"When you start to feel sick then you must push yourself and work harder. If you go and sit in your room you'll just feel miserable. Whenever I start to get the chills, I go to the hospital, get my shot (for malaria) and head straight back to the workshop."(as he lets out a few deep bellows of laughter)
-Eric Adjetey Anang
After several weeks apprenticing under Eric, I can honestly say that I have gained a true appreciation for his craft. He is able to eye an object, estimate measurements and quickly begin cutting and hammering wood into place to form the core structure of a coffin. I try my best to follow his instruction as best as I can and keep up with his fast pace of working. I came to Ghana with little woodworking knowledge, and the little knowledge that I had was based on the use of power tools, a skill which is rendered useless at the Kane Kwei Carpentry Workshop. Mastering the hand plane, hand saw, and chisel are the first steps to becoming a proficient coffin maker.
ABOVE: I LEARN TO USE A HAND PLANE ON ONE OF MY FIRST DAYS IN THE WORKSHOP
BELOW: AGBE CHISELS AWAY
It took several days to start to get a grasp on the simplest of tasks; hand-cutting a piece of wood. When I first started cutting, the blade hardly seemed to move but I muscled through each motion but was soon rendered completely exhausted. It became apparent after a few days that little muscle is actually involved in using a hand-saw and hand plane, but an incredible amount of technique is required. Technique that is only gained through hours of working with each of the tools and developing a muscle memory for each movement. After a few weeks, the other apprentices are still able to cut through the wood a couple of times faster than me.
ABOVE:KWASI MEASURES A PIECE OF WOOD TO BE CUT
BELOW: NAT PUTS THE FINAL COAT OF PAINT ON A STOOL COFFIN
But everyone has been most helpful (and patient) as I learn this new craft. The other apprentices lend a helping hand when they realize that I am struggling and explain how I can best improve my technique. Eric and Cedi offer up their expansive knowledge whenever I get frustrated after my multiple attempts to put a few pieces of wood into place. It has been a humbling experience but one with which I am gaining an incredible amount of knowledge.
BELOW: ERIC PUTS THE LINING INSIDE A COCOA POD COFFIN