The carved wooden doves of Jean-Pierre David
With the help of his Opinel's sharp blade, Jean-Pierre David has been skilfully crafting wooden birds for nearly 50 years.
A popular piece of art that typifies the Abondance valley, in the old days the wooden doves were made during the long winter nights, or in the mountain chalets in summertime. Made from pieces of carefully chosen spruce collected up on high, some see them as symbols of peace, others hang them up to bring good luck and protect their home. Whatever is said about them, they are also a tradition that tells us about the past and its traditional values. Like fragments of history bearing witness to a mountain identity, these finely sculpted birds remind those who own one of their fondness for the Haute-Savoie, to the Chablais "terroir" and Abondance valley too...
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To see the wooden doves
Jean-Pierre & his doves
Making these wooden doves today is still possible, thanks to the know-how of a handful of specialist artisans, who have often been initiated into the tradition by their family, in the age-old way.
In the case of the David family, Grandfather Theo learned the technique from his father in the 1920s, which he then passed on to his son, Jean-Pierre, when he was 15-16 years old. Since making his first dove, Jean-Pierre has never looked back. A farmer in the summer, he leaves his high meadows to the winter snows, heading back down to the valley floor. So, far from the busy activity of the skiers up on the slopes, it's in the heart of Chatel that you'll find him, hunkering down in his chalet that's called - naturally - "Doves" (Les Colombes).
There, sitting peacefully by the fireside, he gets out his trusty knife and picks up where he left off, working on little pieces of damp wood that are so carefully preserved. First of all, he cuts a rough outline of a bird, then he slices thin strips, one after another, in the shape of feathers, before arranging them in the form of a fan. It takes about five hours from start to finish. Since the 1970s, Jean-Pierre David has made dozens of wooden doves every season, much to the delight of locals and visitors on holiday.
Today, still, his assured sculpting bears witness to decades of experience. While many of his contemporaries have followed the modernisation of the ski resorts, he has ensured that this rare art form lives on. Jean-Pierre is a discreet messenger of an artisanal tradition inherited from his ancestors; at the end of the day, he is perhaps the image of his doves: unique, inspiring and mysterious.