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It´s not what I make that matters, it´s how and why I make it.

Discovering the work of Jannik Abel is like running into a precious treasure during a walk in the woods. Although immersed in a colorful daily life, full of inputs, voices and faces, it remains in us a sensitive and receptive part to the charm of authenticity. Our tastes and preferences cannot fail to recognize and respect the supremacy of some art forms, the authenticity of real craftsmanship, the beauty of the purest expressions.

My thought goes to good poetry, to stringed instruments that match before a concert, to the living silence of nature, the acoustics of cathedrals. Like the sincere gesture and the frank look that beat in truth the words of circumstance, pure raw material has no comparison. There are many contexts in which the discreet and tangible charm of a raw and genuine form of truth is sought after as oxygen, in a saturated and tired market like the current one.

We recognize the saving power of the forest, we are not at all deaf to the call of the forests, not if we know how to listen and follow those instinctive coordinates that guide us in recognizing the value of purity and simplicity.

And nowadays, in a landscape in which purity, simplicity and authenticity are inflated and soulless terms, when you meet something, or someone who still sincerely gives voice to those concepts with his work, it is worth taking the time to stop and look at it.

Jannik Abel accepted with great kindness to let us virtually enter his laboratory in the forest, where manual and conceptual work go to the rhythm of the seasons and the Norwegian climate.

Jannik's art speaks a direct, ancestral and powerful language. There is a common denominator: the reconnection, sacred and simple, between man and nature, made of gestures and choices of great coherence.

Dear Jannik, please tell us something about yourself and your work, for those who don't know you.

I live in a wild Norwegian forest, using only fallen trees to make art. I have been an artist my whole life. Never had another job. Making is second nature to me.

Almost like life companion. However I don’t live to create, I live to live. Art is an expression of my life, my longing, my darkness, my humanity, my questions and my answers. But it is not my life. It is life that inspires me, life lived. What truly matters is how you treat yourself, others and everything living.

Where do you live now, where you lived your childhood...

I grew up in the capital of Oslo with my older sister and parents. I actually lived the first half of my life in the city and the second half in nature. I find it particularly valuable to have done both. I have been following your work for years with pleasure and curiosity and the part that struck me most is the Reconnectors project, how did it come about?

The Reconnector Project started with a move. I couldn’t afford to rent a studio in Oslo so I found myself searching for a place to make. A place without humans and some peace. I found that I worked well in the forest and this started my woodworking. As I came home at night to rest I missed holding wood in my hand. And I made myself a small wooden object to hold.

This was the first Reconnector. Then my friends saw it and wanted one. When more and more asked I realized this was something people needed and wanted. To fell what wood feels like on the inside and reconnect with nature.

The project aims to reconnect humans to trees and trees to humans.

In a constantly connected society, what do we really need to reconnect to?

I think ultimately we need to connect to ourselves we humans. We are the only species who manages to destroy our own habitat. That fact tells me something is terribly wrong. And I think the first step to reconnect to ourselves is to reconnect to our planet. To nature.

Among the many materials, wood, a poor and noble material at the same time. Timeless, with a timeless charm, a new trend and a source to be protected.

What does it means for you today to use wood as a raw material, how do you choose the materials for your work?

In my wild forest a lot of old trees fall in winterstorms, to much rain or lighting. I use only these trees for my Reconnectors. I know where they lived and where they fell. What the neighbor trees looked like and how old it is. This knowledge connects me to my forest and at the same time to the work I am doing. Imagen the axe shaping the wood as I keep in mind what the whole tree looked like.

Did you happen to work with groups of young people. What relationship do young people in Norway have, for what your experience has been, with the manual skills to which your work relates? What relationship with the forest, with nature? Are they "connected"?

I just finished teaching over 400 children to whittle. Most of them had done it before, putting a knife to wood, but at the same time they lacked the patience and understanding that this takes time. That worries me. Some things in life takes time. We need to give it time to feel it. To understand it. To love it. To love the time it requires. We have so much to learn from nature here. What grows slow grows strong.

I do think that most children in Norway are more connected to nature in one way or another. The climate here is so different from season to season so we are forced to relate to nature. And being outdoors in the mountains and forest is somewhat part of our culture.

'To love it. To love the time it requires. We have so much to learn from nature here. What grows slow grows strong.'

Crafters, artisans, makers, yet even small indie businesses seem to fall into the trap of wanting to continuously produce new objects by increasing purchases and consumption. Often even the art world has fallen and falls into the same vice. How does your work, your art, fit into this historical and social context?

People often ask if I have dreams of expanding my “factory” and the clear answer is no. Never. I dream of getting smaller. Weirder. Even truer if possible.

My little webshop will stay small for one reason because it nourishes my soul and I think when my business so to speak is good for me it will be good for my customers as well.

The goal of my factory is to an allround amazing place to work and shop.

Since I also make everything by hand and handtools only it is in my shops nature to only sell a few hundredmitems a year.

And off course to be as nature and human friendly as possible producing zero waste.

We live in a time where we need to think differently.

There is too much stuff in the world. We need to make and buy items that will last a life time and that are soul supporting. There is no other way if you ask me.

In my art practice where I make large installation in the forest I have this rule I follow: “It is not what I make that is important. It is how and why I make it that matters.”

That also stands out from the art world. But then again the art world is a generous place to be different.

How has your family and his work/story influenced your artistic choices? Was carving wood part of your childhood?

My great-great-grandparents started Norway’s first gallery in 1864 and my parents owned that same gallery. Every Sunday my dad and I would go to galleries and museums, not only in Norway, but all over Europe. I got my art history down before my ABCs. Art runs in my veins.

However carving was not a part of my childhood, I did however get knives from my dad when I was really young. I still have and love them.

Which or who is the biggest source of inspiration for your work? Except for mother Nature

Life. Life lived. Love. Pain. Death. Connection. Longing. Laughter. Magic.

This whole journey called life really. Something about yourself, which you discovered in the woods

I have learned that for me: ‘Making requires listening, caring requires insight, connection requires presence.’

A favourite thing you love to do when you work in your studio or outdoor

One of my favourite things to do, is right before I go to bed, I go down to my studio and take a last look at what I made that day.

Its like giving myself the gift of remembering:

“You did that. You made that.

You are enough".

‘Making requires listening, caring requires insight, connection requires presence.’

The perfect music for a day's working in the scent of freshly cut wood

Any music that is not made to entertain me, but to move me.

Future projects? how many reconnectors are there around the world, do you have a map?

320 Reconnectors are in the hands of humans all over the world. I kept track of all the names of the first 100 and they are on the website

My future is wide open. I know I will make. But I am at a point where I have worked a lot, and I am taking a break to see the path to come. I know it will be making from wood and I know my axe will be used daily. That is a start. And knowing that life doesn’t happen here in the forest, it is here. And when I look back upon my life, I want only one thing: to be able to know and say I was here.

More about Jannik's work


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