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Roots art: Adi Hiensch, North Bend's resident carver, follows tradition—and his heart | Slideshow
He’s almost 89 years old, but wood carver and painter Adi Hienzsch makes a point of getting out to his workshop every day. It’s not the holiday season that drives him, but the work itself.
In his Edelweiss Chalet studio lined with original paintings, hand-carved doors and statues serve as dividers, and colorful mushrooms and red-hatted gnomes (wurzenmänner, or “root men”) spill into the next room, keeping company with a six-foot cigar store Indian, carvings of the namesake flower and dozens of smaller plaques. There doesn’t seem to be room for anything more, but there is much more, in Adi’s mind.
When he walks in the workshop doors each day, he says “I already know something that I want to do. After I have it in my head, then it’s the drawing board.”
These days, he doesn’t work as much on big and heavy items like the mushrooms, the Indian, and the solid-wood doors that he used to custom carve to great demand across the country. But he does work, every day.
“Basically, I’m a craftsman, with a lifelong love of carving and painting,” he said, on a recent tour of his studio, just outside of North Bend.
“He’s totally self-taught,” adds Eva, his wife and biggest fan.
As a child, Adi said he studied painting, but he just picked up carving one day after seeing a woodcarver at work.
He’s honed his skill over the years to the point that he’s almost too proud of his work, and keeps too many pieces.
“There’s so much in the house, we don’t have enough room,” Eva laughs.
So nowadays, everything he makes is for sale, but he’s no less dedicated to each piece. His experience and skill are apparent from a glance at any of his carvings but you’ll get a real appreciation for his memory when you look at the paintings, mostly mountain scenes reminiscent of the couple’s Bavarian hometown of Garmisch.
“People ask me if I do these from photographs,” he said, “but at that time, I didn’t even have a camera!”
The couple met as youth in Garmisch, and married there after Adi returned from military service in the war, and four years in a Russian POW camp.
They had two children, then decided to follow Eva’s sister to Seattle, where Adi could pursue his craft. But they hated the city, Eva said, and tried life at Snoqualmie Pass for several years, before moving here.
“North Bend was kind of the golden middle,” close to the mountains, but not too remote, Eva said.
Although neither of them is as “fanatical” about hiking and skiing as they used to be, both of them still love the mountains, and especially Snoqualmie Pass, which brings many of their regular customers to the area at least once a year.
The couple acknowledge that their old world art and gift shop is a sort of niche business.
“I still do things very traditional. Some people… mostly look for modern art,” Adi said. “Not everyone likes this kind of thing, but I do.”
• Edelweiss Chalet, (425) 888-0490, is located off I-90’s Exit 32, 14410 436th Ave. S.E. The shop is open daily,10 a.m. to 5 p.m.