Idyllwild local Cory Lavy wasn’t always the artistic type. While he was born and raised in Idyllwild, Lavy was more interested in the fire and medical world than he ever was with the arts.
While in high school, Lavy volunteered for the U.S. Forest Service, and when he graduated in 2003, he was immediately picked up to work for a hand crew during the offseason. He made his way to two different local stations — the Cranston and Vista Grande stations.
After a handful of seasons working for the forest service, Lavy wanted to explore the medical side of the emergency world. He became an ER technician and worked at Hemet Global Medical Center. After that, he went on to work American Medical Response (AMR) as a tactical medic.
During his time with AMR, Lavy accompanied multiple law enforcement departments on calls out in the field with their SWAT teams. This included the Riverside County Sheriff’s Department, California Highway Patrol and many city police departments in the Inland Empire. It was a fast-paced life with a lot of action, exactly what Lavy wanted.
In 2014, Lavy’s life as he knew it came to a screeching halt, literally and figuratively. While Lavy was driving along the freeway, he was struck by a semitruck. His neck was broken at the C3 vertebrae, ending his career.
“It took me a year to recover from breaking my neck, and by then, all my certifications were expired,” Lavy said. “I went into a depression because I didn’t know what I was going to do.”
Lavy jumped from job to job trying to make a living. He did everything from commercial diving to selling timeshares and ended up being a laborer on a construction crew here in Idyllwild.
“I was employed for two years in Idyllwild with this construction crew and I was struggling financially,” Lavy explained. “I had three kids and a fourth on the way. I wasn’t able to support them.”
After multiple attempts at asking for a raise, his boss jokingly said, “Maybe if you knew how to chain saw-carve bears, you could make better money.” That was the motivation for Lavy and that same night he went home and bought a book on Amazon on how to chain saw-carve a bear out of wood. After that, he sat on his deck and practiced for weeks.
When he finished his first bear, he posted a photo of it on Facebook and received requests to make more. Within a couple of weeks, Lavy left his construction job and the rest is history.
Beard-a-Bear Woodshop has been going strong for two and a half years. Considering most chain saw carving is quite expensive, Lavy wanted to change that.
The most popular bear is a 6 inch by 4 inch bear that sells for $20.
“My goal in all of this is to make it so everybody who wants to own a chain saw-carved bear can afford it,” Lavy said. “If I can make 50 of them a week, we sell out. It’s because they’re so cute. We like to put different smiles and characters on each of them. Not a single one looks the same as another.”
Beard-a-Bear Woodshop was set up at every Art in the Park event and always had four to five children at a time huddled around the booth. With a tiny, cute, carved bear for $20, many children were seen walking around with their very own.
Lavy has worked on larger pieces, including his most intricate piece to date — an angel. The 9-foot angel took six days to carve, working from sunrise to sunset and is located in Twain Harte, California.
The homeowner was devastated to lose her tree because it was in the way of nearby power lines. When the company came to remove it, she requested they leave the bottom 10 feet of the tree intact so she could hire someone to carve it into a sculpture, which Lavy was lucky enough to do.
Lavy has done many custom pieces of all sizes and is always interested in a challenge. Now Beard-a-Bear Woodshop is looking to expand.
“I would like to do chain saw competitions,” Lavy said. “Most would be in the Northwest and Canada, but it’s pretty expensive to travel, lodge and pay to get into the competitions.”
Lavy is looking for sponsorships and to advertise for companies to make the dream more possible. He hopes to enter his first competition in 2021.
You can find Beard-a-Bear Woodshop on Facebook, Instagram and Etsy — all run by Lavy’s wife Haleigh.
“My wife is the brains of the operation,” Lavy said. “I jump out of bed and go, go, go. I’m grateful she’s there to handle all the behind-the-scenes work like scheduling, calls, social media and emailing. I couldn’t do it without her.”
From the emergency services world to chain saw carving artist, Lavy proves that with a bit of motivation and hard work, anything is possible.