Jade has been the heart and soul of the Spangler clan for two generations now. It all started 40 years ago when Jeff “Jade” Spangler decided to leave his day job as a contractor and pursue working with the stone full-time.
“I just started doing shows,” Spangler said. “We had a bit of a recession when [President] Reagan came in, and so the phone just stopped ringing for contracting, and I said, ‘Well, that’s it; no more of that,’ and I just started putting myself totally into my jade work. And jade hunting was the big thing; that’s how I came to life.”
His grandson, Ryan Spangler, had a similar “coming-to-jade” experience, he said, recalling his younger years when his grandmother would take him to collect rocks. He’d goof off instead, never really “having a relationship with the stone.” It wasn’t until Grandpa Jade took him hunting for the gem that the seed was sown, sparking him to pursue the passion still fueling him today. “[My grandfather] did a great job where he allowed me to learn for myself,” Ryan said. Even so, it took about four years for Ryan to build that interest and skill set into something that could sustain him as a full-time occupation.
Ryan and his younger brother, Levi, who is also learning the trade, just returned from China, where they joined fellow artists from 30 countries to study the craft, buy tools, and compete against the world’s greatest jade carvers, he said. “We didn’t win any awards this year, but we did show, and it was a great experience.” Grandpa Jade couldn’t have been happier. “I am so proud of Ryan; he is really becoming a famous artist already.”
The key to Ryan’s success at such an early age? His innovation and uniqueness in carving technique and style. “It’s impressive, you know; he’s got his own way, his own distinct style already,” said his grandpa, adding that it usually takes a carver decades to get to that point.