Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Woodworking in Masaya: Day 2

Working with Maria and Jose Gutiérrez was such a rad experience that when they offered to 
teach us more techniques, we jumped on the opportunity. After completing the small bowls on 
the first day, Fran and I were dying to go bigger- so that's what exactly what we did. The process 
is very similar but we use machinery to remove most of the inside so time and energy isn't 
wasted carving it all out. 

After the shape is formed and sanded, the hole in the bottom created by the lathe is 
filled with wood putty and sawdust. When dry, the bottom is then sanded smooth. 

The tops of the pieces are burned black for a specific aesthetic look using a combination 
of Nafta gas and air to create the perfect temperature. 100% pure Austailian beeswax is rubbed
 onto the pieces for a water resistant finish. 

Wood used today: Espino de playa
Wood used yesterday: Guayacan

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Discovering the Artisans of Wood

From a block of wood to a bowl. 
Masaya, Nicaragua

Throughout Costa Rica, Fran and I kept seeing this incredible wood work- bowls, plates, cups, 
vases, giant and small, organic and symmetrical. When we crossed into Nicaragua the work 
continued and after chatting with a store owner in San Juan Del Sur, we discovered the source. 
Masaya is a small town about 20 minutes outside of Granada and is a hub for artesanías. Determined
 to locate a workshop, we hit the tourist artisan market and met Maria Gutiérrez. We got her 
home address and took off in a taxi to hunt down her husband. Upon arrival, we explained our 
curiosity and Jose Gutiérrez showed us his simple workshop. After demonstrating a bowl he 
helped both Fran and I make our own! Super incredible experience and I think he was as entertained
 by it as we were.  

To create these pieces, the only machinery used is a bandsaw and a lathe. Similar to glass blowing, 
the outside of the piece is shaped first with the bottom facing outward. It is then rotated on the lathe 
to cut out the inside with the sharpened steel tools. When the inside is removed and all the cuts 
are smoothed out, the piece is sanded before it's removed. The final product is rubbed with beeswax
 that soaks into the wood sealing it and deepening the natural colors. 

The style Fran and I made is about as simple as it gets. Instead of rotating the piece, the bottom
 itself is screwed onto the lathe (so our bowls have shallow holes in the bottom that don't penetrate 
the piece). When working this way, the outside point of the wood starts out as the top of the 
bowl instead of the bottom. 

One of the most common woods used (a beautiful deep red) is called Brasil. I can't believe I 
forgot to ask for the name of the wood we used- but we're headed back to the workshop on 
Monday so it looks like I'll get another chance.

Super stoked on my first introduction to wood and thankful for amazing people that are 
open to sharing knowledge and art. And for my creative man that likes to hunt down these

47 Días en Centro América

Panamá, Costa Rica, Nicaragua
A very rough outline of my trip so far

-Notes and ratings are clearly only based on my own experience & are narrow for places with
short visits
-We are staying in private rooms in hostels which are sometimes much more expensive, most
of the time the same, and sometimes cheaper than dorms, prices listed are for two people

Dec 28-29
Panamá City, Panamá 

Notes: Only one night in Casco Viejo, beautiful, architecture reminded me of Cartagena
Colombia, on the expensive side, hostel approx $35

Dec 29 - Jan 2
Isla Colón, Bocas Del Toro, Panamá 

Notes: Lots of rain, expensive hostel, absolutely gorgeous bike ride along the beaches
(Bluff Beach), tourist town for people in and out of country alike

Jan 3-5
Isla Bastimentos, Panamá 

Notes: Way cooler than Isla Colón, and just a quick taxiboat away. Stayed in Hostel
Bastimentos for $20 per night, awesome place muy tranquilla, less people, quieter, 15
minute hike to Wizard beach, taxiboat to Red Frog beach, rad Afro Caribbean people
 speaking a mix of Spanish and English, less touristy, excellent food and definitely less

Jan 5-8
Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Notes: Small surf town perfect for yoga and riding bikes. Excellent and cheap food but
you need for search for it- higher end hotels and restaurants available as well. Hostel
$25. Beautiful bike ride to Punta Uva and Manzanillo, gorgeous beaches, nice vibes. 

Jan 8-10

Notes: Bussed through San Jose to the Pacific side, very different vibes- much more
touristy and expensive. Has a Pizza Hut & Quiznos if you know what I mean. Didn't dig
 the beach much, a bit on the dirty side. Not my favorite place based on my experience.
Hostel $25.

Jan 10-11
Puntarena, Costa Rica

Notes: A place people pass through to get to other places, and therefore I kind of liked it.
Seemed to be a tourist destination only for people of the country. One day & one night.
Warm calm water, excellent sunset, hostel $20. Definitely less expensive than Jacó but
not particularly cheap. 
Ferry to...

Jan 11-13
Montezuma, Costa Rica

Notes: Absolutely adorable town- seems to be mostly composed of long-term travelers,
excellent food (but expensive!) the best little beach I've ever been to with insanely clear
water, great for snorkeling, very relaxing place. Excellent vibes. Yoga available. $20 hostel.

Jan 13-14
Santa Teresa, Costa Rica

Notes: Cute yes, but very expensive and very touristy- therefore I was not very relaxed.
Excellent beaches for surfing, bonfires, & the sunset. Tons of Argentinian girls traveling
in packs. 

Jan 14-19
San Juan Del Sur, Nicaragua 

Notes: Expensive day bussing through Costa Rica to Nicaragua but the moment we hit
Nica- BAM, excellent vibes. Absolutely loved San Juan Del Sur. Hostel $18. Lobster tail
dinner $6. Hike to El Cristo Mirador- insanely gorgeous but bring $2 to enter at the top.
 Rented a motorcycle $20 for 4 hours. Love love Love.

Jan 19-23
Ometepe, Nicaragua 
Santa Domingo/Santa Cruz area

Notes: An island with two volcanoes (Volcáns Concepción and Madera) in Lake Nicaragua.
Scary little fishing boat there on rough waters but bigger ferry available- both cheap. Hostel
$14 in Santa Domingo. Hiked Volcán Madera, need a guide but don't pay more than $10
per person and give yourself about 7 or 8 hours. Has fireflies and a lot of heavy wind. Electricity
goes out a couple times a month. Very small, special place. Very cheap if you try.

Jan 23-25 (today!)
Granada, Nicaragua

Notes: Great location for day trips to other places. Hostel $15. Laguna de Apoyo is absolutely
gorgeous for (topless) kayaking, very chill, just outside of town. Hostel can set you up to go,
or bus & walk. Nearby town Masaya is a hub for artisans. 20 minute bus ride out of Granada
for $0.36. We ended up hunting down a couple that creates various bowls and functional art
pieces from wood and got to visit their workshop which leads me to my next post... 

and that's all for now,
Buen viaje!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Up in the Hill

What: Coffee shop & organic farm
Where: Isla Bastimentos, Bocas del Toro, Panamá

After hiking to Playa Wizard from Old Bank on Isla Bastimentos, Fran & I took a detour 
following giant flowers made of recycled plastic. After fifteen minutes of practically swimming
 in mud, we came upon an absolutely beautiful two story open faced building filled with hand 
made things, jewelry and art. Up in the Hill is a coffee shop & organic farm that pretty much 
offers everything else. They make a variety of natural body products for sale and offer a variety 
of raw chocolate treats and drinks. They have a book exchange and you can rent surfboards 
as well. They use only rain water that they also sell by the cup or liter, and offer two types of 
greens from the farm for $2 a bag. The family that has created this space has done so for 
11 years. The woman is from Scotland, her boyfriend from Argentina, and they have 
three adorable boys born nearby in David, Panamá. Very happy we turned right on that muddy
 trail today. If you ever make it to Isla Bastimentos here in Bocas, follow the plastic flowers.