QUEENSBURY — The property next to Martha’s Dandee Cream on Route 9 was once home to Adirondack Animal Land.
It still has a lot of animals, just of the wooden kind. They are all creations of Glenn Durlacher, of Glenn Tree Art, who has spent 10 years pursuing his “accidental career” of carving animals from tree stumps.
Durlacher was in the deli business for 25 years, and then about 12 years ago, he went to Saratoga for a car show. He saw some guys carving wooden bears on the side of the road, so he decided to stop and talk to them and learn about what they were doing.
After a weekend when he churned out two pieces, he decided to switch careers. He moved to the area in 2009 and set up shop in Queensbury across the street from Walmart. He has been at his current location for about three years.
After Animal Land shut down, the property was used as auxiliary parking for the Great Escape, which still owns it.
Durlacher said he likes the flexibility in this career. In the deli business, he had set hours.
“It doesn’t feel like work,” he said of his current pursuit.
Durlacher said he decided early on he wanted to carve more than just bears.
“I took classes in hand carving, because you can’t carve eyes and faces with a chainsaw,” he said.
“To me, it’s like a dentist saying ‘We do pliers only,’” he said.
He is often commissioned to do sculptures of people’s dogs and horses. A lot of people like sculptures for their camp, according to Durlacher.
“They want to keep it in that Adirondack natural theme, so a lot of times you have different bears and raccoons and foxes and owls and eagles being carved on a tree,” he said.
He is scheduled two to three months out. In the winter, he works inside a small barn on the property.
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The sculptures generally cost from $200 to $5,000, but can go up to $10,000. Most of the pieces on display in his sculpture garden sell for less than $1,000.
The pieces can take anywhere from a couple of hours to a couple of months, depending on their complexity, he said.
The most intricate piece he has done was for a Westchester County family who wanted an angel carved on a tree. He was on the site for about a month.
Another memorable piece was three bears on top of each other in a totem pole formation. He just did a Tiki god for the Tiki Resort.
He does ice carving as well, in the winter.
The carving is a process. He first has to analyze the tree to make sure it is healthy and not rotted. Pine is the best material.
He asks about the budget and how the sculpture will be displayed and whether it will be visible from all sides.
Then he does a rough sketch.
If it is a big piece, he starts with big chainsaws and works his way down to smaller chainsaws then to grinders, chisels and sanders.
He will keep switching tools to refine the piece.
“The hardest part is when you’re doing something new, you really have to learn its shape and be able to replicate it,” he said.
Especially difficult are pieces being carved on a tree, he said.
“There’s no do-overs. You can’t just erase. You really have to be sure that you think before you cut — or else,” he said.
Durlacher, 63, said it gives him a lot of satisfaction knowing that customers enjoy the sculptures.
“They’re going to have something that you made for them that they’re going to look at for years and years,” he said.