Francisco Campos has spent some twenty years carving wood-sheets to create all kinds of lattice work, frames, small furniture and even the emblems of ranches all over Spain.
“When you retire, you have to find something to do, I’m not up to sitting around with my hands on my lap.”
At 81 years of age, Francisco Campos Fernández, from La Bajadilla (Algeciras) became a cabinetmaker late in life; he does not like to boast about his creations, even though some really are small works of art.
Especially so the miniature houses he has been making for some while now, with the help of his wife, Isabel Gil Vargas-Machuca, who shares his hobby and lends him a hand with the design, the miniature fabrics and the search for miniscule decorative objects that give them the appearance of real houses.
Francisco Campos, who was a civil servant at the Port of Algeciras for over thirty years, discovered his love of carving and cutting wood-sheets on the eve of retirement, thanks to a fellow enthusiast.
He is self-taught and started with simple things: a key made of wood, a shelf – until a friend, connected to the world of cattle breeding, proposed he make a series of engravings of the emblems of livestock ranches.
“I started bit by bit, to keep myself busy, and when I took stock of my work so far, I realized I had already made the emblems of 1.375 bull cattle ranches across Spain, many of which had already disappeared.”
One day, someone encouraged him to make a dolls house, with the top storey in the shape of an attic, and it kept him busy for almost three months.
He gave it away as a gift, and started on others, each better than the other, with every single detail added in the rooms: kitchens, chimneys and framed, old family photos, bathrooms including toilets, washing machines, sewing machines, ironing boards… hundreds of miniature furniture pieces made by the hands of Kiko, as he is known in La Bajadilla, to create works that look as if they were taken from the pages of an interior design magazine or a period film.
Among the creations on special display at their home, Francisco and Isabel proudly show off the replica of a coal miner’s dwelling, typical of Los Alcornocales, inspired by the memories of their childhood – up to the buckets in the little kitchen and the miniature chairs.
“My grandfather was the manager of a massive estate that stretched from Los Barrios to Alcalá de los Gazules. I used to spend some periods there and got to know some of the coal miners, with who we had a close relationship, and their dwellings. Back in the day, they were the ones who took care of the mountains and trees. Their houses don’t exist anymore, and the few that do stand in ruins. That’s why I told him we should make a replica, before we forget how they used to look like,” says Isabel.
The cabinetmaker of La Bajadilla is happy in his small workshop, which occupies part of the house that once belonged to Paco de Lucía’s family, and where the master of the guitar spent some of the happiest childhood years, between the Calle Barcelona and the Avenida de la Cañá.
Here, right next to where young Paco spent hour after hour practicing on his guitar, Francisco Campos has his work bench, his tools, his wooden planks and the displays which showcase some of his most beloved creations: some small filigree furniture and miniature versions of some of the Holy Week processions in Algeciras, such as the Cristo de Medinaceli and the Virgen de la Esperanza.