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Batesville man channels artistic talent into carvingsPublished December 15, 2013 at 12:00 a.m.
BATESVILLE — While most people refrained from going outdoors after winter storm Cleon (as it was christened by the Weather Channel) coated the area in layers of ice and snow, Jose “Joe” Dominguez could be found on a street corner, chisel in hand, creating pieces of art from wood in the form of hand-carved walking sticks. Dominguez steadily chips away, bringing forth designs ranging from whimsical faces and Native-American-inspired artwork to animals and snakes twisting their way up the length of the wood.
Dominguez is living the American entrepreneur’s dream, working to make a living doing something he possesses a natural talent for and that he loves.
“I’m an all-around artist,” Dominguez said. “I don’t care what tool you put in my hand — ink pen, pencil, paintbrush, chisel. I worked in landscaping for a while, and my boss said I was the only employee he had ever had customers request and didn’t want anyone else to work on their property because I would turn their trees and bushes into works of art.”
Dominguez, 48, originally of Holland, Mich., was 25 when he first visited Arkansas after his grandparents retired and moved to Fifty Six. He learned to carve in the artisan community at Mountain View.
“My brother worked at a broom factory there that carved faces on the broom handles. He learned how to do the carvings and told me I should give it a try,” Dominguez said. “I was out of work and looking for something to do, so I had him teach me. That was 2005, and I’ve been carving ever since.”
Like with many entrepreneurs who develop a business from an interest, Dominguez’s carving began as a hobby. He partnered with a store owner in Mountain View who sold Dominguez’s handcrafted walking sticks in the shop.
“I was working with a nursing home then. Abe, the store owner, was calling me constantly because he was selling the sticks so fast. He sold them for $40 each. I told him, ‘I don’t have time to carve like that. This is just a hobby. It doesn’t pay the bills,’” Dominguez said.
Dominguez moved to Arizona, where he worked as a wildland firefighter until 2012. He returned to Arkansas to live closer to family who could help him care for his son when Dominguez became a single parent after his divorce.
He said he “fell into” his work as a firefighter.
“It was expensive living in Arizona. It’s almost like living in California. I was working as a dishwasher at a Denny’s restaurant and living near the Yavapai-Apache reservation. I met a young Native American man while working at the restaurant, before I gave up and moved back to Arkansas, [who said] I should apply to be a firefighter,” Dominguez said.
Dominguez was hired and served as a squad boss with a wildland fire crew as part of the Bureau of Indian Affairs Division of Forestry and Wildland Fire Management.
“They’ve contacted me and would like to have me come back out there, but that’s just not a job for a single parent,” Dominguez said. “I’m pouring all my efforts into the carving now. The walking sticks are really just showpieces of what I can do. I can make furniture and other items, but right now I don’t have the equipment.”
Dominguez said he currently works from his home but hopes to find a sponsor or perhaps apply for a grant to help fund a location where he could expand his production.
Dominguez can be contacted through his Facebook page, Joe’s Ozark Walking Sticks, where photos of his work can also be viewed. Or you may find him on a street corner fashioning his next artwork.