Woodcarving in Ecuador

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!

Beeldhouwerijblog.nl is the blog of Koen van Velzen, sculptor in stone and bronze. Look up my website as well: beeldhouwerijvanvelzen.nl

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