It’s nearly six months ago now that I spoke to Dimitrios Klitsas on the phone. Dimitrios has taught woodcarving to dozens – if not hundreds – of craftspeople in New England, and he is held in high regard by anyone associated with the craft. Well-known sign-crafter and gilder, Francis Lestingi is among his many students. But where did Dimitrios learn to carve? I was interested to find out the story; hence, my lengthy phone call to Hampden, Massachusetts.
I learned to carve in Greece, my homeland. I took a four year training at a technical college under my great teacher, Angelo Moshos. At that time, a young man could learn the trade of carving. That is what I did.
I use Pfeil chisels from Switzerland, and some older chisels that I brought with me from Greece. Not knives. Knives are limited. If you know how, you can make anything with chisels and gouges, whether it’s something small or large, elaborate or rough. Whatever I do, I try to make it very very beautiful, so it would look at home in a palace. I want everything I make to be a piece of art.
Every Wednesday I do a three-hour carving class with local people who are interested. They can come back again and again. I also, three or four times a year, hold a longer carving class – a week long. People come from farther away for those classes. I’ve even had a student from Australia!
Now, some of my students are becoming very good carvers too. One young man comes every year, for thirteen years. He is a farmer in Washington state. He stays in our home, and he is very committed to learning. He even carves until late at night. Now, he has a lot of skill. It all depends on the attitude and commitment.
At your company, you carve signs. I also carve signs sometimes, but I don’t specialise. I’m just a woodcarver. Every customer loves something different. I can’t say why. There are a million things that you could carve! Once you know how to handle a chisel and a gouge, you can carve a sign the same as you carve anything else.
The economy is not great right now, but I stay busy. I just finished a five-and-a-half by four foot sign for the Maine Fish Market in Windsor. It includes a crab and a lighthouse. It took me a month and a half to make.
Now, I am sixty-five years old, and I am still learning. You can never learn everything! It says in the Bible not to bury your talents. If God gives you a talent, use it! I know how to carve wood, somebody else knows how to do something else. Keep learning and improving, even when you are old, there’s no reason to stop. Once you have a skill, you can make anything!