Born in Accra, Ghana, West African artist Harry Larweh uses African mahogany and Rosewood for his craft. He reimagines the beautiful wood into meticulously carved tables, wall hangings, chairs and both small and enormous works of art. Touring the vast inventory throughout his garage and backyard workshop in his West Boulevard neighborhood home, Larweh explains a simple premise for his artistic process, “All these creations, I see the wood and I just start creating.”
Young and with a passion to travel, Larweh moved from Ghana to Holland where he met his wife. In Holland, Larweh continued to explore his love of woodworking. Visits to antiques shops and galleries reaffirmed a passion that he'd nurtured his entire life.
“I didn't realize when I started, I just grew up doing it,” Larweh notes of his journey into the arts. After a decade in Holland, Larweh returned to Ghana and then finally made the move to Cleveland to be with his wife, who had moved to Ohio to be closer to family.
Most of Larweh's family still remains in Ghana, and his passion for his homeland is apparent. “I am a self taught artist," he says. "I have very good people back home.” After an eight-week visit earlier this year, Larweh arranged to have a freight container full of Mahogany planks shipped to the United States. “It is difficult and expensive”, he describes of the delivery.
The move was enabled in part by the Economic and Community Development Institute (ECDI), and allows him to use materials from his homeland, keeping him focused and excited to create. ECDI relationship manager Rebecca Mayhew, who worked directly with Larweh, explains, “I love Harry's work. It is just marvelous, that here we are in Cleveland, and we have an artist carving this amazing African mahogany furniture...Not everyone is in the position for a bank loan, and that is why ECDI is so important. We help the individual start a business or continue their business with our loans.”
ECDI, a statewide SBA lender, started in Columbus in 2004 before expanding to Cleveland in July 2012 and Akron in November 2014. Since 2004, ECDI has benefited local communities with small business loans throughout the state of Ohio, and assisted over 8,500 individuals - people like Larweh.
Not only does ECDI provide loans to small business owners, but they also provide contact and network information to the clients. Mayhew continues, “We are hoping to connect him (Larweh) to the appropriate contacts so he can find potential markets for the raw wood planks and his art.”
Even with the assistance, Larweh says it can be difficult to find a niche and earn enough to make a living in the art community, but he has found an audience. “I do things differently, I just create … I am finding people who are admiring a lot.” As Larweh explains, however, making a living as an artist is a challenge of its own, “It is early. As for the art, I knew it wouldn't be something that would be selling just like that.” He soldiers on nonetheless, continuing to design his own pieces and looking forward to providing high quality materials to his fellow artisans.
Larweh's work is available for sale on etsy.
ECDI Cleveland is part of Fresh Water's underwriting support network.