you guys sound like you’re not originally from here,’ then I found out they were some of the players,” he said.
“They were all in there, I could have just asked them ‘hey, do you mind just signing my piece there,’ if I would have clued in how big of a deal that is,” he said with a laugh. “I didn’t take pictures, nothing … I was just sitting there with Jeff [King] and we were painting a little.”
When he’s not working, Jung loves fishing, foraging for herbs to make tea and picking mushrooms around his home in the Kleanza subdivision. He has no plans to leave.
“I really like life living out here knowing that there is nothing but nature around,” he said.
“I would love to be able to do this the way I do it, or maybe a little different in the future as well.”