Arturo Aj Canil
Traditional Guatemalan wood masks in Central America
"I'm the father of five beautiful daughters and I'm totally in love with them. They are the ones who keep me going every day.""I was born in Chichicastenango, a wonderful place to grow up as my life has always been filled with color. I carve masks from wood and am the fourth generation of my family to do so.
"My late uncle was the first in the family to become a wood-carver and I was always passionate about this art. I loved the colors and playing with their combinations. I'd go to the workshop with my father and stay there in the evenings to mix colors and create unique designs.
"My masks have always been the result of trial and error and, when I don't like something about them, I paint them again and again until I achieve something I really like.
"With my brothers and my dad, we began experimenting with branches and roots. We gave them all kinds of forms, such as snakes, jaguars, goats and octopus shapes and I loved bringing all these images to life. In fact, I still have some of those early wood carvings.
"I entered two of my carvings in a contest — one of them had taken me months because there was something about it I didn't like. The day before the contest, inspiration came to me and I finished it in a single night. The funny part is that it took first prize! This was such a great experience that I remember it fondly. It taught me to do everything with dedication and love.
"Along the way, I've met people who like my art and appreciate the hard work that goes into it. Thanks to these shoppers, I've been able to meet my family's needs each day.
"I love to create images that reflect our customs and traditions. It's exciting to work with dedication because my designs are going to decorate your homes.
"I'm the father of five beautiful daughters and I'm totally in love with them. They are the ones who keep me going every day. I dream of giving them a college education and hope they will continue this art and hand it down to future generations."