Last night I went to a demonstration of Oaxacan carving at Idyllwild Arts. I was amazed; the Oaxacan carved figures are intricate and often whimsical. What amazed me was the fact that they are carved from one piece of wood with giant machetes; one for initial shape and another for details.
The artist started with a piece of copal wood and a giant machete. He hacked away at the wood until it started to form the silhouette of a rabbit. As he carved he discussed his process, explaining the importance of working on wet wood so the carving process is easier. The piece is then allowed to dry, is sanded, and painted. Each paint color is made by adding different acids to the powdered bark of the copal tree. When mixed with lime juice a yellow paint is made, and by adding honey to the mixture the artist can produce an amber color. The most surprising color is a vibrant turquoise, produced by mixing pomegranate juice with the copal powder.
Here are some of the finished carvings.