Two of J. Alcântara sons – Joe and James Alcântara – grew up watching their father work and took a liking to it. Joe (28 years old) says J. Alcântara taught them but was very demanding. “That looks more like a vulture than a toucan, my dad would say. We had to make and remake things until they were good, perfect.” They still study animal anatomy, the details of feathers, fur, paws and wings. And the same goes for the details of plants.
Small pieces take on average 40 days to be finished as the wood needs time to “mature”, or to cry, as the carpenters say. According to Joe, people say that in the Amazon wood won’t dry because of the humidity. “That’s not true. Big trunks will dry, but can take 6 years. That’s why the work is so hard. We must understand the wood we work with so we won’t make mistakes, won’t let it crack.”
James (23 years old), makes most of the woodcarvings. “The entire production has a guaranteed destination which is essential since it is the source of all our earnings.” They take turns in the workshop they own in a craft centre in Manaus. The wood is sourced from fellings made from the neighboring forest and sometimes it’s bought from local saw mills.
They all agree that if it hadn’t been for the work started by their father, there wouldn’t be so many people sculpting and carving wood in Manaus today. “But you have to be good and keep studying. We work non-stop, from sunrise to sunset. Working this hard we can make a living from our art.”