I've always thought that arts and crafts make humanity great and perpetual. They generate values, they develop virtues and are the gift of sustainability for future generations."
"I am a writer, poet and artisan. My story begins on December 7, 1957 in Montevideo, Uruguay on a quiet street in a relatively new neighborhood. Our house had entrances on two streets. One was a boulevard in front of the University School of Architecture; the other was a winding lane that, for us, was a place to play.
"Neither of my parents were artists, but they were always close to art. My mother was a traumatology nurse and secretary to a professor, my grandfather. He was the director and founder of the Institute of Traumatology. My father designed and sold furniture, and was the first to offer modern furniture in Uruguay. Around 1968, he created the first Latin American furniture kit, called the "Maxi Box," which was a true revolution of design, materials, production and functionality.
"As the first son, grandson and boy in the neighborhood, I was very spoiled. I was quote restless and no one could stand me. My parents consulted a number of psychologists and they all concluded that I should use that energy until I was tired. The solution was to double my course load at school from 8 to 4, and then send me to English classes. By the end of 1966, my mom sent me to the club at 6 p.m. on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday, and on Monday, Wednesday and Friday, I took art classes to burn up as much energy as possible during the day.
"I remember those years with cold wars, Gemini capsules, Che Guevara and the incipient acts of dictators that marked my life forever, especially as I questioned authority and antidemocratic licentiousness.
"In art, I discovered an ambience of freedom and the sensation of both history and modernity that marked me all my life. At the same time, I became aware of a special combination of habilis, ludens and sapiens that characterized the formation of a man in his special multidimensionality. My passion and self-discovery in handicrafts took on a greater importance in my everyday life, and I began woodcarving in my kitchen using gouges I'd got at a friend's house. Hi mother – a psychologist and re-educationist – gave me my first set of tools in 1968. I still have them.
"I remember the coup d'etat in 1973 as though it were yesterday. It left me without a workshop, without teachers, without freedom and with a sense of fear that I found difficult to overcome. When the school year ended in 1974, I found what was to be the motto of my activity and formation – woodcarving to restore the soul and rescue the ecology. In 1975, I set up my first independent workshop in a friend's garage, but I was there for only one year; in 1976, my mother decided it was too dangerous for us to continue living in Montevideo under the conditions imposed by the dictatorship – violence, repression and assassinations. When I was 18, she sent me to Europe with only 300 dollars in my pocket.
"Once there, I worked in Switzerland and, when my parents came to visit me, they decided to move to Spain. In Spain, we had an auto accident and my mother was killed. That was a terrible blow and the loss affected me greatly.
"After that, I worked for two years in a family furniture shop but I never felt the space was mine, as urban life was too hostile for me. I decided to move to the 'Far East' – Punta Ballena in Punta del Este. There, I studied furniture crafting and woodcarving with the Spanish master, Isidro Pons. I'll never forget his words one night in 1979. 'Slim, with your tools and your hands, you'll be free anywhere in the world and no one can ever subject you. You'll earn a living with dignity, and you'll develop your art and your skills….'
"I made up my mind to dedicate myself to arts, crafts and gastronomy but, to do so, I had to finance the project. So I went back home and worked hard in Montevideo – in our family furniture business, in the book and art fair and in Manos de Uruguay.
"In 1987, I set up the Pepe Corvina restaurant and Corvina furniture design program and grill concept in the last fishing village on the beach in Maldonado. With my income, I continued to travel to Spain, the Canary Islands (2001), Peru (2006) and Guatemala (2008), where I currently live.
"Woodworking is awesome — it's malleable, sensitive, reusable, recyclable and seemingly transformed by alchemy. What I like is that it is ecological and we can reforest to replace not only what we use but also to compensate for human depredation over the 5,000 years that civilization has been developing, to reverse global warming and, especially, its consequences.
"Woodcarving arose as an ability that I later developed together with designs and objects. I really consider myself self-taught, with teachers who have directed and guided my appreciation and approach. To learn and develop this art has required a lot of effort and patience, self observation, self critique, evaluation, retro-projection and, above all, constant perfecting while remembering that 'best is an enemy of good, and nothing is perfect but we can make it better.'
"My designs in wood have no logical relation with the history, customs and traditions of my country. In fact, I think they are antagonistic and hostile to me and my art, which is why I emigrated. That's why I've never received any recognition for my art, nor prizes for my work. I feel that it's conquering the inertia of the material and the psychological inertia.
"Novica is a special opportunity for us to reconstruct the planet together, generating possibilities that we didn't appreciate opportunely. I've always thought that arts and crafts make humanity great and perpetual. They generate values, they develop virtues and are the gift of sustainability for future generations."