Eddie Canono never imagined he would wind up running a business in the mountains when he started whittling wooden toys for himself 60 years ago in the Philippines.
Canono moved to Steamboat Springs at the urging of former employer Thomas Miller in September and set up a custom furniture shop in a rented 1,300-square-foot space on Copper Ridge Drive.
"It's humbling to work with Eddie," said Miller, who also recently moved to the area and runs Thomas Miller Custom Furniture. "I've been doing this my whole life and (Canono's work) is incredible - he has won the Rockler-sponsored national contest three times. The detail is amazing, to the point that he has carved portraits of people."
Canono is humble about his work, and he downplays the unique journey that lead him to Steamboat.
Canono's passion for carving wood lead him to develop a shop with his three sons in the Philippines' Angeles City, next to the Clark Air Base. Ultmately, the business grew to 40 employees.
But "in a few seconds," the lava flow from the 1991 eruption of nearby Mount Pinatubo destroyed everything.
Canono already had secured work before the disaster as a woodworking instructor for corporate oil giant, Saudi Aramco. After working for 11 years in Udhailiyah and Abqaiq, an American employer sponsored his entry into the U.S. to work for a shop in Middleton, Wis. Then, in 1996, Canono moved to Cleveland to be closer to a friend and Aramco student, where he briefly worked in Miller's shop, and in 2000, became a citizen.
"I'm getting old and had to do something for myself : and this is the American dream," Canono said of finally starting his own business. "I always wanted to have my own shop. There's more liberty to do anything here. In Saudi Arabia, you can't carve figures, because you have to respect their customs. It's exciting here, I can live free and share my skills : (Steamboat) is a good market for my work, because nobody does it here."
Canono has an eye for wilderness scenes - an interest that makes life in Northwest Colorado a seemingly perfect fit.
"You rarely get the cabinet and woodworking skills he has anywhere in the country," said Irene Nelson, an interior designer who contracted Canono to create a coat rack with a detailed scene of two elk drinking from a mountain stream. "This is world-class stuff. It's wonderful to have this level of artistry combined with his carving skills right here in Steamboat."
For example, there is the bar displayed in Canono's workshop. It's a piece that took 400 hours to complete, features an intricate mural and originally was priced at $76,000.
"It makes me think of the Black Forest in Germany," said Glenda Hachenberger, a new home builder who stopped by Canono's workshop with Nelson on Wednesday to browse Canono's carving portfolio.
"I can create anything from wood," Canono said.
The true jack-of-all trades specializes in carved custom furniture that features vinery, claw and ball legs, Gabriele legs, ornamental motifs and nature and wildlife murals. But don't be surprised when the 63-year-old artisan tells you he knows electric work, that he smiths all his own chisels and tools and can teach karate and judo. He doesn't mind working long hours to finish his projects and hopes to expand his business to one day bring his sons stateside to carry on his trade.
"These pieces are not made of particle board - they're all products for a lifetime that will last forever," he said.
Canono can be reached at his shop at 879-1846.
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