Soul of a Caymanite sculptor

It’s a hard rock, Caymanite, but sculptor and artisan Horacio Esteban is able to infuse it with spirit and soul. 

“There’s something soothing and calming about it,” he says of the rock that’s so hard it can only be cut with a diamond or carbon bit. 

In Horacio’s hands, caymanite is shaped with curves or corners depending on how the piece speaks to him and what it evokes. 

There’s definitely a marine inspiration in many of his works (he was a divemaster at one time in Cayman Brac and Little Cayman), and an obvious religious or spiritual inspiration (perhaps, he says, as a result of being the only child, raised by a devoted mother). In all of the pieces he has recently assembled for sale – clearing one collection in order to move on to the next artistic endeavour – the natural and the mystical come together. 

Caymanite, which incorporates layers rich in terracottas and limestone, is an uncommon variety of dolomite found only in the Cayman Islands. Dolomite is dust-based, “and has incredible holistic qualities,” he says, “because of how it makes you feel.” 

Ever respectful of the stone, Horacio says he tries to stay “as indigenous as possible” with his pieces. A tile table, for instance, uses South Sound sand as grout. Other pieces incorporate native ironwood, driftwood or coral. 

For the sculptor, caymanite “works” for him in three ways. 

First and foremost, a freestyle form. “I’ll just have an unstoppable need to get outside with the equipment…just dressing for [in all manner of protective gear] puts you in another zone. I’ll have no particular idea where it’s going to take me. 

Second way: “I’ll have an idea of something specific to make and I’ll be walking around my rock garden looking for a piece that has a certain form or colours that I want. 

Finally, there are those times when someone will ask Horacio to create a specific piece, which he’ll think about, sketch, make a three-dimensional model of from clay and generally work out in his mind so that once he begin chiselling and grinding, the process moves very quickly. 

“I try to work as fast as possible – if I’m not moving, I don’t feel like I’ve accomplished anything.” 

Life did not always move this fast. Horacio grew up on the Brac, spending many days on fishing outings, and when that got too boring for the youngster, he would begin exploring the blow holes or the Bluff for his caymanite collection. 

The turning point came after he took an industrial arts class from teacher Eddie Scott, his “unforgettable mentor.” 

“He did the most incredible work – it was magical. He was my gateway to just about everything – woodwork, sculpture. I did caymanite later, and I’ve found a way to make a living out of art here.” 

The soul of one of his collections – works representing most of the past decade -is on display (and for sale) in a gallery space that used to be the mini-mart at Treasure Island. It’s open every day from 10am to 8pm through Wednesday, 31 August, and showcases jewellery and smaller items as well. Stop by, take a look and have an inspiring conversation with the artist.  

For more information, email Horacio at [email protected] 


Caymanite has inspired Horacio Esteban since he was a youngster growing up in Cayman Brac. – PHOTOS: JUDITH ISACOFF

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