Ryan Spangler has been carving Jade since 2011, after graduating from Point Arena High in California's Mendocino County and moving down the coast to Santa Barbara.
He began assisting his grandfather in his JadeNow Contemporary Carving studio, doing mostly apprentice work and getting familiar with the tools. In 2012, Ryan completed his first piece, and his knack for simple and abstract design has been unstoppable since. Ryan is feverous about understanding the Stone of Heaven on all levels, and has absorbed everything he knows through his attentiveness to Masters of the trade. Ryan has traveled to Canada, China and New Zealand to further his knowledge of all that is the global market of Jade, but more importantly it’s inspiring culture. He returns to China this for his 5th Fine Art Invitational, at age 25.
Ever since I have been a young boy, I have collected stones, mushrooms, seaweed, arrowheads, etc. Even then, I remember being stunned by the complexities of nature’s design and its simultaneous simplicity. As a child, my grandmother taught me to cherish the earth and to treasure its offerings. I like to ponder on my experiences with her, teaching me how to nourish my body from the fruits of the land, and how to nourish the land in return. I remember her guiding me through the woods, where she taught me to ground myself through a circle of precious stones. At times of anger or frustration, the stones helped to quiet my mind and bring me stillness.
“Hunting” is what got me completely hooked though; my grandfather took me Jade hunting when I was eight years old, and I reflect on that memory as the beginning of my life with the stone. It still excites me to go out into the remote canyons, wade through the river, and find that one Jade stone amongst thousands of other stones.
A Jade carver of 40 years himself, my grandfather was excited to pass on his knowledge and experience to me. He has taught me, encouraged me, and at times even pushed me to understand the stone – beyond its technicality. Traditions like returning the first piece of jade you find back to the river; not to take more than you can carry; to practice presence in the hunting and carving processes. To shape jade and dedicate my life to teaching others about it only feels right by the experiences of my upbringing.
For me, carving Jade is a complex co-creation with nature. Its beauty and integrity are beyond comparison, making it an incredibly dynamic medium with which to express my creativity and translate my experience. I am inspired by those who respond so powerfully to my work - by their emotional reaction to a particular piece, their words of appreciation for my art form, connections they have to the stone and the stories they share about their own lives. It brings me great joy to carve for someone a piece of nature that they may always carry with them - a treasure that will bring them the stillness it has brought me.
Carving jade for the last five years has taught me focus, patience, discipline, a dedicated work ethic, and an artistry I didn’t know was within me. Jade has been introduced and nurtured through family and friendly connections and I believe it is a stone to be gifted in the physical form, as well as in the form of knowledge and appreciation. I intend to pass on both.