Dougal Haines hand-crafted doors for a Buddhist center in Ashland. photo by Lynn Woodward
Dougal Haines hand-crafted doors for a Buddhist center in Ashland. photo by Lynn Woodward
Entering into the hallowed space of master woodworker Dougal Haines is a humbling experience on a cold Easter Sunday, or any other day. Neat stacks of hardwood boards line the back walls. The smells of many forests blend with aromas of sawdust, veneers and oils.

Haines has just completed a magnificent handcrafted set of eight-foot cherrywood doors for a new Dharma Meditation Center in Ashland.

The doors will be personally delivered this week as part of the dedication ceremony and completion of the Buddhist sanctuary, constructed and finished by a generous host of donors, workers and craftsmen. It is the first of these Tibetan Buddhist Centers in Oregon to be built from the ground up to carry on this religious


"It's a prayerful activity and I am proud to be a part of it. I am a volunteer, yes, but it's taken more out of me than I anticipated," said Haines from his straw-bale-built adobe house and artist compound in the Lower Bridge area. "I've worked on the doors continuously for the past three months."

His front porch is decorated with flapping Himalayan prayer flags and a seven-foot-tall carved Totem pole. A pond, herb garden and outbuildings flank the property, surrounded by sagebrush and junipers at the red-rock edge of Coyote Canyon.

It's a serene spot, immediately infused with the animated artist's unique style and philosophy of life.

"My original vision for the place was something off the beaten path, connected to nature, which is always healing. A place to relax and take a deep breath and get a fresh perspective on things without many distractions," he said. "You can go jump in the pond or sit by the fire and make music, and I don't have far to go to my shop."

The sacred doors are traditional "frame-and-panel," using sustainably harvested cherrywood, a renewable-forest type of wood. Panels are edge-glued together to create a seamless sheet which forms the bulk of the door. The front of each door is decorated with the Dharma Wheel, representing the circle of life and its Eight Spokes of Wisdom.

Colors for the Yin-Yang symbol in the center were chosen from an old Indian drum in Haines' studio. Among the many meanings contained in the wheel symbol is the idea that the Dharma is all-embracing and complete in itself. It has no beginning and no end, and is at once in motion and at rest. Buddhists believe it expresses completeness and the perfection of the teaching.

Haines crafted the two Dharma Wheels out of hard-rock maple, in contrast to the cherry, which will darken over time.

Each wrought-iron door pull was made by Ponderosa Forge & Ironworks, of Sisters.

On the opposite side of the doors, Haines placed the Knot Of Infinity symbol. This represents the endless confines of life and sense of expansiveness in our lives on this earth. The basket-weave pattern was also carved out of hard-rock maple and is usually seen as a flat, one-dimensional emblem, but becomes almost alive under the direction of Haines' masterful hands.

Wrought-iron pushplates are engraved with a Sanscrit character which translates into the Buddhist mantra, "Om," the universal, divine sound which embodies all life, the whole cosmos.

"We're talking big here," said Haines. "These

Buddhists don't think small."

Haines then applied many coats of Watco oil as a preservative and sealant.

"It's a blend of varnishes and mineral spirits that leave a natural feel that

augments the grain and texture of the wood. The doors will darken with the years due to the wood's photo reactivity to attain something quite

sumptuous in color. That's part of the cherrywood magic.

"I tried to be very understated when designing and crafting these doors. I wanted them to be contemporary and elegant with many traditional elements."

To Haines, wood is a "live" medium and its natural qualities are drawn from to construct a lasting thing of utility and beauty.

"These things feed us in quiet ways," he said. "This is good karma work, grounded in the belief of the project. Some friends tease me and say 'Dude, it's just a wood door,' but if you want to get philosophical about it, what are doors but gateways to consciousness and experience.

"These doors will form the entrance to the shrine room of the meditation center, the inner sanctum where people will pray and meditate. It's creating sacred space, that's the nutshell of it all. What an honor to work in that way."

For more information on the artist's work, visit Haines' online portfolio at or call 541-815-3656.