Let's visit Juan Carlos Ramírez in his wood workshop. This young native of La Paz who learned his skill from his father has spent almost 20 years dedicated to the art of carving.
Juan Carlos works with his own designs and special orders with great enjoyment in the workshop that belonged to his father. He tells us that he started as a young boy sanding the bases of his father's work and slowly but surely became more skilled.
"I prefer stylized, three-dimensional designs, but I do a little bit of everything. The good thing is that my work is relaxing, and sometimes I lose all track of time… when I went to Brazil I learned to do inlays, which I like, but I still prefer carving."
Recently Juan Carlos took a liking to working on rough-hewn tree trunks that he collects himself in the parks. "Sometimes when I am walking, I see that they are cutting down trees in the parks or streets, so I collect them and bring them to the workshop." He even rescued a piece of the trunk from vine around his house and used it to make an Ekeko figure that he plans to send to the municipal contest.
Nowadays he works alone but hires helpers when he has a big order. Like he tells us, it is getting harder to get good wood all the time. "The best wood is exported, so we're only left with the scraps. They say there's a lot of smuggling. Before, I worked with mahogany, but it is really hard to get now. Lately I've been working with white cedar from Beni" (Bolivia's Amazonian department).
Once he has the wood, he makes a freehand drawing of the design and starts to cut it, using gouges and chisels to give it shape; then he polishes it and finishes it as needed.
Like he tells us, it is really interesting to carve trunks because they have different tones, and when the piece is finished it has a special sheen.
Juan Carlos Ramírez loves his art and wants to share it with the world.
Look for his work at Caserita.com