Artist turns discarded wood into functional art

    Ivan Benavides

    SOUTH PADRE ISLAND — As a woodturner, Ivan Benavides transforms salvaged organic material into something eye-captivating that’s going to have a new life.

    For nearly the past five years, Benavides has been creating functional art, such as bowls, vases, decor and select furniture from discarded wood he collects throughout Texas.

    Most recently, the 33-year-old artist, from Los Fresnos, is showcasing his woodturning skills at the Art Business Incubator South Padre Island (ABI SPI).

    From free studio space and sales support to business training, ABI SPI helps artists with aspirations to own and operate their own art-related business on the Island.

    Benavides was selected into the program this year and began his residency in February.

    “It’s exciting to be able to put my work here and learn the South Padre Island market,” Benavides said. “It’s been awesome.”

    Each year, the program accepts about five to six applicants.

    “I’ve really enjoyed working with all of the other artists collaborating and talking ideas with everyone here,” Benavides said. “It helps get you inspired, really concentrate, narrow down your artwork and know what you want to do.”

    As part of the program, resident artists are participating in UTRGV’s entrepreneurship program.

    During his time in the program, Benavides hopes to gain knowledge of how to run the business side of his art.

    “It’s been great to go through the business classes,” he said. “We get to learn about so many different things like insurance, profit and how to calculate everything that you’ve used to really know what your profit is out of everything. It’s really great knowledge.”

    Benavides greatly enjoys being able to make his art and says it can be therapeutic, in a way.

    “Once I start shaping a bowl and get to see what the grain is doing, sometimes it changes what I was originally planning on doing and it’s always something new,” he said. “There’s always a different challenge and it really helps me stay inspired to continue doing it.”

    While growing up, art had always been a large part of Benavides’ life.

    He discovered his passion for creating when he began drawing in elementary school.

    “Drawing kind of led up to high school where I started to do photoshop, video editing and all of that good stuff,” Benavides said.

    Benavides then worked with multimedia design for a while before graduating with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography from the Art Institute of San Antonio.

    He then was a touring commercial photographer for four years and would photograph landscapes of nature during his free time.

    “It was great. I traveled all over the U.S., but I wanted to be more at home so I started to look for an art form that was more personal and it just led to this. It’s always been art,” Benavides said. “Since I can remember I’ve always been involved with some form of art.”

    Benavides takes custom orders, as well as conducts online and local sales for his woodwork.

    “People find my work interesting and want to get a piece done,” he said. “I always love to make custom bowls and plate sets for anyone who’s interested in it.”

    For more information about ABI SPI or to apply to the program, visit or call (956) 433-8097.

    To view Ivan Benavides’ woodwork visit:



    FACEBOOK/INSTAGRAM: @seasidewoodco