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I’m going to admit that there are aspects of my life that I live (and view) “inside the box.” Woodworking, as an industry, tends to be one of those. Our (magazine) audience is concentrated in the United States, and that’s usually where my scope of the industry lies (toolmakers aside—some of my favorites are from the UK). However, in the words of Nancy Reagan, “There’s a big, wonderful world out there for you.”

With that in mind, I’ve started to keep my eyes out while traveling abroad to see and understand exactly what is out there. Several months back, I spent a week in Cartagena, Colombia. While wandering the streets, I came across a street vendor sitting on the ground, carving. The gentleman, Abel, was working on mahogany pieces that are used in architecture—corbels, window panels, etc. It was fascinating to me how different, yet similar, his tools, techniques, and mindset were to how we work as hobbyists.

I wandered away from Abel’s stand, admiring this craftsman who was making his living selling his craft on the crowded streets of Cartagena. Of course, I didn’t walk away from his stand empty-handed. Instead, I asked Abel to sell me the piece he was working on — an unfinished window divider (shown above). I tried, unsuccessfully I think, to explain to him that I appreciated this piece as a snapshot of him, as a craftsman, from start to finish.

So, if your life finds you outside your home, abroad or not, take a moment to view others’ work as a snapshot of themselves and appreciate them as craftsmen. Maybe even consider bringing a piece home for yourself. Cheers!

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