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Peter And The Wood

From an early age, Peter Trojer has loved working with his hands. And ever since, he has also loved wood. So, Peter turned his passion into his profession and, later on, into art.

When Peter Trojer looks out the dust-coated windows of his workshop, he sees the mountains of Courmayeur right in front of him. They tower right over the workshop, enveloping the entire building in their shadow. Peter's workshop is filled with large machines, small tools and a variety of wood. A few metal scraps are set in the corner.

Peter is a furniture maker and wood carver. "One's for the money and the other for love," he says, implying that building furniture is how he makes a living and the art of wood carving is his true passion. Already as a child he loved tasks that involved using his hands and was fascinated by wood. He climbed every tree and built tree houses and little huts in the forest. "Wood has a long tradition here in the Aosta Valley," Peter explains. Many young people here are interested in the natural resource. That is why Peter began working in a shop for wood furniture at a young age. He first came across wood carving about 15 years ago. He took a few lessons with a wood carving artist from the valley to learn the basic techniques and learned the rest by teaching himself.

Wood is a Living Thing

The special thing about wood for Peter is how versatile and alive it is. Wood exists in so many forms and variations in nature; in most of the objects we use every day there is at least a small bit of wood. “Wood lives, breathes and changes First as a tree, but also later when it has been made into a finished piece of woodwork. That is what I like." In the course of time it becomes darker or fades. It expands or shrinks – depending on humidity and temperature. Wood reacts to its environment. And it is – with all its marks and grain – a challenging material. “I enjoy these challenges. If you respect the wood, you will be rewarded," Peter says. 

Around 80 per cent of the wood for his carving work is from the region. Peter's favourite woods to work with are lime and Swiss stone pine. Both are soft and allow for good shaping and handling. He loves lime wood for its light, almost white colour. Swiss stone pine has this unique, intense scent with calming properties. To prove his point, Peter picks up a few pine shavings and lets us sniff them. Then he briefly disappears into a small storage room and returns with a bottle of red liquid. We all smell the Zirbenschnaps before Peter hands out shot glasses and toasts: “Cin cin“!

Combining Contrasts

Peter's sculptures are not exclusively made of wood. Sometimes he combines them with different metals. “Materials can be so different – how they look, how they feel, how they need to be treated. That's what makes it so appealing to me." How long it takes Peter to complete one of his art works not only depends on its size or complexity. “In art, every day is different. In furniture making I can work on products every day from 8 in the morning to 4 in the afternoon. In carving it's often only an hour or two," he explains. It is about finding the right mood, about letting the piece sit for a while and taking time. “I often have to let it sink in and unfold and rethink it."

Peter finds inspiration in all of his daily life. He usually jots ideas down briefly on a piece of paper to have a sketch for later. “I often end up somewhere completely different than where I started," he laughs. It is all part of the process. What is remarkable about Peter's works is that quite often, sheep seem to be his motives. When we ask him why that is, he has a pretty simple explanation: “They are elegant and funny animals. Watching them makes you happy. And sheep breeding has a long-standing tradition here in the Aosta Valley." The sheep are as typical for the region as the mountains. The surrounding mountain ranges also find their way into Peter's carving. A last glance through the dusty window reveals that the sun has now fully disappeared behind the mountain ridge, its long shadows not only enveloping Peter's workshop, but the entire valley.

Text: Harald Triebnig
Photos: Sophie Kirchner

May 6, 2020

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