Some might say Luis Gonzalez has a plum job.
The contemporary Miami artist transforms salvaged hardwoods into oversized sculptures of colorful fruits and vegetables
The artist: Gonzalez learned to turn wood when he was 14 years old in his native country, Bogota, Colombia. In 1992, he came to Miami to finish high school and later returned home. In 2003, he moved to Miami.
The company: Miami-based Mamalu Wood started in 2006. The studio, located in a warehouse complex, is five minutes from his home.
The goods: Bold, color-saturated sculptures of organic forms of fruits and vegetables in multiple sizes and made from various types of salvaged hardwoods found in south Florida. Stems and leaves, often in pewter, add a contemporary touch.
The material: Different types of salvaged hardwoods, including oak, mahogany, wild tamarind and black olive. He collects wood from people cutting down trees and trees that fell after hurricanes.
The process: The collected wood must go through a multi-step drying process, which takes years. After the initial drying, he takes a log and makes a preform shape of a pear, apple or cherry. Then stores it again for a few more years until it is completely dry.
Next: Using a chainsaw, he creates a rough shape before turning the piece to achieve a symmetrical shape on a lathe. He hand carves the wood for the final details before preparing it for painting by sanding and sealing.
Final step: For painting, he uses a variety of acrylics, stains and oil-based paints. The pieces are finished with several layers of clear lacquer.
What’s popular: A set of two cherries ($200 to $3,800). A popular option is a set of three cherries on a black base ($1,450). It measures 18 inches long by 6¾ inches wide by15 inches high.
Also a set of two olives ($200 to $1,800 for a large set that measures of 8.5 inches by 22 inches high). One large olive is $950.
Other favorites: Pears, peaches and chili peppers ($200 to $3,800) for a single, mega-size piece. The height of a pear can range from 5.5 inches to 19 inches (inches, right?), and a peach from 4.5 inches to 10 inches. The length of a chili pepper can range from 14 inches to 44 inches.
Fun request: Canadian clients, who previously had bought a pear and set of cherries from him, commissioned a 38-inch-long banana sculpture for their collection. It was his first banana. He plans more.
Big break: Sold a set of large red cherries at an art show in Chicago 2016 to a buyer who has them displayed in a beautiful apartment on Michigan Avenue.
Made from black olive wood, each cherry weighed about 70 pounds and measured 2 feet in diameter by 4.5 feet high.
At the time Gonzalez was reluctant to sell the set, which took him years to make, so he put what he thought was a high price on the set.
What’s new: Experimenting with a clear flat finish so people will notice the natural cracks and knots in the pieces and realize they are made of wood.
Where to buy: www.mamaluwood.com and at festivals, including the Atlanta Dogwood Festival (Aug. 7-9). Also Artisphere (Aug. 21-23) in Greenville, SC.
Get social at: Mamalu-Wood on facebook and mamaluwood on instagram.