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(Image courtesy of Cam Kristenson)

Artist of the Week: Cam Kristenson

Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists who we love to feature weekly on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you!

Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating?
Cam Kristenson: I started carving Soapstone when I was in first grade.

Do you work with other mediums?
I think the only medium that I have not really gotten into is ceramics. I have a passion for making jewelry and carving stone but right now my main focus has been reclaimed materials.

Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
My work is influenced by the medium that I have on hand. I created a series of paintings on OSB plywood and when that became less available I switched to wooden shipping crates. Last year I had access to a large amount of shipping dunnage and that pushed me to make toy cars and cameras. I think that my randomness in this stems from living in rural Alaska and the need to make due with what you have. I use to be a prolific wood carver because of all the drift wood that would wash up on the beach. When I find materials my brain begins to formulate all kinds of ideas as I’m not much of drawer I think about things incessantly and then when I have that one spark or "ah-ha" moment I grab material and dive in, and things just flow.

Tell us about where your inspiration for your art come from?
I get inspiration from a lot of different places. Growing up in Nome, Alaska, I was surrounded by nature and that remoteness and solitude has shaped not only my art but my thinking about the world in general. I have 3 kids now and making kids toys brings me great pleasure. Just seeing the smile on there faces when I come up with a new toy is priceless.

Do you have a specific “beat” you like best – nature, food, profiles etc?
Nature by far is my beat. Although I live and work in the city now I still have a connection to nature. From seeing a river otter or harbor seal at work, or playing with my chickens at home. The natural world flows through me.

Do you have one piece of art that means more to you, or is extremely special to you?
I have an Ivory carving of a bowhead whale that my late mentor made that is very dear to my heart as he formed my skills and taught me how to look at things. Every time I look at it I am reminded of a lesson that he taught, be it how to carve Jade, or how to make an ice chopper out of a leaf spring on a truck.

What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
I would say marriage and children. The support from my wife and the love of my kids has made an impact that I could have never imagined. I also feel that the 35 years in Alaska shaped me into the person I am and the work that I do.

If we want to see more of your work where should we go to find?
I’m a huge fan of Instagram as it is more about images and less about trivial things. My page is @CamKdesigns and it is about my work and the life that shapes that work. I have a few shows left in September in Tacoma on the 9th and the 23rd, and one in Seattle on the 7th and have a few others I’m working on.

What is next for you? Anything you’re working on right now that you’re really excited about?
I’m hoping to get into the amazing Urban Craft Uprising show in December but that’s the biggest thing on the horizon. The one project that I’m really excited about right now is building an awesome tree house for my kiddos out of all salvaged materials. I have been saving and collecting things for about a year and a half and I hope to have it up in the next month or so. If you haven’t figured out I’m just a big kid this will confirm it!

Lastly, how do you take your coffee? We ask everyone!
Well I would say that I like my coffee with green tea and hold the coffee and sugar!