Christian and Joachim Belmas: the animal carvers. Christian Belmas was formerly a dock worker at the Port of Sète. He has always been a game hunter in the waters of the Etang de Thau. He chairs the Inter-communal Association of Maritime Hunting. He remembers hunting in the old days and the necessity of having his own "pépettes" or calls to attract ducks and other fowl. With the primary material, cork, being available on the quays of Sète, he began, like everyone else, by making very simple shapes. As his technique became more refined and the "forms" became more and more realistic, his hunter friends began to ask him to make some for them. Very quickly, wood carving became for him a way out, a window opening on nature. He made it his main activity.
Christian Belmas has been making them for more than 35 years. A lover of traditional hunting, he has finished between 5,000 to 6,000 wooden models. Coming from a long sétoise tradition, his "pépettes" are found everywhere in France but also abroad in the bags of foreign enthusiasts of this kind of hunting. To his great satisfaction, his son Joachim, also a lover of nature, follows in his footsteps and carries on the tradition.
A new customer for the Belmas family is the "Regional House of Hunting and Fishing" in Montpellier, inaugurated in November, 2015.
It is the first of its kind in France. It brings together under the same roof the Regional Federation of Hunters and the Regional Union of Fishing.
Its purpose? Simply to spread the word about these hunting and fishing enthusiasts and to educate the public about their activities.
For this commission, both of these Sètois sculptors had to create fish and, naturally, birds, forms which they had had little experience with.
Another accomplishment, their contact with a new admirer, Renaut Emmanuel, Three Star Chef (Michelin Guide), of Megève, who had had the opportunity to admire their sculptures at the home of the late Benoît Violier. He ordered from them some bird sculptures that would come to decorate he tables of his restaurant, "Flocons de Sel". At last word, the customers of Megève so much appreciated having lunch with the sculptures on the tables that some people wanted to buy them.
When you're a little bit "ignored" in your own city, it is comforting to be appreciated elsewhere.
But let's be clear, Christian and Joachim Belmas do not lack admirers.
Jean-Marc Roger/Janet L. Clark