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Turning wood into works of art

RACHELLE AGARD, [email protected]

Turning wood into works of art

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There are two of their kind left on the island in a now dying art form. Sculptors and carvers have been quietly taking natural materials and turning them into beautiful works of art.

One of those sculptors is 37-year-old Grantley Grazette.

He has worked under the direction of Reginald Medford for the past 21 years and has honed his craft at Medford Craft World on White Hall Main Road, St Michael.

“My grandmother, Norma Chandler, and my boss attended the same church, and after I left school she didn’t want me to get caught up in the neighbourhood we lived in at the time, so she sent me to the workshop.

   “It wasn’t bad because I can draw, so it came pretty easy to me . . . also having done woodwork at school,” recalled the former St Leonard’s Boys student as he chatted with EASY in the workshop.

Pointing out that there have been many who have come and gone, he said he has been the one to stand by Medford’s side throughout the years.

“From then I have been the only carver working alongside Mr Medford in the craft shop. There are other guys here on the team, but they do not carve like us and are responsible for other areas of the workshop,” he said with pride.

Grantley’s days starts off with a slab of wood or piece of a tree trunk.

“We mark the patterns on the surface of the mahogany using stencils, and then we cut everything out into a block so nothing is cut out as an individual piece because it would take too long. Out of that block we get four or five pieces, which are eventually turned into whales, or doves, or whatever figure we are making,” he said.

Adding that a few pieces are removed with a saw, it is only then that it reaches Grazette’s carving station where he works his magic.

“If I do not envision what the finished piece is to look like before, then I can’t shape it. So I envision it and start carving it with my sanding machine. A sander wasn’t made for carving but we have modified ours for that purpose. The sanders we have operate at 5 000 rpms (revolutions per minute), so we can carve a piece in three and a half minutes depending on what it is, but this is for smaller pieces,” he explained. 

They also do pieces from the root of the mahogany tree as well. However, these however take a longer time and as Barbados is made out of limestone, very often pieces of the limestone rock are found in the root of the tree.

“If you try to cut a root with the chainsaw, you notice that more than likely you would hit a rock, and sometimes it takes six to nine months before we could get one piece coming from a root because we have to dig out all the rocks and mud.

“When that happens Mr Medford does the initial cutting of the pieces. After he does his part, it comes to me to sand and clean up and in the end we get abstract art that is placed on a base,” he said.

Asked how dangerous it was to operate the sander he used to shape his figurines, he said it was extremely dangerous, admitting that he has been injured by the high tech machine tool.

“When I first started I sanded the tip of my little finger, but you really don’t want to do that too many times. After that first cut you want to make sure that you are more careful than ever to avoid any unnecessary accidents. It’s like you automatically become a professional,” he said, laughing.

As for passing on the knowledge he has gained from Medford, he said there were not many people interested in what he did. However, the invitation was extended to curious people.

“We don’t hold summer camps or anything here but we do encourage schools and groups to visit, tour the facility and see what we have to offer. We start from outside where we source the trees, through the sanding process, up to where we apply the varnish, and then take them upstairs to see the finished product. So they see from the raw material to the end,” he said.

Grazette is passionate about what he does and said matter-of-factly that as long as there was life in him, he will be right there in the workshop turning wood into sculptures. (RA)