From the Middle Ages to World Class Artistry Today
The spectacular scenery and beautiful vistas of the Val Gardena valley in the Italian Alps of northern Italy are inspiring. The woodcarving that comes from this region is breathtaking. Located in the Dolomites (a United Nations world heritage site) in the South Tyrolean valley, the area is surrounded by high mountains and features mountain pastures and dense alpine woods.
Abundant wood and long winter months came together in the 17th century to nurture a tradition of woodcarving. Mountain families carving in their homes during the winter months were able to supplement their income. Initially bowls, toys, and dolls were the primary subject matter. Carvers with greater talent turned to figurative works, mostly statues of a religious subject. Among the most popular subjects was the Nativity and numerous Nativity Scenes come from this region every year.
Rooted in old world tradition the Val Gardena region is recognized as a premier woodcarving area. Home to some of the most recognized artisan family lines, the region has nurtured its artistic heritage by the establishment of an art school and building a reputation for world-class artistic wood carving.
We are especially proud of our connection with PEMA woodcarving, having formed a relationship with a founding family member over a decade ago. The Pema line of handcarved products, especially nativities, brings old world artistry and craftsmanship into the modern age.
The PEMA nativities we provide to the North American market are rooted in the example of the work of Johan Mahlknecht (1793-1876). Johan was the state appointed artist who encouraged carvers to explore and create new models and pieces. These museum quality works are available to you today.
Beginning with specialty selected alpine wood which is cut and air-dried over several years, today’s carvings are sure to please those who treasure old world design, craftsmanship and unique hand carved works. Starting with an idea, which has been developed over years of experience and is rooted in history and tradition, a skilled carver sculpts their own ideas and personal touch into each figure.
Our nativities originate in Ortisei – St. Ulrich, the “largest” village in the Val Gardena region with a population of 5,750. Each piece is hand carved and lovingly painted with care by a highly trained painter. Their efforts bring each piece to life with details that add liveliness and expression to the final product.
The craftsmanship of the PEMA Woodcarving studios can be part of your Christmas as you build a heirloom quality Nativity scene.