Western North Carolina is a haven for all kinds of artists. In the Brevard area alone there are dozens of galleries and studios that showcase our arts community. But if you want to find Eddy Hoots and his special brand of art, you'll need to head out 20 minutes west of Brevard towards the Lake Toxaway area. Look for him beside the bend in the road just before Toxaway Falls. That's where you'll find him hard at work under the shade of the trees and alongside the chiseled mountainside, creating his chain saw carved bears.
Eddy Hoots found his passion for chain saw carved bears nearly twenty years ago during a trip to Montana with his father. "They're on every corner out there and I just had to have one" he says. Hoots has been fine tuning his art form ever since and now makes a living carving bears in various locations around western North Carolina, including one of his favorites spots along Hwy.64 in Lake Toxaway.
Although he admits that sometimes there's more talking than carving going on, it can take a full day to carve even the smaller bears and many more to create the larger, more complex varieties. It will be a while before the bears find a home, though. Experience has taught him that it can take as much as a year for the wood to season before it can move on to the finishing stage where the surface is burned to create the rich dark color. From there it's brushed, varnished, and lastly brought to life with marble eyes. It's a family affair and Eddie's wife and two children each play a part in the finishing process. Even the youngest member of the Hoots family, Eddy's 5 year-old son helps out with the varnishing.
Like any artist, Eddy is particular about the type of material he likes to work with and luckily for him, local white pine is his favorite. "Most times my wood finds me" thanks to the local builders who provide him with a constant supply of pine trees for him to work with. The soft wood is perfect for sculpting the smiling faces and all the life-like details that make Eddy's bears so irresistible.
According to Eddy, his best selling bears are the ones he's designed to hang on the side of a tree or along a porch railing. But it's the loveable, life-size bears that draw the traffic at the Lake Toxaway location. In the summer and fall months, when visitor traffic is at its peak, there's a steady flow of cars pulling into the gravel parking lot where Eddie and his bears have set up shop.
Which of the bears is Eddy's favorite? It's the one he keeps at home; the one he bought years ago on his last trip to Montana with his dad.
If you're ever up this way, traveling the mountain roads around Brevard, Boone, and Blowing Rock, keep you eyes open for North Carolina's own, Eddy Hoots and his Bear Den. Or, you can always visit Eddy and his bears online at the Bears Den.
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