Sunday, February 17, 2013
Hawaiian Tiki Carving
It's amazing what a vacation will do for your outlook.
I recently spent a week in (or is it on?) Maui - it's the only place in the world that fully recharges my batteries.
What's not to love?
Every day that I would leave the beach, I'd pass a small stretch of road where various tables were set up, and artists would sell their work. On my last day, I pulled over to check out the woodcarvers.
It's there that I met Moe, a giant, gentle man with hands the side of baseball mitts. He and a buddy sat by their van, sketching and carving on small blanks of wood - Monkeypod, Milo, and Koa.
You can read a bit more about the various woods here.
Moe took the time to explain the various imagery of his work - the names of the Hawaiian Gods and what their poses meant. Pretty fascinating stuff!
Some of the tikis provide protection, others ensure good luck.
Turtles were a popular subject for their carvings, too.
This unfinished piece was carved into a log that had been infested with some sort of bug - the back side was covered with worm holes and odd voids in the wood. Moe really wanted me to buy this piece, but I was concerned it wouldn't have fit into my suitcase!
Their tools were remarkably simple - his chisel resembled a thin bar of metal, with a sharpened end. And his mallet was little more than a small log of wood that they'd shaped into a striking tool. His "workbench" was a log stump.
I'm sorry to say that I didn't get a picture of Moe - but here's an amazing story.
Now you've heard about six degrees of separation, right? It's the idea that everyone is separated by just six steps or less. A friend of mine suggested that in Hawaii, there are really only three degrees. Smaller area, more connections. Everyone knows someone who knows someone.
A few nights ago, I was at a party and one of the other guests had an interesting walking stick. I went over to ask him about it - and he said a fellow named Moe had carved it. He described the carver as a bear of man, gentle and polite. Hands like bear paws. Now - tell me - what are the chances that we both met the same woodcarving Moe?
Damn, it's a small world!
Of course, I had to bring home a piece of Moe's - here it is, spreading its protection.
The color of this wood is really incredible - deep oranges and reds. All Moe applied to this was a wiped on coat of glossy lacquer.
Yesterday in the shop, Eric, Richard and I had a discussion about tools - about woodworkers spending ridiculous amounts of money on simple things, like marking gauges or chisels. Moe's work reminds me of how simple your tools can be, and how tools really aren't a gauge of anyone's work. Its is truly a mark of skill when you can produce excellent work with the simplest of tools - tools that you understand and know how to use properly.
Sending much aloha to all the artists I met while on the island.