• Carrin Robertson

Diego, Raquel & Pedro: Meet the Artisans

Meet Diego, a local artisan carpenter who lives and works in a small town on the coast of the very stunning Lake Atitlan. Feeling very lucky to meet him and his family in this incredible place, he shows us his crafts all carved from reclaimed woods, indigenous to Central America. I love wooden objects, and these are gorgeous pieces- I also love the experience of making things, and working alongside someone who knows their craft and is open to sharing their process. So I’m clearly very stoked to be writing about this experience!

In my creative previous life (and employment) in the world of Luxury Retail Design in London (Creative Services & Millingtons Associates), I’ve been familiar with British and European woods like Oak, Birch and Pine and the sheets upon sheets of MDF for structural builds, so I know a lot of carpenters. Diego shows me a whole new world of woods- a selection of Central American wonders, their textures and deep colours are fascinating!

He uses Laurel wood (same in English); Hormingo- also known as Macacauba which is a really colourful wood with oranges and darker black lines through it. Caoba is Mahogany; Grandillo I’ve never seen before and is like a Rosewood; Cafe- Coffee wood, is lighter colour. I also learn a new word Acerin- sawdust, which is everywhere, including Diego’s hair. I work in Spanish here, and although Diego and his wife Raquel speak to each other in a Mayan dialect, they also luckily speak Spanish.

They carve from reclaimed woods, all the objects keep their lines and knots as pieces of uniqueness, which I personally love- it gives the piece a sense of individuality, way more lovely than a piece with it’s characteristics sanded away. Of course, some clients would rather an immaculate piece without these distinctive spots- whatever their taste.

Pedro, Diego’s nephew (and the cat) work cleaning up the finished pieces, sanding and sorting.

Raquel, Diego’s wife finishes the work off, polishing each object with linseed which smells wonderful. I wanted my own set of wooden cutlery for on-the-go eating, so bought a knife, fork and spoon which Raquel polished for me right there. It’s amazing to be able to buy something that’s been made there, right in front of me- I’m very joyous.

I selected some wooden handles which would look really great for summer handbags I’d like to work on over the next few months. Their shape feels good for small clutches and would work well with woven textile or macrame. Watch this space!


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