Had I followed my father's ideas, I would have spend my life somewhere in a research center chasing atoms, among other things, hoping to understand the secrets of atomic power.
Instead I became a professional photographer trying to understand the secrets of gestures, face expressions, body language, light and shadow. I trained my eyes, the power of observation, and didn't neglect my artisan skills. Besides plenty photographic work, working together with a "Do it yourself" magazine helped me to perfect my manual skill.
Thus I was given the opportunity to develop a three dimensional animal puzzle from a given sketch and do step- by- step photography. My first ever puzzle was done. This lovely wooden animal zoo had a dog and a cat, a mighty elephant as well as a rhino and other animals. It was not my own creation but somehow triggered the desire to do more of this kind.
The birthday of a close friend gave me enough reasons to create a new puzzle, this time on my own.
The result, a puzzle made of 30 pigs and piglets surrounded by a big mother pig, was a unique present ,and certainly the most exciting piece of my friend's pig collection.
Back in asia, during my first visit to Bali on a photo assignment, a taxi hit my motorbike and I hobbled afterwards on crutches. I was forced to forget the job.With a cast on my leg, I couldn't even swim, dive or sit on the beach. I was terribly bored and decided to visit the famous woodcarvers around Ubud to change my mood.
And there it happened, I suddenly had a vision how to organise my life in that unpleasant situation. Getting myself some tools,paper and wood, my Balinese carving experience started.
Still a little boy, while my playmates were busy playing with cowboys and Indians made from plastic, I turned drawing animals or tracing them from books.Animals are my friends and fascinate me. And now, there was: this rough idea I had drafted at home consisting of some 20 animals , which became my first Balinese animal zoo puzzle.
From a small board of Pulai wood, I cut the green bodies with a jigsaw,than removed the wood chip by chip until the shape of the animal I was working on was revealed.
I than compared the result with everything I remembered and eventually improved it. After admiring the 20 animals, malaise crept up, as a frustrating sanding job awaited me. But later, the satisfaction of seeing the smoothly sanded figures of the animals standing together gave me the energy to continue.
I had done it, the pigs and the zoo turned out the way I had envisioned them, this was really three dimensional carving, no sanding of edges like the first one.
With my leg still in a cast and having tasted blood, I drafted a new project.
For many reasons, the fate of whales was of special concern to me and I composed my first whale puzzle. It was not yet perfect as I found out later, but it kept me busy and I even had to ask the help of my friend Ida to finish it. Proud as I was, I wanted them to follow me to Germany.
In the beginning there was just this excitement of carving. I didn't quite realise in which way these carvings reflected my concerns regarding endangered animals.
Slowly, I started to understand that while making a puzzle, looking for the animals's predetermined living space within the puzzle, weighing the animal in my hand, an subconscious form of communication was taking place. The animal seemed to be saying, "See, I exist too and we animals need our protected and secure living space just as much as you do.
We have our place in nature's cycle, just like we do in this puzzle.
Later, back in Bali, upon hearing the depressing news of animals driven to extinction, causing our own extinction as well, I wanted to raise awareness by carving a new puzzle, Noah's Ark.
The number of threatened species is alarming and the Red List of endangered animals grows longer each day. I choose 44 of them and worked hard to position them in an interlocking way, but still making them look lifelike enough.
I had discovered Pulai wood some years before and it had become my preferred material, but it is not easy to find. There is no shop selling this type of wood. You have to meet people who eventually might know where this holy tree had been felt after a special ceremony. Than you have to be lucky enough to get the planks that are the size you need .
Once you get the wood another challenge has to be faced. Since not all parts of a puzzle can be safely positioned in the direction of the grain, the most fragile parts of an animal carving have to be taken into consideration when designing the puzzle.
Having done all this, it took me more than three month to finish the ark and in the end, smiling like a child, I sat together with all these rhinos, elephants, gorillas and their friends.
This happened in may 1995 and since than, many other puzzles like cats, frogs, geckos as well as plenty single animal items like bears, lions, hippos, giraffes and elephants followed Noah's Ark. And again I learned a lesson. It was the elephant that led the way. The rest of the wood from which I had sawed the elephant and which would normally have been useless, was lying next to my jigsaw and seemed to be calling out to me. I turned to look, I studied it, and suddenly I knew the answer: the perfect protection for each animal was the leftover piece of wood from which it came from. It was the animals home, it's natural habit, it's protection.
Due to my long sojourns on Bali, my job as a photographer started to flounder. None of my clients was willing to put up with my prolonged absences. No wonder I started to look for another way of earning my living. I decided that my carvings would make up for it. The time had come for the production of a small series of my carvings. This was to help take care of my living expenses. I decided to show my art work at special exhibitions a few times each year. Of course it pleases me when people who come to my exhibitions are full of praise. This praise not only acknowledges the value of my artistic concepts, but also shows approval and support for the statement each object makes.
A single animal of medium size could cost between € 150 and € 800. Most of the animal puzzles are not much more, only the bigger ones and those that are very elaborate might be more expensive. And than there are some I wouldn't sell at all, like the rhino project, which depicts the deplorable live of a hunted rhino in various stages, or my more recent version of the Noah's Ark. Of course this one is bigger and more elaborated than the one mentioned above.
With its length of 1.5m, it's is the biggest ever carved from a single piece of wood. 142 animals from all continents, arranged in pairs, share the limited space inside the ark, a world record, a Guinness Book record.