53-year-old Greek man from Kilkis transforms wood into musical instruments and sculptures


Carved guitars made of wood, bouzoukia, baglamadakia, mandolins and many other small instruments, take shape and are given life at the hands of 53-year-old Greek woodcarver, Vasilis Ioannidis, from Polykastro, Kilkis.

Mr Ioannidis has a distinguished talent in construction and has become popular for his hand-crafted creations.

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Although he is a full-time civil servant, he spends his spare time looking for rare types of wood, which he then turns into musical instruments and wooden sculptures.

His big passions include astronomy, music and wood, which as he explains, he has managed to “happily marry”, by using his talent in wood carving.

“The woods I use have their own character, their own designs, their own colours, even their own unique fragrances. My favourites are padauk wood, a kind of mahogany that smells like a flower, and my other favourite is cedar, which after I cut, my whole workshop smells like it for days,” Mr. Ioannidis says.

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Vasilis Ioannidis creates hand-made traditional Greek instruments by using a variety of hardwood and softwood types.

Mr. Ioannidis describes that it was the smell of wood that initially fascinated him when he was younger, and made him interested in wood-carving.

“Whenever my mother was looking for me and could not find me, she knew I was lost at the neighbourhood carpentry, observing the process of transformation of my favourite material, the wood.”

With the first carving knife he took in his hands, Mr. Ioannidis built a boat.

He loved the whole carving process right away, he got praised for the result and his art, and so he bought several chipping tools and started experimenting with wood.

He quickly discovered the many forms that wood can take, from carved furniture, decorative objects, inscriptions and toys, and started making his very own creations.

“My first contact with wood carving was when I was twenty years old. I was coming out of adolescence and was looking for ways to trick the darkness into the centre of my being, so I chose to make things.”

A piece of wood transformed into a piece of art by Vasilis Ioannidis.

What really got people’s attention at first were the handmade traditional Greek instruments that Mr. Ioannidis was making, which he also uses in his very own 3-member Greek band “Astrolaves”.

“Handmade wooden instruments have their own special sound. It is really deep and unique. It differs from those instruments that are mass-produced and have more or less the same tone.”

As part of Astrolaves, Mr. Ioannidis and his bandmates never sought to enter the professional music industry and build their own discography, even though since 1995 they have written more than 500 songs and have created music for the lyrics of famous Greek poets.

Their songs talk about the stars, moon, planets and the distant sun, and they have created their loyal audience, as they regularly perform live in various venues.

“At the time we decided to establish our brand, we were studying astronomy, so this is how our name came about,” he recalls.

wood instruments

Although what really got him into wood carving at first were musical instruments and decorative objects, he later found a new obsession with wooden spinning tops.

“Spinning tops fascinate me because they are like whirlpools, and I consider them to be a miniature reflection of the natural world,” he believes.

His collection of spinning tops is really large, and he constantly renews it, as he likes to gift his creations to his friends and colleagues since they have now become his trademark creations.

When he wants to add a touch of colour to his spinning top toys, he does not paint them, but cuts them into cylindrical pieces of various wood types with different colours and combines them all together on a rotating axis.

The woods Mr. Ioannidis uses include crimson paddock, American walnut brown, grey walnut wood – which is a unique Greek variety – black ebony wood, Brazilian azobe and African coconut, while he characterizes the olive wood as the most beautiful, due to the shape made by the water inside its trunk.

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All photos from the Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ΑΠΕ-ΜΠΕ)

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