"I hope every customer knows that each piece they buy contributes to renewing hope in a community in Haiti."
Josnel employs 13 artisans in his workshop in Croix-de-Bouquets, Haiti. He feels proud to know that he is able to support his family through his work. Josnel explains that through their work he and his employees are able to send their children to school, to build houses, and afford healthcare.
“When I do my work,” he says, “I put my heart in it. I hope that my works helps the people who buy it to appreciate the value of the handmade.” For 26 years, the Haitian artist has shaped recycled oil drums into distinctive pieces of home décor and office accessories, including bowls, mirrors, wall art, picture frames, trash bins and trays.
Metalwork is the main activity in Croix-de-Bouquets, Josnel’s hometown. “A man named Garry Darius lived near me when I was a boy,” Josnel explains, “and he did metalwork. Every time I went to play soccer, I heard the sounds of his work with the metal.” Josnel was curious, and one day he asked if he could stay in Darius’s home and serve as an apprentice. “I spent three years with Garry,” Josnel says, “and then I built my own workshop.”
“I know my work is sold all over the world,” he adds, explaining that he dreams of participating in more international events, so that he may meet his clients in person and receive their feedback face-to-face.
For his pieces, Josnel uses oil drums that he finds, shaping the metal with a burin, a type of cold-chisel. The drum is opened and burned to remove paint, and then the metal is cut and shaped. Each piece is sanded, varnished, brushed, and varnished again. “In our designs,” Josnel says, “we represent things that belong to our culture, like voodoo. We also incorporate the nativity scene, and birds and plants from our own island landscape.”
Josnel hopes to always have the opportunity to create beautiful, functional products. “My favorite parts of the work are cutting,” he says, “because I am working with the intention of creating an item of good quality.” He adds, “I love the signature part, too, because I always feel proud to sign a well-finished piece.”