Featured Member

Each month a new Featured Member is chosen from the completed member profiles on our website. Their interview and work is highlighted on our blog and social media. Visit our archive of past Featured Members.

October 2017

  • Hap Sakwa
  • Hap Sakwa
  • Hap Sakwa
  • Hap Sakwa
  • Hap Sakwa
  • Hap Sakwa

Hap Sakwa

Sebastopol, Ca

Tell us a little about yourself.

I am a 67-year-old reentry artist. What do I mean by that? For the last twenty-five years I’ve been known in the metals community as a photographer, but before that I was a working artist exhibiting mixed media sculpture in galleries and museums. Several years ago I decided to back away from the photography business; dusted off my old machines, oiled them up and got back to the work of making. For the last three years I’ve struggled to find a satisfying direction, until I went hiking in the desert. I was down in Joshua Tree and found my way into the Noah Purifoy Outdoor Desert Museum.I spent hours walking through the sculpture park completely awed by the scale, quality, thoughtfulness and sheer number of pieces assembled on a harsh windy hill top baking in the desert sun. The mixed media assemblages of found and fabricated material inspired me to return to my own past as an assemblage artist. Soon I was busy haunting the local salvage yards and rifling through flea market junk searching out the materials that would soon become the palate for the work I was meant to do.

What is your favorite tool and why?

I don’t suppose I have a favorite tool, although, I’m keen on the Foredom hand piece that hangs like a one armed alien from a beam over my workbench. It’s the most versatile tool in my shop: cut, grind, carve, drill, sand. I couldn’t live without one. The band saw is also a tool I could not live without. All the forms used in creating my sculpture are first roughed out to size on the band saw.

Which materials do you create with most and what is your attraction to using them?

Most of my pieces begin with a wood core of some sort. And then I apply a variety of metal objects and found sheet metal to the surface. I think of my current work as a kind of tin can anthropology. 25 years ago I assembled objects in a similar collage style using found ceramic plates, coffee mugs, ashtrays and an assortment of cultural kitsch as source materials. Now I am in love with patinaed metal and vintage advertising tins revealing the time worn surface of age and use. My attraction is the variety of textures (patinas), the imagery, colors, graphics and cultural connectivity that binds us to materials and symbols.

Where do you draw your inspiration from?

I draw inspiration from everywhere. I am a big consumer of eye candy out in the world, looking at how industrial systems connect or how fields weave together seen from the window of a plane; museums, galleries, books, magazines and online. The current body of work draws from many artists and art styles, among them would be pop, folk, steampunk, architecture, post modern design and collage; artist would include Noah Purifoy, Tony Berlant, Kurt Scwitters, Ettore Sottsass, Peter Shire and Morgan Brig among the many artists that inspire me.

How long have you been working in metals and what brought you into this field?

I am an accidental metals artist. And I should mention that I’m not trained in any art form or craft. Learning as I go, I consider myself a kind of privateer, owing no devotion to material, technique or style. The finished product is all that matters.

For several years since retiring as a full time photographer I spent countless hours in my shop working through ideas trying to find a voice. About two years ago I began work on a series of pop-art heart totems reacting to the negative social climate preceding the election in 2016. “Fighting hate one piece of art at a time,” was my mantra. The totems are a kinda sorta steampunk assemblage style topped with decorated carved wood hearts. I made a base for one using some metal scrap material I had laying around the shop and the proverbial light went on above my head. The pieces have grown in dimension and evolved in complexity, focused now on the teapot form, as a human figure proxy.

What piece of advice would you give to someone just starting out in metals?

The advice I would share with anyone wishing to be an artist – know that you don’t live in a vacuum. You do not stand alone. You are part of something much bigger that has evolved and been a rich unifying part of social networks since the first images were scratched on cave walls. Look at everything and all art in every medium and from every time period; these are the masters and they have a lot to teach us. All art and craft is appropriated either directly or indirectly from some source; borrow, don’t copy. Do not restrict yourself to your peer group; craft media tend to be very incestuous. You are alive now and it’s your job (responsibility) to leave a valuable artifact for the future. And if you are not obsessed and committed to your art and craft, don’t do it.

What has been the biggest challenge for you as a metal artist and have you overcome it, or how are you working to overcome it?

The biggest challenge for all artists is finding an audience and a venue for sharing their creativity, whether you’re a jeweler, a sculptor, a dancer, a musician, all artists struggle to be seen. Self-promotion and marketing in the 21st Century is a daunting task. There are few brick and mortar outlets and craftshows are competitive and demanding. But, you have no choice. You will not be discovered in your basement or garage workspace. Since becoming a reentry artist I have participated in the local open studios, been rejected by dozens of galleries and exhibited sculpture at local art events. Recently I have found an online gallery that exhibits my work on their website and at art fairs, like SOFA and Art Palm Springs. So, I’m getting there.

Favorite resource/vendor or website you would like to share?

My favorite resource is the flea market; a wholesale cultural anthropology of all the tools, machines, clothing, music, food, art and artifacts that define our society gathered together on acres of asphalt every Sunday.

And there is nothing like walking through museums – the warehouse of all things art and culture. Soaking up the energy of all the art, tribal to modern and reading about the artists, their lives, their motivation, their world and being intensely aware, I’m walking in their footsteps.