WORDS Suzanne Radford

José Maurício is 60 years young, but for him, age is only a number. He is not one to wear a watch and only sees the value of time in the wood he is foraging. He likes old wood, cracked and lined, characterful and strong. Wood from which he can carve something beautiful.

Born in Casais, near Monchique, José has spent all his life there. As you enter his property, there are plants for sale on one side and on the other, stone and wood carvings. It is in the gallery that you discover the truly hidden gems. This is where the magic happens. 

As you look down the softly lit gallery, there are carvings on display in various shapes and sizes, beautifully crafted in wood – juniper, erica, carob and olive. In his hands, Jose holds a cylindrical shaped carving he made from olive wood that is over 2,000 years old.

 “This is nature – this is my work – I work with nature,” José explains. 

Work that can take many hours, around 1000 hours for one piece. This is okay; José enjoys his time and the process. He emphasises the importance of going slow. In his work and in life. 

To understand José and the concept of ‘slow,’ he explains how some of his pieces are soaked in salt water for ten years. Wood that is plunged into darkness in 100 g of salt per 1-litre of water (a greater salt ratio than seawater). The salt preserves the wood and kills any insects or parasites. The piece is then moved to fresh water where it stays for two years; then it is dried for a year. Many of the pieces on display have gone through this process. Others have been stored in fungus, and some in the ground. The process cannot be rushed, the science and process of preserving, strengthening and drawing out the colour. 

José takes care to honour and respect the wood. He doesn’t cut trees but collects timber from the ground after a tree has died or fallen. Then he brings the wood to life and ignites the imagination through their shapes and texture. The process, time and attention to detail warrant prices ranging from 30€ to 5,000€. Buying a work of art and taking a piece of the forest into a home or business.

José says, “the name of the gallery, Spirit of Wood, represents my connection to the tree, both on the inside and on the outside.” 

Growing up in the mountains above Portimão, José always loved planting and growing. His father was a farmer and his father before him would carve large spoons and ladles. Despite this, it took José until he was 29 years old before he carved his first piece of wood. He is self-taught, preferring to develop his own style and method rather than taking any formal training.

José’s favourite wood is Pistacia lentiscus (mastic tree). He loves it for its strength and depth of colour. Over time Pistacia deepens in tones of red. This bushy tree likes calcareous soil and the salt content will determine its colour. The salt content is higher around Aljezur, so wood gathered there can look almost black, less so and redder around Lagos and lighter around Portimão. José understands the land to understand the wood that he works with. 

José is a man who likes to march to the beat of his own drum, but it is a slow walk in harmony with his environment. He takes life nice and easy, with no clocks. It suits him well.

Wood Spirit Gallery Coordinates: 37’17’12.51’ N 8’36’4527’W

Open for viewings, call: +351 919 697 264