By Zoe Christodoulides
THE NEW Year is the perfect opportunity to make a long list of resolutions. Some of us may be intent on starting up a new exercise regime, others are determined to ward off bad habits, while many often fancy trying their hand at something new by embracing an exciting hobby or pastime.
And when it comes to favourite pastimes, an avid group of amateur woodworkers have recently come together to make the most of their passion. Surrounded by heaps of shavings, a good few tools, and a whole array of artefacts, the Wood Lover’s Society proudly gather together at the Chryssaliniotissa Craft Centre in Nicosia once a month to do what they love most.
Before Christmas, the group joined forces to host their very first exhibition at the Melina Merkouri Hall in Nicosia. From useful household goods to decorative objects and musical instruments, each piece was made by creative individuals who excitedly showcased their work. And as the word about the new society spreads, an increasing number of would be crafts men and women are coming forward to give the craft a go.
The group was formed back in May to bring together wood turners, wood carvers and all those who love working with the material. Now boasting approximately 45 members, the society is one that was founded by a master of the art, Simos Simakis, and wood turning aficionado Kostas Karanikis. The two men were certain there were a good number of people living in the capital who could do with a space to engage in their creative flair.
“The idea is to give everybody the ability to meet and talk about their work, exchange ideas, take part in demonstrations, exhibitions or talks on the subject,” enthuses Kostas. While his friend Simos holds regular workshops dedicated to the craft at Chryssaliniotissa, Kostas first took up the hobby a few years ago and has been hooked ever since.
“Finding that I have a lot more spare time as I retire, I began spending more hours at Chryssaliniotissa pursuing my hobby. One day it dawned on me that there are so many people who pop by the centre wanting to perfect the craft or learn more about it, so we decided to form a society that would accommodate everyone,” he explains.
What’s particularly noteworthy is that people from all walks of life have shown an interest in the activity, all from very different backgrounds and professional fields.
“It doesn’t matter who you are or what you do in your daily life, anyone can work with wood if they enjoy it,” points out Kostas. “Woodwork is very social, it gives you something to talk about while you exchange experiences. More than that, it gives you the chance to create something from virtually nothing, you’re making your very own work of art. And when you are doing it, the wider world around you doesn’t exist. It’s a very relaxing and enjoyable experience.”
Kostas’ wife, Stella, is an avid wood carver and member of the group, who first took up the craft a few years ago when she began partaking in a series of evening classes. With a few basic tools and sketches traced on a plank of wood, she was an early convert.
“I have always loved painting but I must admit that I love this even more,” she says. “I could be carving just one flower for hours on end and I just totally immerse myself in the experience. You may be feeling stressed and doing this simply relaxes you like nothing else.”
Extremely grateful that the Wood Lover’s Society now gives her the chance to mix and mingle with like minded people, Stella explains that it’s the perfect chance for people to exchange knowledge.
“In Cyprus, many people don’t have the chance to engage in the art in a casual social environment. Now everyone has the chance to bring their experiences together.”
Young and old seem to have been equally enticed by the society, while level of skill varies from person to person. But what about someone who has no previous experience whatsoever?
“We are here to guide them,” says Kostas. “We can also give them information about taking lessons or further ways to learn. Whoever you are, you have the ability to create something unique, and if you enjoy it, you will almost get addicted.”
An intrinsic part of Cypriot culture, it turns out far more people have a real talent for working with wood then one would initially imagine. But it seems that many have been perfecting their talents behind closed doors while others never really saw it as something to indulge in as hobby.
“So many people have stepped forward that are so talented but totally unknown to the wider community, and there are probably many more great woodworkers that we don’t know about that we encourage to come out of their homes and join us,” says Kostas. “We live in a somewhat peculiar society: woodcarving is a big part of our country’s culture but there aren’t many places where you can pursue it as a hobby.”
From utilitarian spoons, bowls and pepper mills, to quirky decorative objects, the sky’s the limit when it comes to the group’s creative spirit. A wide array of intricate musical instruments has also become a particular talking point, painstakingly created with hours of dedication and care.
While the Wood Lover’s Society is keen on spreading the word and giving Cypriot talents the chance to learn from international masters of the art, they are currently in the process of bringing in teachers from abroad.
“Wood is a very peculiar material,” confesses Kostas. “You get hooked. It’s very satisfactory in a way that you’ll only know once you have dealt with it. It’s beautiful to touch and a dream to work with.”
More information about the Wood Lover’s Society can be found by searching ‘Wood Lover’s Society’ on Facebook or calling Kostas on 99650709, Simoson 99556250 or Stella on 99477426.