Inspiration is a gift. We may seek it. But inspiration cannot be either purchased or forced. Nor can we predict when or why inspiration will arise.
Kipling’s Manny Olvera says that he has been inspired to create since he was young. However, he admits that finding the right time to follow that inspiration has sometimes been difficult.
“I’ve always liked to draw. I remember that in school, I used to get in trouble for drawing during class,” says Olvera. “But I like to do different things and experiment too. I really enjoy just making cool stuff! And I’ve always been interested in wood-working and wood carving. That was something that I thought I’d like to try if I had the chance.”
He says that pandemic restrictions became an opportunity for him to pursue that interest.
“I work in the oil field – pipelining. When COVID started, we were shut down. That meant that I had extra time. One day, I just decided to give wood carving a try. I hadn’t done any carving before. So, I watched a few YouTube videos about it. Then, I picked up a chain saw and started working on a piece of wood – to see if I could make it look like something. My first carving was a little bear that turned out pretty good! So, I decided to keep on going,” said Olvera.
As the restrictions continued, Manny says that he was inspired to learn different techniques and try carving different pieces.
“COVID gave me a lot of time to practice. Everything I learned was through trial and error. I learned how to use a grinder and knives along with the chain saw when I was carving. And I taught myself different techniques and figured out different ways to do what I wanted to do – better. For example, I found out that it is easier to carve dry wood than green wood. In fact, the longer a tree has been down – the better. That’s because, if you have a green tree and carve it – it will split when it dries. That’s why, if I have a green tree, I’ll drill a hole in the center to draw the moisture out,” said Olvera. “I did go online and watch other people carving too. Every artist has their unique style. But it’s interesting to see the different techniques that other artists use. I tried some of those techniques too. All my work is done freehand. I usually have an idea of what a piece of wood will be. But it really begins to come out as I carve. Every carving I do is unique and each one has taught me something new.”
Manny admits that he was somewhat surprised to learn that his carvings were something that others would like to buy.
“At first, I did a couple of carvings that I kept for myself. But I had a lot of people asking me where I got them when they saw them outside. Then I carved a seven-foot bear. After he was done, I realized I didn’t have room for him! I was curious what people would think. So, I advertised him for sale, and he was gone in minutes. Since then, I’ve sold about eight pieces total. Most of them have been sold to local people. But one person did come from Montmartre to buy a piece. I’ve also had a person in Yorkton contact me and ask if I would like to put pieces into their shop to sell on consignment. That would mean I’d have to get busy and do a few pieces that I could take up there. But that would be cool,” said Olvera.
Since the pandemic restrictions have eased, Manny says that the time he has had to work on the pieces he’s inspired to create has been limited.
“We’ve started back up again now. So, I’ve been busy. I’ve had quite a few people ask me to carve things for them. But I’m having to work on that during the weekends. The people that want carvings have told me that it doesn’t matter if it takes me a little longer though. They know I have to work, and they really want the carvings. So, they’ve told me that they don’t mind waiting,” said Olvera.
Manny adds that if people have trees that they would like to have cut down or taken away, he would be happy to have the wood.
“It’s hard to build up a supply of wood that is big enough to carve. Preferably the pieces of wood should be at least two feet in diameter and eight feet tall. So, if people have big trees that have come down in a storm, or a tree they’d like taken out, I’d be happy to come and haul it away,” he said.
Myrisa Olvera (Manny’s wife) says that she is pleased to see her husband receiving some recognition for his skills and looks forward to seeing what he will create in the future.
“Manny and I started dating in high school and he was a phenomenal artist then! I’ve always encouraged him to take some time to work on his art. It takes a special eye to be able to look at a piece of wood and see the carving inside it. One thing that he’s said he’d do for me is make me a bench that has carvings on the back and sides of it. I don’t know exactly what it will look like. But he has the idea in his head – and I can’t wait to see it,” she said
Manny says that he has recently felt inspired to try creating other types of wooden pieces.
“I want to get into making bowls and cups too. I have a small wood lathe that I’ve started playing with. I’ve made a couple of bowls and I like how they turned out,” he said.
However, he continues to be inspired to carve his larger pieces as well.
“The next thing I want to carve is a bird, an eagle, with wings stretched out like it’s soaring. I have a six-foot log here right now. That piece of wood might have an eagle inside it. I’ll just have to start carving and see,” he said.