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NOVICA Artisan Diego Mendoza

Diego Mendoza

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I was born November 7, 1975, on the shores of Lake Atitlan in the Guatemala highlands. I grew up in a modest house with my parents, three brothers and a sister, whom we all spoiled. I remember my childhood with great pleasure because there was lots of space in our town to play with other children who lived nearby. My favorite game was playing marbles.

When I was 16, I started working with wood, but I began working long before. My father was a brick mason and my mother a housewife, so there wasn't enough money to provide for a family of seven. From the age of 10, I did my part in helping out at home. My job was to go out to the woods and get firewood to use at home. We also sold what we didn't use. Income from the sale of wood helped cover our household expenses. I did this for five years, even though it was tough and tiring. I had fun doing it and never went alone — I always took my friends and companions, so this work was a part of our playtime.

In 1991, I became interested in working with wood, and this led to a job in a carpentry workshop. In my life I've had four jobs. The first three were in woodworking in my home town where I learned a lot, as I found companions I could rely on when I had doubts or didn't know how to do certain processes. The rest of my learning was based on observing and implementing techniques I saw different carpenters apply in their workshops. The last one I don't consider a job, because it is in my own workshop I started in 2005. I decided to become independent because, when you work for other people, there are limits to your creativity and what you are allowed and not allowed to do. In my own workshop, I can experiment and create designs that existed only in my imagination.

"What I enjoy the most about my work is also my biggest challenge — creating new designs. Wood is a noble element, totally transformable, that gives you a lot if you know how to work it, treat it and take care of it. I enjoy creating utilitarian pieces that people can use in their daily activities.

"I remember with much gratefulness a companion in the first workshop where I worked. He took a lot of time to teach me things I never imagined possible to do with my hands. Now I spend some of my time teaching the young people who work with me. I have three helpers — two of them are family members and the third is a neighbor.

"It brings me much satisfaction to know that the knowledge I have acquired over the years is being transmitted to young people who can have their own workshops in the future. It is satisfying to teach people to work with something as beautiful as wood. Creativity is very important to me, and I tell my assistants to always use their creativity so we can create new things together. I would never want to take away someone's creative inspiration.

"I like to work with the roots of the coffee tree. This is a good wood because it's something people usually throw away, and they never take the time to see beyond this and understand that each root has the potential to become something unique and wonderful.

"I spend my free time with my two children — a daughter born in 1999 and a son born in 2008. They are a huge part of my life. My dream is to work hard to give them a life of dignity. I want them to some day be better than I am in every way. Other things I enjoy are reading and guitar lessons.

"When you choose the designs made in our workshop, you are buying part of the dream of a better life full of opportunities."