Rainbow baby

Tomas Canil

My art enlivens the Christmas mood

Behind each piece of carved wood are the magical hands of Tomás Canil Morales, an artisan originally from Chichicastenango, Quiché, who transforms wood into a variety of figures. At this time of year, his nativities, nativity scenes and Christmas characters stand out and fill homes with spirituality and brotherhood. His religious art adds color and brings more life to the Christmas atmosphere.

"Our imagination, creativity, and ancestral culture allow us to turn a rustic log or piece of wood into a face, a character, an object or a figure that represents our culture, customs, beliefs and our dreams," says the artist Tomás Canil. "My children and my wife are a part of my work team. I take care of carving the figures and they dedicate themselves to sanding and painting. Our art is creative and made by our whole family," adds Canil.

Immersed in his small workshop with no other tools than a machete, a knife and a small hammer, Tomás begins to carve wooden figures. From his skillful hands, figurines of characters and biblical representations are crafted: Jesus, Joseph, Mary, sheep, oxen, and other objects of that time that mark our spiritual life.

Tomás Canil begins his workday early as he goes into the forests and mountains to gather material. Among the freshness of nature and the songs of birds he looks for and locates old remains of wood that he then takes to his house. This is where his family waits for him to begin the creative task.

No machines are involved, all of his creations are handmade.

As tools, we only use a knife and machete. However, the most important thing is creativity, observation and imagination to shape the wood. You have to have skill in your hands and in creating ideas," Tomás explains, "my father, who first taught me this art when I was eight years old, told me that wood will always have a side that can be carved, it's just a matter of finding it."

Tomás Canil's handicrafts go far beyond art and an ancestral expression. His work is sustainable, clean, does not pollute nature, and above all, generates economic income for his family and his community.

"In this period we make carvings of nativity scenes and handcrafts according to the religious commemoration. We also make masks, suns, moons, stars, eclipses, crosses, planks, ancestral characters, Guatemalan natural figures, colonial art and even modern art," Tomás Canil says, "our art needs to be known and thanks to Xela Industries our products can reach other countries. The more people who purchase our crafts, the more we are able to ensure the education and development of our children and our community."

Tomás is passionate about working with natural raw materials such as leftover wood that is used for recycling. One difficulty with his job is that the authorities sometimes restrict the artisans from gathering wood instead of focusing on stopping other sectors that cut down forests uncontrollably.

"My children study at night because they help me during the day", says Tomás Canil with his eyes set on the horizon. Knowing that he is working on building a future for his family, he tries to pass on all of his skills and knowledge about woodcarving. He claims, “I dream of a good future for my children and my family. One where we continue to combine workdays with friendship, talks and games. I hope that the authorities will soon open the squares for tourists to come and buy our handicrafts again."

Whatever restrictions there may be, Tomás will always love to create his sustainable and beautiful wooden art.