The "Schoatnhex": Wood carver Lisa Hirschbichler
We follow the sound of chainsaws through the tranquil neighborhood in Saalfelden until we see sawdust spraying out of a shed. It is a woodworking shop. There we find the "Schoatnhex" of Saalfelden Leogang: Lisa Hirschbichler. The Saalfelden native makes scary Krampus masks for men and women, sculptures, reliefs and much more out of wood here. Rather untypical for a woman, we would have said, and immediately smell a very special story here.
The "Schoatnhex": With chainsaw on the broomstick
Who is on the road in our region from the end of November to the middle of December, especially at dusk, will always listen attentively with one ear. For the Krampus with his bells who can be heard from afar. The companion of St. Nicholas is supposed to chase away evil and looks particularly creepy with his hand-carved mask. This has always been the case. What hasn't always been the case is that a young woman is getting involved and setting new accents. Lisa Hirschbichler is 29 years young and knows exactly what she wants: a women's Krampuspass with its own feminine masks! "Schoatnhex" is what she calls herself. She owes the name to her boyfriend Erwin Herzog, who brought her to woodcarving. Especially at the beginning of her career, she was often covered from top to bottom with Schoatn (as we say to sawdust) - quickly the name was born and became her trademark. Even in the logo a witch rides on a broomstick - with a chainsaw in her hand.
Krampus masks, elves and even sloths are made from wood
If you met Lisa on the street, you probably wouldn't expect her to do this job. But the trained masseuse and fitness trainer, with her athletic figure, delicate hands and dreadlocks has now been working in the male domain of mask carving since 2016 - since 2018 even full-time. What excites her? "It's always a brilliant feeling," the dedicated artist enthuses, "when you have a plan and a big, rough piece of wood in front of you, work on it piece by piece, and in the end a great result comes out of it." She has great respect for chainsaws. During a wood symposium, she then learned that it can be done with other tools as well. But since last year, she has been trying out the chainsaw more and more often, and the results are quite impressive.
Regional Swiss stone pine
She prefers to work with Swiss stone pine because it is so soft and it has an additional effect. It has an antibacterial effect, which is especially important for Krampus masks, as the wearer can sometimes start to sweat. "The wearer's face must feel comfortable in the mask, like in a cozy living room." That's because a mask can weigh up to five pounds or more, depending on the design and horns. "The horns are usually real, from goats, cows or rams. I get them from the butcher and Krampus outfitter, or a customer brings them." Although the Krampus season fell through last year, that was no reason to give up. Now she also carves animal sculptures, fairies, elves, reliefs. And what is more work now? For a mask she needs about 25 to 30 hours. Large sculptures take more time, but masks are more complex in the fine work. The largest figure so far was a sloth on a tree made of larch wood, 1.30 meters high. "The figure is already in the wood," she explains with a grin, "you just have to know what needs to go."
Lisa's vision: Krampus masks for women for an independent women's Krampus pass
Another important question for Lisa: Are you afraid of your own masks? "No," she laughs, "I used to be very afraid of Perchten and Krampuses. But since I've learned how the grimaces are made, I often even walk in a parade myself as a Krampus - wearing a mask of mine, of course." And this is a special one, because Lisa carves masks for women. What makes these so special? They have finer features, more delicate details, but that doesn't make them any less scary than the old familiar masks. Her big goal: A Krampus pass only with women! Because, "The world of Krampus can stand a feminine touch." So keep your eyes open now, if you might even discover a mask of Lisa during the next visit of the Krampus!
Images: Michael Geißler