Greek artist says woodcarving his first love
BY BILL SHERMAN World Religion Writer
Saturday, April 14, 2012
4/14/12 at 6:18 AM
Related story: Greek Orthodox church undergoing renovation.
Konstantinos Papadakis has been carving wood for 65 years, and he has no intention of stopping.
His great-grandfather on the island of Crete lived to be 119, and when he reaches that age, he said, he will think about retiring.
Papadakis was recently in Tulsa to talk with leaders at Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church about making a new, intricately carved 40-foot wooden screen to hold icons - holy paintings in the ancient Orthodox tradition. He is one of two candidates for the job.
Papadakis said that since the death of his mentors, he is the last artisan who works in a unique Cretan-style of woodcarving.
His love of woodcarving began when he was a 9-year-old boy sitting on his grandfather's lap in the village of Erkie, Crete, he said.
A famous woodcarver on vacation in Crete noticed the pair and quickly carved an image of them in a piece of chalk. Amazed, Papadakis asked his grandfather how he could do it.
"He can do it because he has learned how to do it," was the answer.
"I would like to know how to do it," he told his grandfather.
The boy tagged along with the woodcarver for a few days. At the end of the week, the artist told him to work on his craft and if he was good enough in a year, he would teach him. The promise thrilled the boy and he spent the year carving.
The next summer, the artist returned, and after looking at the boy's work, encouraged the father to let him train.
At 12, Papadakis announced to his mother that he would be a woodcarver.
"Son, if you continue to insist that you are going to be a wood carver," she said, "I will give you one meal a day and a spanking every day."
A month of spankings later, he hadn't changed his mind and she relented.
He trained in Greece, and in 1966, as social and economic conditions deteriorated, he sought work outside Greece.
That December, he and his family arrived in Minneapolis to take a job at a wood shop. The temperature was minus-8. He was wearing a light jacket and thin leather shoes.
He now has his own shop in Minneapolis, carving wooden screens and furniture for Greek Orthodox churches and also businesses and individuals across the United States.
Papadakis said miracles have long been a part of his life and work.
As a 6-year-old, he was stricken with polio and left unable to walk. Three weeks after a monk prayed for his healing, he began to walk, and two weeks after that, he said, "I was running around like a wild goat."
As a young man, he burned his hand so badly he could not carve, but three weeks later, it was healed. The hand now has no scars.
"This was a miracle," he said.
When his wife, now of 55 years, asked him years ago, "Who was your first love," he said, without thinking: "Woodcarving."
"I'm still paying the price for that," he laughed. "I love it. It's too late now to change."
Original Print Headline: Greek artist preserves Crete woodcarving style
Bill Sherman 918-581-8398
Woodcarver Konstantinos Papadakis, a Greek national now living in Minneapolis, Minn., displays examples of hand-carved screens he may create for Holy Trinity Greek Orthodox Church in Tulsa. MICHAEL WYKE/Tulsa World