Obakki’s New Collection of Handcrafted Bowls and Spoons Reveals the Beauty of Slow Design

Carved by master craftsman Amadou in Mali, Africa, these small-batch goods make use of discarded redwood and blackwood.
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While redwood has long been a coveted material for its durability and striking beauty, efforts to expand global access to more exotic forms of the species have intensified in recent decades. In Africa, redwood forests have been devastated by commercial logging, not only damaging natural ecosystems but the livelihood of local craftspeople as well. 

Obakki, a purpose-led brand of handcrafted homewares and lifestyle products, is bringing awareness to the issue with a new collection of wooden bowls and spoons—each carved using the remnants of left-behind timber from deforested areas—in order to emphasize the more sustainable, generational practices of small-scale artisans.

A member of the Dogon tribe in Mali, Africa, master craftsman Amadou has been carving with African timber since he was eight years old. The current rate of deforestation in the local community is undermining his long-held tradition.

Treana Peake, founder of Obakki and seen here with Amadou, partners with traditional artisans and rural co-ops to create unique, handcrafted goods in small quantities. 

Since 2005, Obakki and founder Treana Peake have worked with craftspeople around the world—from Mexico to Japan—in order to create small-batch, heirloom-worthy products. One of the company's most recent partnerships is with Amadou, a wood-carver in Mali, who spends up to four days turning small pieces of African redwood and African blackwood into a beautiful, hand-finished bowl or spoon.

African blackwood is particularly sought after to create musical instruments, such as clarinets or guitars, but unsustainable logging efforts now support mass-manufactured flooring as well. 

Using techniques passed down through generations, Amadou has mastered the art of hand-carving traditional wooden bowls without complex machines or fancy gadgets.

The Amadou Collection from Obakki currently includes eight-to-twelve-inch bowls perfect for serving, eating, or decorating. Other products range from seasoning to serving spoons—all delicately carved by Amadou using techniques he first learned from the perch of his father's knee.

The epitome of slow design, each redwood serving bowl displays decades of natural growth rings in the woodgrain and takes Amadou many hours of hands-on work to complete.

The global market’s growing demand and seemingly insatiable appetite for these rare materials—which promotes the over-harvesting of forests to create mass-produced consumer products—will make it difficult for Amadou to continue his craft once the remnants he currently works with are gone. The rising interest in furniture made from African redwood and African blackwood is particularly affecting craftspeople throughout Africa, who have rationally harvested these timbers for generations prior to the currently industrialized methods of deforestation.

Amadou uses remnants of both African redwood and African blackwood to create his pieces.

The fact that each bowl and spoon is upcycled from otherwise discarded pieces of wood—along with Obakki’s commitment to limited edition collections that discourage overconsumption—further highlights the ways in which these scarce natural materials should be thoughtfully considered and treasured.

The Amadou Collection from Obakki offers seasoning spoons in a variety of sizes, as shown here, as well as a seven-inch sauce spoon and eight-to-ten-inch serving spoons.

Pieces of discarded blackwood with white markings—supposedly undesirable features for mainstream wood products—lend a rough-hewn character to the handcrafted spoons.

Like all products from Obakki, the Amadou Collection respects and preserves tradition by placing the artisans at the forefront of each design. In this case, Obakki purchases each bowl and spoon directly from Amadou, with him setting the wholesale price and the company's profits going back into supporting and expanding their artisan programs around the globe. The company's efforts are also further expanded by the Obakki Foundation, which co-leads agriculture, housing, health, and education projects with local communities.

Each bowl in the collection takes on a classic shape—perfect for serving salads or as statement-making home decor.

Available in a variety of sizes, each bowl and spoon is ultimately a unique object representing the beauty that can come from time-honored skills and designs.

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