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Artist of the Month - January 2005

Former Miner Uses Ingenuity
for Artistic Endeavor.

By Carrie Switzer

José Sanchez

José Sanchez turned a serious illness into an opportunity when he began working with small pieces of wood to create beautiful ornaments and three-dimensional wall hangings.

A former mine and mill worker, Jose has always been a machinist of sorts, taking a broken piece of equipment and outfitting it for his workday needs.

He does the same in his home shop, where a scroll saw has been adapted in height to accommodate long hours cutting out tiny patterns of wildlife, famous profiles and tricky multi-layered designs. He uses discarded wood from yard sales, lumberyards and building sites, and he makes his own frames and stands. José also uses a table saw and a band saw, a router and sander. He does all of his own painting and staining, a process José said he enjoys for the challenge of finding the right stain for the particular piece of wood he is working with.

“I spent 10 years in the coal mines in East Carbon, and then went to work at Rio Algom and Potash here in Moab,” José says. “I still do a lot of repairs on my equipment or in the house. I’m more or less a handy man.”
José built his shop, his workbench, and has a sophisticated magnifying glass attached to the scroll saw to enable very close and precise cutting. Many of Jose’s three-dimensional pieces are made from separate slabs of wood, each hand-carved and then glued together. These pieces appear as one, much thicker slab.

“I used to build furniture and large items, but after I got sick I couldn’t work with the big stuff anymore,” José, who is recovering from cancer, said. “So I picked up these patterns and began working with smaller pieces of wood. Depending on my mood, I might be out here all day, or just for a couple of hours. I like the peace and quiet.”

Jose’s wife Pilar said he also enjoys the heat.

“He likes it very warm, so he can come out here and get the heaters going and have his own peace and quiet,” she agreed. “I get my quiet in the house, because we don’t have kids or animals at home anymore.”

The Sanchezes raised 10 kids in Moab. Only two still live in town. “The rest are all over the country,” Pilar said. They moved to Moab in 1962, rented for about 10 years, and have been in the same home now for 30 years.

When José retired from the mines he worked for the Park Service for three years and then for Maverik as a handy man. Now he spends a good number of hours making likenesses of John Wayne and Geronimo.

“I think I could do a personal photograph,’ he said. “If someone would enlarge a picture, I could pattern the shadows and make a silhouette out of wood.”

So far, José’s family has been the primary beneficiary of his art pieces, although Pilar has taken them to craft shows over the years. Currently José’s work is available at Victoria White Eagle’s shop on Main Street in Moab.

Anyone interested in seeing José – a master craftsman – at work, or to place an order, may contact José or Pilar at 259-6722.

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