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Justin Green: The coconut carver

Updated: Apr 17, 2023





Art Therapy By Donna Hope Blas

Although this artist is from the land of majestic mountains, he is no stranger to the islands. He lived with his family in Hawaii before making Guam home.


With little ones in tow and his wife having been raised on Guam, they knew it was a hidden treasure and the ideal place to raise their children.

Years later we are blessed with the creativity of the coconut carver.


Please meet the artist of the month, Justin Green.


Since arriving on Guam, Justin has had a love for the island’s art. Through the Guam Council on the Arts and Humanities Agency, he learned about an apprenticeship program with a master carver. That’s how he learned the skills of carving and sculpting. Later he thought, “Why not carve coconuts?”


Two artists standing next to each other
Justin Green with Dawn Lees Reyes, owner of Lees-Reyes Art Gallery in Tumon Sands Plaza. Photo by Donna Hope Blas

I had the opportunity to learn how to carve a coconut from Justin. You too can learn from him at the next Coconut Carving Workshop being offered at the Lees-Reyes Art Gallery in the Tumon Sands Plaza in Tumon.


Justin provided all the tools and the coconut. One of the important things I learned from Justin is safety with handling a knife— a very sharp and interesting-looking knife at that. I was expecting to leave with a cut or two being as clumsy as I am with sharp objects.


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Justin also had a sharpener with him. Very well prepared. Having a very sharp knife helped me to carve the hard coconut shell out. He uses woodburning tools to enhance the art on the coconuts he carves.


Justin transforms coconuts into coconut crabs, turtles, octopuses, mermaids, sharks, dolphins and snakes. His art skill is continuing to sharpen, and it’s assured you’ll see more of his coconut carvings around the island.


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There is an abundance of coconuts on island. But not as many as there used to be. Things have changed over the last several years with the recent infestation of the palm-eating rhino beetle. Other artists who use coconut trees for their crafts are concerned too as it gets more difficult to find good materials.


Thomas “Tom” Torres, a weaver at Sagan Kotturan Chamoru, shared his concern about other palm trees being attacked by this scavenging scarab. Tom taught me to weave a coconut leaf rose at the Pulan Festival last month.


We as a community need to help the Guam Department of Agriculture save Guam’s coconut and palm trees. If the rhino beetles continue to feast on our island’s resources, the craft of coconut carving and weaving will become a lost art in the next couple of generations.


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Not to mention this atrocious anthropoid could cause the death of one of our livelihoods. Coconut trees are also a food source for many and an absolute necessity for CHamoru cooking. Okay, enough of my ranting.


Contact Lees-Reyes Gallery to sign up for Justin’s workshop and learn from a pro. Justin Green can be found on Instagram at jgcrafts671.


Donna Hope Blas is a restoration & 3D artist born and raised on Guam. She is the co-owner of The Guam Gallery of Art. She is a certified Therapeutic Art Life coach. Send feedback to guamartgallery@gmail.com




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