In 1987/1988 I traveled for three months in Ecuador. It was a journey that would change my life, because after having experienced all kinds of difficulties I came into contact with woodcarving.
I found myself in particularly difficult circumstances, without money and passport, and because of that wasn't allowed to leave the capital Quito. But with borrowed money, I learned Spanish, and started to travel. That way, I arrived in the village of San Antonio de Ibarra, of which I had heard there lived and worked lots of wood carvers. For me it was the land of plenty! From my thirteenth I spent time at home in the barn rummaging in wood. I carved a barge from a block of pine, a maple leaf from rock hard Azobé and further I made gt some little things that never reached a final stage. I had exactly one gouge, that I had to do everything with, and realized that I had to have lessons. But where?
In San Antonio, I saw my chance. I walked into a shop and asked if I could learn the job somewhere. With my limited Spanish for three weeks, I realized that there was a crafts school in the village , where they were trained to be an accomplished carver in six years. Wonderful, but I did not have that much time. The man advised me to ask elsewhere in the village if I could learn to carve some time in a workshop.
Already at the next workshop it was approved: if I just paid for the timber that I used I could learn woodcarving!
The boss of the workshop, Hugo Garrido, was a young guy. He was very talented, ambitious, hearty, and had an open character. It turned out that he had worked in Germany several years before as a woodcarver for a year, to make tourist carvings in Lime wood after it had been precarved by machine, and finish it by hand. So he even knew some German, but I noticed that he hadn't been treated too well, as a sort of third rate worker.
So I could carve for five weeks there, and although that's far too short, I learned a lot. I went home with a twenty piece set of gouges for a bargain price, which were forged to size especially for me , and a wood turner made a series of matching handles.
The gouges I still use occasionally, when I work in wood. They are much thinner than the gouges you can buy here in the Netherlands, and they also cut much easier through the wood. It's been years since I worked with them, for a couple of coats of arms, but lately I have been carving wood again, for fun. With an air hammer, that is, for the time hasn't stood still!