Catskill Mountain Crafts
Hoppy Quick: Life as One with Nature
When Hoppy Quick first settled on his property not far from Samsonville, he built a small cabin with a tree house for his bedroom. Each bear he carved with his chain saw was named for some improvement he could afford when the figure sold. "I had a bear named Window," he says, "and one called Septic. An eight-foot mother and baby bear paid for the well." Now his enclave includes a home large enough to share with his wife and the baby the couple is expecting in mid-summer, a teepee, tool shed, houses for the dogs, the donkey Sadie, and Arthur, the pig. "Bears have give us everything," he says with a grin.
In the past 14 years, Quick has carved over 1,000 bears as well as other figures. "I grew up with tools," he says. His contractor father milled his own lumber, and the family always cut firewood, so logging and tree work were familiar to Quick. He used to work with salvaged white pine, but now he buys his materials because carving keeps him so busy.
"This is a rough trade physically," says Quick. "A green log might weigh 500 pounds." Each log's diameter determines the pose and size of the figure he can create-a dancing bear, an eagle, and a howling wolf. Quick does everything himself-lifting the logs, delicately maneuvering a fifteen pound chain saw hour after hour, torching the surface to give the sculpture color and soften the saw marks, wire-brushing, and loading the finished pieces. Rows of weights in his gym help him keep up his strength.
"I do bears because of where we live," says the artist whose Dutch ancestors settled in the Catskills in the 1650s. "I believe I make a totem. The bear travels alone and is happy by itself. We're all trying for that." Quick's earliest animals were so realistic he felt they lacked personality. Never fully satisfied with his work, he tries to make each carving better than the last. "I have too much respect to make a caricature," he says, "but because the bear means harmony in someone's life, I think it should have a slight smile."
Carving with a chain saw enables Quick to make affordable pieces and therefore earn his living, but he enjoys the meditative process of hand carving. "Yesterday I carved all day," he says, "to remind myself of what it's supposed to be. When I'm carving with the chain saw, I'm thinking all the time about that order, but seeing the wood pare off with the chisel lets your mind shut down. It's kind of a Zen thing."
Quick's co-op gallery on Route 28 brought his work to the attention of the Catskill Mountain Crafts Collective. The gallery functioned as a community center, but he found operating it distracting and now toys with getting a buckboard and a pair of mules to transport his work for sale. Meanwhile, other shops along Route 28 show his carvings.
Living a simple life-one not separated from nature-is the philosophy behind Quick's art. "A big part of it is who you are," he says. "Wood is about as human as a material can be. I do my pieces for myself. If I think about the money, I'm not being true to my gift."