For Andre Gooden, working with wood has been a life-affirming process.
The 33-year-old Caymanian, who goes by the name of Charlito, crafts a variety of woodworks in his backyard workshop in Prospect.
“I taught myself to do carpentry,” he says. “I like the freedom to be creative. It just feels good to think of something, and then bring it to fruition. I’m having fun with that, a lot of fun.”
That’s reflected in his work – an array of fun and funky furniture and accent pieces, many that are one-of-a-kind.
Among his creations is beach chair that has drawers underneath to store wine and accessories. It is adorned with a delightful seaside scene painted by artist Kara Julian.
“I’ve always admired her work,” says Charlito. “That was my first collaboration with her. I do the woodwork, and she brings it to life with paint.”
He’s planning more collaborative pieces with Kara – including additional wine chairs with original artwork – as well as with artists Marc and Pam Laurenson of Stoak’d Cayman. “They are awesome people, and awesome artists,” he says.
Another hit has been his star benches, which stand out for their unique design. He donated two benches for the children at Tiny Tots and St. Ignatius Catholic School.
Coffee tables, chairs, entertainment units, bookcases, garden planters and tables are among his other works. He also does larger commissions, including decks and greenhouses.
Some pieces are versatile. For example, one woodwork could be mounted on the wall to serve as an art piece or it could be converted to a table by attaching a glass top. A unique and quirky bookcase even has its own name: Bulah.
Charlito never set out to become a carpenter. But during his days working as an engineer with a telecommunications company, he felt something wasn’t quite right.
“I felt I was missing something in life, that I wasn’t doing what I was supposed to be doing,” he says.
He decided to leave his job and began farming in West Bay. That’s when his business Charlito’s Greenhouse came into being.
“When I started planting, I felt peace from that,” he says.
He also wanted to give back to the community and began visiting schools, building garden plots and teaching students how to grow plants and recycle.
“I always want to do that,” he says. “I like to give back.”
As demand for his carpentry grew, he decided to turn his attention full-time to woodworks, moving back to Prospect where he has a greenhouse as well.
His work attracted international interest recently, with a firm in the Bahamas ordering a custom work.
“When you catch people’s attention, it inspires you to get more creative,” he says.
Charlito enjoys coming up with new creations as well as doing custom orders.
“A lot of people like something that only they have; a one-of-a-kind design,” he says. “I don’t do a lot of replicas. I get a lot of one-off requests, and I like those a lot.”