Sculpting in the Shadow of the Dolomites: Meet Val Gardena’s Eric Perathoner


Kate + Vin

Eric Perathoner carving a wood statue in his studio in Ortisei, Val Gardena
dolomites forest icon

Nestled in the heart of the Dolomites you’ll find a rare artistic force of nature — Eric Perathoner. His exquisite sculptures transform wood, stone, and metal into forms that are both timeless and distinctly innovative. Discover how he elevates the centuries-old tradition of sculpting in Val Gardena with his own unique style.

As you arrive in Val Gardena, once you manage to pull your eyes away from the imposing peaks crowning its forested slopes, you’ll quickly notice a charming feature: woodcarving studios and shops. They pepper the landscape from one end of the valley to the other. Each offering a window into a custom deeply ingrained in the fabric of local culture.

The tradition of woodcarving arose centuries ago in Val Gardena as a way for villagers to pass the long, snowbound winters. Today, the craft has grown into a fine art recognized and revered around the world.

Whether you’re a casual admirer or a devout art lover, visiting Val Gardena’s studio and shops is a delightful exploration of the region’s artisanal heritage. One such studio, you should not miss is that of sculptor Eric Perathoner. It is a treasure trove of creativity perched above Ortisei (St. Ulrich) with a sweeping view of the Resciesa (Raschötz) plateau and the peaks of Seceda.

eric perathoner studio

Eric’s sculptures — ranging from hauntingly beautiful ravens to life-like figures whose serene faces reflect the quiet wisdom of the natural world — seamlessly pull you into a dialogue with the subject, making you wonder if their inner universe might be as real as your own.

This past winter, we had the privilege of visiting Eric’s art gallery and workshop while taking a break from hiking in the Dolomites. He generously spent time with us, sharing his story and allowing us to witness his artistic process firsthand. It was mesmerizing to watch him as he skillfully crafted a life-size figure right before our eyes. In the following Q&A, Eric sheds light on his background and how he imbues each work of art with a soul-stirring quality that captures the imagination.

Can you share with us how you first got interested in woodcarving and sculpting, and where you learned the art form?

eric perathoner val gardena workshop

Sculpting has been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Growing up with a sculptor for a father, I was immersed in the world of sculpture from a very young age. My initial encounters with the art form were playful and exploratory, as I spent countless hours in my father’s workshop, carving small pieces out of scraps. This early exposure not only sparked my passion but also equipped me with skills that I’ve been honing since I was a little boy.

After my compulsory schooling, I deepened my artistic education by attending the art school in Ortisei for three years. I continued to refine my craft at the vocational school for sculpture in Selva Gardena, where I studied for four more years and earned my diploma. After completing my formal education, I returned to work in my father’s workshop.

What inspires your creativity and how does an idea come to life in your workshop?

My creativity is greatly inspired by the landscape of Val Gardena; I often find that my best ideas come to me when I’m out in nature. When a new idea strikes, I start by sketching it out. After refining the drawing through several drafts, I create a clay model to capture the design in three dimensions. From there, I construct a wooden block from glued wooden parts, which I then meticulously sculpt with carving knives to bring the final piece to life.

Do you have a favorite theme or motif that you like to explore in your work?

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My theme in art is above all simplicity and the reduced language of form, which concentrates on the human figure.

What type of materials do you find yourself using the most for your projects?

I primarily use wood for my projects, with lime wood being my preferred choice for sculptures. However, I also work with a variety of other woods like Swiss stone pine, walnut, and olive wood, selecting the most suitable type based on the specific sculpture I am creating. Besides wood, I frequently use other materials such as clay (terracotta), stone, and bronze, choosing each according to the demands of the project.

Your sculptures have a signature look that is instantly recognizable. How did you develop your unique style and what influences helped shape it?

Over time, every sculptor finds a style that suits them, which is often influenced by their character. I am rather a quiet person, so I carve simple sculptures that radiate a certain serenity. An artist I really like who has influenced my work is Alberto Giacometti. His approach to creating narrow, reduced forms that capture only the essentials resonates deeply with me.

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Can you share a project that has been particularly meaningful to you?

One project that stands out as particularly meaningful to me took place in 2009, when I participated in a competition to design a sculpture of St. Francis for a new church on the Alpe di Siusi. I was fortunate enough to win this competition, which allowed me the opportunity to create a 190 cm (6 ft.) tall bronze statue of St. Francis.

Do you plan to pass on the sculpting tradition to your children?

Like I was in my father’s workshop, my children are often in my own workshop, working with wood. Ultimately, they will have to decide for themselves whether they want to learn the profession of wood sculpting. I will definitely support them in this if that is what they choose.

Besides your studio, where else can people see your work?

eric perathoner studio sculptures

Besides my studio, my sculptures can be viewed on my website at or on Instagram @eric_perathoner. For those visiting South Tyrol, my works are also displayed in collaboration with the Kompatscher Art Gallery in Brixen and in the Art 52 permanent exhibition located in the center of Ortisei.

Finally, do you have a favorite place you like to visit in South Tyrol?

Certainly! My favorite place in South Tyrol is the Alpe di Siusi. It’s a spot where I find immense relaxation and inspiration, and it offers a perfect balance of tranquility and activity. Whether I’m there to unwind or engage in sports, the Alpe di Siusi provides a beautiful backdrop at any time of the year. It’s a place that truly captures the essence of the region’s natural beauty.

how to Visit Eric Perathoner’s Art Gallery

sculptures eric perathoner

When visiting Val Gardena or Alpe di Siusi, don’t miss the chance to explore Eric’s art gallery, a must-see for fine art aficionados or those simply intrigued by the area’s rich woodcarving heritage. Conveniently situated less than 10 minutes from Ortisei and Castelrotto, and just over 40 minutes from Bolzano, the studio offers easy access to a precious cultural experience of South Tyrol.

You might even have the chance to see Eric at work — just as we did. Observing his creative process firsthand is not only inspiring but also engenders a deep appreciation of this revered local craft.

⇒ YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE: Of Mountains & Mallets: Discover the Woodcarvers of Val Gardena

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