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Transforming a bad day and broken tree into a new wood carving

When the carving is finished, expect a party.

MOOSE JAW - One Moose Jaw resident is making the most of a bad day this summer. After Janine Rivard returned home from an out-of-town trip during a windy spell in June, she discovered one of her backyard trees had been heavily damaged. Although she couldn’t save the tree, she refused to let it ruin the day.

To turn the situation around and make proverbial lemonade out of the lemons she was handed, Rivard reached out on Facebook and met local artisan Dustin Stearns.

“We had to take (the tree) down, and I thought, ‘You know what? Let’s see if we can find a carver,’” Rivard explained. As of July 9, Stearns’ masterpiece is around one third finished.

Stearns is the sculptor who carved the mid-flight Red Tail Hawk in front of the Moose Jaw Public Library back in 2021, and further examples of his work include tiki sculptures in Moose Jaw’s Wakamow Valley. He’s also available for hire on private projects such as this.

Rivard is retired and spends her free time quilting, sewing, and working on pottery. While away on a retreat learning about the ins-and-outs of dying fabric with botanical elements, Moose Jaw experienced a few days of intense wind in early June.

Although most of her property wasn’t damaged in the wind, a prominent tree in her backyard was severely damaged and couldn’t be saved.

“When I got home, my husband said, ‘Gee, we have to do something about this tree,’” she recalled.

“You know, when you take a tree down it’s not the end of it,” she said. “You have to get the stump removed and all kinds of hoopla happens, so I just decided that I’d rather hire an artist to make something beautiful out of it.”

The tree is now taking the shape of two separate hawks with their wings spread as though soaring through the yard. To utilize the Y-shaped tree trunk, one hawk will be perched on each branch and the base will be stylized as Stearns sees fit.

Stearns chose the final shape based on his years of experience, and Rivard said she was pleased to learn that hawks are symbolic for good luck – which she now hopes to stock up on.

“I was really impressed with Dustin (Stearns) choosing to do two hawks,” she added in a nod to her husband, “because… hawks mate for life.”

The Rivards, who have only been Moose Jaw residents for the past three years, said the support they’ve received from the community when reaching out for a local artisan was strongly positive.

“I’m very impressed with this young man,” Rivard said. “When we’re finished, we’re going to try and do a reveal party with cookies and lemonade.”

Due to a busy schedule, Stearns isn’t able to complete the carving in just a couple visits. The end date for the project will depend on his availability in the weeks to come.

Once completed, the Rivards will announce further details on the planned party for friends, family, and anyone else interested in making the most out of negative situations they may encounter in their own backyards.

To contact Stearns for custom work or for a free estimate, call or text 306-630-6820.

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