Nick Hand’s Conversations On The Hudson Shows Westchester’s Hipster Subculture

Westchester may be stereotyped as cookie-cutter, settled-down suburbia, but for many creative types, the greater region epitomizes (ironically) the unselfconscious lifestyle that many a certain variety of so-called hipster aspires to. Speaking to that point is Nick Hand’s recent Conversations on the Hudson, a brief collection of interviews with, and vaguely artsy photos of, Hudson Valley inhabitants. The compact, image-heavy hardcover features artists and craftspeople who eschew things like mass manufacturing and cubicle careers—not so much to spite an increasingly homogenized City culture (à la their urban-dwelling counterparts), but because it feels, well, natural.  

When his wife worked in New York City for six months, Hand, a design-studio director back in England, took to his bike, riding 500 miles north from their temporary home in Brooklyn, with the Hudson River and a website called Bike Hudson Valley as his guide. His goal: to “seek out interesting folk,” particularly artisans, as he did on a similar journey around his native land. On that previous ride, he writes, he was “inspired by the makers’ enlightened view on life. They learn a skill and make beautiful things, in a slow, considered way.” 

In Mount Kisco, he meets Anna Canoni, Woody Guthrie’s granddaughter. He also gets to see Pete Seeger at a Clearwater tribute to Guthrie. Over in Rockland, sculptor Ted Ludwiczak reveals he used to own an optical lab in Mount Vernon. At 59, he “quit, sold the business, and moved,” calling his house of 33 years in Haverstraw the best buy of his life. “There are abundant rocks here,” Ludwiczak says. “I looked at those rocks and they looked at me and we connected. I saw some spirit, souls in them, and I kept carving for the fun of it.” 

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Painter/poet Julie Hendrick

Seed librarian Ken Greene

Seed Librarian (which is exactly what it sounds like) Ken Greene of Ulster County—who, too, quit his old life as a book librarian in favor of pastoral life—explains, “Part of what makes it so amazing here is that we’re surrounded by woods. It’s very private, very quiet and peaceful.” Kingston painter/poet Julie Hendrick chats with Hand in her studio: “I feel very connected to the Hudson Valley, the landscape, and the river running through the middle of it.” Of her morning routine, she adds, “Walking along it first thing, that sort of sets the tone for the day. I bring that quality and energy into the work that I do.” 

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The light, non-preachy “scrapbook” contains plenty of flannel and veneration for the obsolete—in line with the mass-cult of Hip—but it’s also chock-full of something the rest of us might not recognize as easily, let alone mock: earnestness.

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