Fruits of the Forest
Wood carver finds home and profession on Molokai.
By Melissa Kelsey
Two of his carvings, a humpback whale and a shark, are on display at Kalele Bookstore in Kaunakakai. Several feet high, the humpback whale is made from kou wood. The shark is made from milo wood and is attached to its base with a deer antler. Lopez said he likes milo wood because he finds it easy to preserve the variety of colors found in the wood. For even darker shades on the sculptures, he used dye from black pearl shells. After completing approximately 70 percent of the carving work with a chainsaw, Lopez used chisels and various electric tools for the details. Each of the sculptures took him around 1 1/2 weeks to complete.
Lopez’s work can also be found at The Warehouse behind Import Gifts, and he said that his carvings have been purchased by visitors coming from as far as Switzerland and Germany. However, he sells most of his work on Maui.
Lopez said he first came to Molokai 12 years ago when he was hired to work on fences at Molokai Ranch. Soon after, he met his future wife, the daughter of renowned Molokai wood carver Bill Kapuni, who also operated snorkeling and diving excursions for tourists. While helping his new father-in-law take visitors on underwater adventures, Lopez developed an interest in Hawaiian sea life. Around the same time, he began learning the art of sculpture from Kapuni and creating his own work.
“I just love to do it,” said Lopez. “I hope I keep doing it more and more.”