Landing the biggest fish. Releasing the most fish. Winning a tournament. These are all reasons for sports fishermen to celebrate. Yolanda Bonilla and David Jensen revel in these feats too, not because they are the achievers, but because they are the artists tasked with creating the commemorative trophies. Working under the business name, Dos Artesanos, the husband and wife team both are master woodworkers who create custom works, murals, mosaics, and carvings in their beachfront studio in Boqueron, Puerto Rico.
Bonilla is a Puerto Rican native who moved to the U.S. mainland after college. She met David, born in Olympia, Washington, and raised in the Midwest, in Florida where they were married aboard the Gulf Coast Schooner, The Governor Stone, on Apalachicola Bay.
Eventually, Bonilla says, “David’s business took us to the Midwest where he supervised multi-million dollar commercial and historical renovation projects. He’s been involved with woodworking since his early days in the Navy, where he was a woodshop instructor while stationed in Iceland.”
While living in Nebraska, the two fell in love with the history of the Plains, the old barns, and the old homesteads. Many of the old barns were in disrepair or neglected, and soon old barn wood and old bead board found its way into their garage. On weekends, Jensen would build pieces using the recycled items—benches, cabinets, shelves, art pieces—
all from vintage wood. Bonilla would add hand painted details.
“David started carving fish while living in Nebraska. It all started as an outlet for our creative side on those cold Nebraska winters when it was even to cold to ice fish!” Bonilla says. The two moved to Puerto Rico a few years ago.
“What can I say?” says Bonilla. “We’d rather be fishing. That would be our motto. But, we have to work for a living. But at the same time, who can resist living so close to the water? That’s how we’ve become good friends with many people in the local sports fishing circle and asked to create trophies for tournaments.”
She adds, “We first carved trophies for the Marlin Tournament at the Club Nautico in Boqueron. Since then, several clubs have contacted us. Fishermen really like our hand carved fish and the fact that we design the trophies specifically for a tournament. We try never to duplicate, so every trophy is a one-of-a-kind. In fact, one of our more unusual ones was the mosaic trophy we made for a ladies tournament. It was different; something not done before. The mosaics reflected the light, really a ‘wow’ piece.”
Most fishing trophies Dos Artesanos make are fish replicas, which are hand carved out of solid woods such as mahogany or cedar and hand painted using acrylics and brushes rather than airbrushing. Bonilla and Jensen can also relief-carve or full-mount-carve a life-like fish (the winning one or the one that got away) as long as they have the specifications. They also hand-paint fish on wood plaques, carve and paint fish decoys, and use carved fish to create functional pieces such as coat racks and signs. Time to make the trophy depends on its size and complexity of design.
“That why,” Bonilla says, “We like to remind fishing clubs to order their trophies at least 6 to 8 weeks prior to the event. Custom trophy fish, such as large marlin or dorado can take several weeks to complete.”