Written by Sheila Regan
Photos by Woodspirit Handcraft
Jarrod Dahl and Jazmin Hicks-Dahl of Woodspirit Handcraft do things the slow way, and that suits them just fine. Based in Ashland, Wisconsin, the artisans use pre-industrial methods to create hand-carved wooden spoons and utensils, lidded bowls made from uncured green wood, and hand-dyed indigo fabrics.
Jarrod is a woodworker, who specializes in a foot-powered pole lathe, while Jazmin supports her husband with the business and weaves textile objects using a floor loom. Made from natural materials such as locally sourced wood and non-toxic, food-grade oils, pigments, and milk paint, their pieces possess an elegant, yet rugged beauty.
How did you two get interested in the art of slow craft, and intentionally utilizing practices without 21st-century technology?
Jarrod: I’ve been a professional woodworker all of my adult life— nearly 30 years now. It started in log building, timber framing, and house construction, and right away that propels you into using hand tools and an older way of thinking about things.
We’re calling it the wood culture renaissance. Historically, we’ve used woodenware as humans for a really long time. It wasn’t until very recently that we abandoned it.
Are ethical considerations a part of this?
Jazmin: I think it’s about being in touch with the whole process. Jarrod knows the tree that all of the things he’s making are coming from—it’s a huge tree that was just felled five blocks from our house in someone’s backyard. There’s a contact with the raw material to the finished product.
How did you learn these pre-industrial methods?
Jarrod: I studied woodenware in museums in Sweden, and then also recently in Japan. We both traveled there to study indigo dying, woodturning, and urushi lacquer, which is a type of finish they’ve used on woodenware for 8,000 years.
What brought about the interest you both have with Japanese craft traditions?
Jarrod: The aesthetic. I actually studied at a Zen Buddhist center in California. The second time we went to Japan, just last year, we visited all these cool craftspeople and made friends.
And were you also able to take any classes in the textile realm?
Jazmin: Yes, this last time I contacted a guy who is an indigo dyer and scheduled a class. It was in this beautiful studio with huge vats sunk into the concrete ground. I’ve always loved indigo—my son is actually named Indigo because I’ve always loved Japanese indigo textiles! The color is this really vibrant blue, so it was amazing to be there and to be able to do that and just stick my hands in the vat.
How did you two meet?
Jazmin: In 2016, I was living in California and teaching woodworking. I wanted to bring spoon carving to the kids, and I found this spoon carving festival in England. I signed up for a class with Jarrod—little did I know I’d end up in Wisconsin a year later!