Caledonia wood carver whittles away the time
At the same time that Cliff Yates became chief of police in the Village of Caledonia, he picked up his first piece of wood and began carving a duck decoy. He didn’t have anyone to teach him so he attended craft shows in the area and asked questions of other carvers. That was in 1965. Since then he’s carved hundreds of pieces of wood in the form of wildlife, outdoor and wall décor in his workshop in his Caledonia home.
Yates likes to use balsa wood for his carvings. He adds depth and dimension to each carving by wood burning the entire surface for a strikingly realistic look. He and his wife own a cottage at the Thousand Islands and spend much time there, which explains why the majority of his carvings feature all species of fish, foul and wildlife such as raccoons and squirrels. He once carved a special order large mouth bass for NYS Assemblyman Daniel Burling. Throughout his career he’s participated in numerous arts and crafts shows where his carvings have sold well, including the Clothesline Arts Festival at the Memorial Art Gallery.
Yates left the Caledonia police force in 1979 and joined the Greece PD where he worked 10 years before retiring in 1989. He was able to spend more time with his hobby and produced many pieces; some for himself and others he sold. In 1997 Yates suffered a serious stroke that threatened to take away his love of woodcarving. Left partially paralyzed on one side and unable to effectively use his hand, he was faced with the thought of having to put down his carving knife for good. For a short time that was true. But Yates wasn’t willing to accept that fate and so he underwent extensive physical therapy and fought his way back to walking, talking and yes, carving. He continues on a physical fitness regiment today to maintain his mobility. And he still carves, a lot.
He and a friend, Bob Korn of Avon, organized a Livingston County woodcarvers club and he is an active member of the Chili Woodworkers Guild. He’s still creating beautiful wood carved pieces and though he no longer participates in shows, Yates is committed to passing on the art of woodcarving with others. This winter he’ll be teaching a class in woodcarving at Cal-Mum School through their Community Education program. He’ll spend the upcoming winter months carving a variety of beautiful pieces and then in the spring, he and his wife will return north to the Thousands Islands where the two enjoy fishing. You can bet he’ll do some carving, as well.