Cloquet artist draws inspiration from family tradition, ancestry
Aaron Hafvenstein has seen significant growth in his business, Dalarnia Woodworks, over the past year.
The smell of cedar fills the air and folk music echoes off the trees as Aaron Hafvenstein tediously creates his newest piece of art in his newly remodeled workshop located about 10 miles from the heart of Cloquet.
Hafvenstein comes from a long line of woodworkers. He spent 27 years eating at a dining room table built by his great-grandfather, and stayed busy in high school visiting his father’s shop class at Esko High School.
Hafvenstein’s first woodworking project was a small toolbox made with the help of his father when he was around age 6. He went on to work in construction, helping to remodel homes.
Now, he is bringing his own twist to woodwork by creating pieces that feature unique designs, inspirations and materials.
Hafvenstein spends about six hours each day working to complete pieces to be sold through his business, Dalarnia Woodworks, which he founded in 2018. Larger pieces typically take about a week to complete.
What started as a hobby for Hafvenstein is now a full-time job, with orders increasing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It clears my head a bit,” he said of the work. “I love it.”
He said he tries to focus on positive inspirations for his pieces and hopes his work can bring a bit of happiness to the world during this difficult time.
“Aaron is a true artist,” customer Annie Manthey said.
Manthey’s daughter married into the Hafvenstein family, and she recently decided to purchase a piece from Dalarnia Woodworks after noticing Hafvenstein’s attention to detail.
“I’m kind of a perfectionist,” Hafvenstein said. “I like making something nice for somebody.”
Dalarnia Woodwork products are made mainly of reclaimed wood, which Hafvenstein refurbishes and incorporates into his work alongside other materials such as sheets of metal and copper.
He studied a lot of history in college, and said he draws heavily on that knowledge, as well as his Scandinavian heritage, for inspiration. The name “Dalarnia” comes from the name of the city in Sweden where his family lived before immigrating to America.
Pieces will often mix Hafvenstein's Scandinavian roots with southwest style artwork. One in-progress piece features ceramic tile from New Mexico.
Music, which Hafvenstein always plays while he builds, also brings an influx of inspiration.
“A lot of the time (it) just kind of comes to my head — what I want to do,” Hafvenstein said.
Each piece created tells a story, and Hafvenstein includes an explanation for the buyer of what inspired their design.
“I liked that he names many of his wall art pieces, followed by a quote," Manthey said. "That really adds a touch of inspiration to each piece.”
Typically, larger woodworking pieces sell for $600-$800, but Hafvenstein said he will work to accommodate customers' pricing needs as he sees fit.
He has previously displayed work at St. Luke’s hospital and Amazing Grace Cafe in Duluth. He hopes to have more work available in local shops soon.
Find Dalarnia Woodworks on Etsy at etsy.com/shop/dalarniawoodworksco .