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The carver’s connection: Exchange between Snoqualmie Tribe’s crafters, Peruvian artists adds new ideas for sister cities | Photo Gallery
The three men from the Snoqualmie Indian Tribe didn’t speak much Spanish. The two visitors from Peru spoke hardly any English.
But carvers know carvers, and the common, unspoken language of craft was enough to bring everyone together. This fall, the newest bonds to link Snoqualmie with its sister community in South America started to gel in a carving exchange between the visiting Peruvian artists and the craftsmen at the Tribe’s Snoqualmie carving barn.
The two visiting carvers, Javier Ramirez Montalvo and Jose Sanchez Abanto, hail from the town of Pomabamba, Peru.
They are artists who teach carpentry, wood carving and wood sculpture to high school students, high in the Andes mountains. Their craft helps provide local jobs, as well as funding for a boarding high school and a home for teenage girls.
The two carvers were here to display their works in a Peruvian art show at the Seattle Art Museum. “Peru: Kingdoms of the Sun and Moon” opened October 17 and runs through January 5.
The local carving exchange was Tina McCollum’s idea.
President of the Snoqualmie Sister Cities Association, McCollum, a North Bend resident, started the connections that led to Snoqualmie’s latest sister city links, after taking a trip to Peru a few years ago. Chaclacayo became a friendship city in 2011 and a sister city this summer.
In late October, McCollum set up the carving visit, bringing two carvers, the Peruvian consul, and a translator.
In the woodshop
“I understand a little Spanish, but not much,” said tribal carver Jacob Mullen. The real communication was through carving, and the Peruvians were “real good” at that, he added.
“Working with these guys, and the learning and design, was really interesting and fun,” said John Mullen, a tribe member who’s been actively carving with the group for more than a decade.
When the tribal carvers broke out pieces of yellow cedar, a tree that grows only in the Northwest, the visiting carvers were surprised.
“They had never seen yellow cedar. So we gifted them a couple of plaques. They were just tickled pink,” John said.
The authentic Northwestern tools, like the handmade adzes, that the Snoqualmie carvers use, also fascinated the visitors.
“Then, when they started using the chisels, they just whipped it right up,” exclaimed John, clapping his hands. “He looked at me, and I said go for it!”
The visitors went through the soft cedar “like butter,” he added. “All of them had a blast.”
One Peruvian craftsman grabbed a pencil and starting drawing.
The designs “rolled right out of their heads,” said John. The visitors took a traditional tribal canoe paddle, and transformed it into a leaf sculpture.
In their turn, the Peruvian carvers gifted a three-dimensional wood picture to Mullen.
Mullen showed them some of the tribe’s traditional cedar-bark hats, and everyone tried them on.
“They just started smiling,” John said. “They had not a clue that you made hats out of bark.”
“That gave them some ideas of what they can do with their excess materials that they’re discarding,” added McCollum.
The group was only supposed to spend a few hours here, but ended up spending half a day in the tribe’s workshop off 384th Avenue in Snoqualmie. They also toured the Valley, the Falls, George’s Bakery, Ana’s Mexican Restaurant and the Cedar River Watershed Center, joined by Snoqualmie Mayor Matt Larson and State Rep. Jay Rodne.
Snoqualmie carvers are increasingly international. The group of crafters routinely hosts visiting teens from Korea, where Snoqualmie’s sister city of Gangjin often sets up exchanges.
They have also welcomed carvers from Australia, New Zealand and Hawaii, and boat builders from Ireland.
But the sculptural connections that McCollum wants to grow with Peru would be a local first.
She envisions a carving exchange, in which carvers from Peru and Snoqualmie work on public art to be seen by people in both Snoqualmie and Chaclacayo. Carvers could work together on story poles or carvings for display in both nations.
“Each style is different and unique,” McCollum said. “Bringing that together, it would be interesting to see what the byproduct of that would be.”
The Peruvian city is naming a street and park after Snoqualmie. In turn, she wants to create a cultural park here.
“That’s something we can reciprocate,” said McCollum. “We’re not just about students. We’re about exchanging ideas and cultures, and bringing communities together.”
• Learn more about the Sister Cities Association at http://snoqualmiesistercities.org/.
Peruvian visitors and tribe carvers examine traditional cedar-bark hats at the carving barn.
John Mullen, center, and Snoqualmie carvers exchange gifts with Peruvian craftsmen Javier Claudio Ramirez and José Sanchez Abanto.
Jacob and John Mullen examine the carved reliefs that the Peruvians brought to Snoqualmie. Below, Mullen with the wooden art.
A carved angel statue that the Peruvians brought from their hometown of Pomabomba