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"I don't mind that they leave my workshop to set up their own, just like I don't mind others coming to my workshop to use my saw because it's all about helping each other."
When we first met Francisco we were impressed by his infinite creativity: he has over 100 different designs! "Truth be told, I've always wanted to paint. I really like abstraction and nature, that's why I finish my pieces with a natural look," Francisco tells us.
"My family is dedicated to agriculture. In 1985 I worked as a bricklayer and my brother as a carpenter. He decided to immigrate to the US in search of a better life and left me two things: a lathe and a band saw. Feeling curious, I got a piece of wood and began to work on it. That's how my I carved my first piece and when a friend saw it, he offered to buy it. With the money he paid I made three new pieces with different designs. In a way you could say I fell into the world of wood crafts by coincidence.
"My brother has made a life for himself in the US and he sends me the type of saw that I now use to cut the wood, because I cannot get it here in Guatemala.
"I only went to school for two years, and I finished sixth grade when I was 50 years old, when I decided to venture into community life. I would like to help fellow artisans get organized, obtain prime materials, and be properly trained. I think artisans need guidance on developing better strategies, improve the quality of their work, and set better prices. They don’t seem to realize this would bring them some benefits. I would also like to work in favor of my village because we have many needs regarding safety, education, health and environment. Our lake is sick and no one at the village seems interested in keeping it clean. We shouldn't rely on outside help; we should do it on our own. With regards to health care, we have to travel several miles for proper health services.
"I have taught several artisans in my workshop and once they have a good mastery and honed skills in this art, they’ve become independent artisans too. I don't mind that they leave my workshop to set up their own, just like I don't mind others coming to my workshop to use my saw because it's all about helping each other. I'm not a jealous man.
"In the 25 years I've been working with wood I have come across many people. I remember the time when an Italian lady said to me, 'I have found my Maximon!' In our culture, Maximon is a 'great grandfather' to everyone in our village. Sometimes very wise, others somewhat crazy, Maximon is a controversial figure from our village which eventually the Catholic Church had to accept.
"I have a son and a daughter, but they're not interested in working in this field. I am hopeful that one day I'll be able to teach my grandchildren and that they wish to continue with my life's work.
"In 1990 I started designing and crafting puzzle boxes and now they can be seen in other workshops. I don't mind that others have copied my designs and techniques. My personal philosophy is that the most important thing in life is to do well by others – you reap what you sow.
"I named my workshop 'Alfa' (Alpha) because it means 'the beginning.' I chose this name because I was the first one to start creating the boxes in this way. Every puzzle box has its own spirit and magic – they can hide a secret inside. I'm happy to know that my pieces will be admired in the homes of those who purchase them, and above all that they are useful!"
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