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 email@example.com. 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?
Graham Schodda: I have been earning my living predominantly from art for over 25 years. I started in graphic design, (mostly t-shirts), when I first arrived in the US from Australia. I had a metal shop in Denver for about 12 years doing one of a kind sculpture and industrial furniture, often using found objects. I've been in Western Washington for about 10 years now doing smaller found object sculpture and my Stainless Steelhead series of metal etchings.
Do you work with other mediums?
I love wood carving and am often drawn to other mediums but too busy to get sucked into those rabbit holes.
Tell us about your artistic process.
I divide my time between the found object assemblage sculptures and the stainless work. One is quite peaceful and cerebral and the stainless is noisy, dirty and quite physically demanding so it's therapeutic to combine the two. The stainless series is keeping me really busy, the imagery it is mostly salmon with some birds and feathers and here in the NW, those are pretty popular. I have been grinding images into steel for 25 years and have developed my own tools and techniques. It is all about practice, patience and concentration. Most people have never seen art like this so sales are great, the fish seem to fade then re-emerge as the light or viewing angle changes; they have a definite holographic quality to them.
The assemblages are fun all the way around, the search, the assemblage and the show. I am always hunting for other peoples cast offs like vintage vacuums, toasters, old tools, anything from a bygone era. I endeavor to invent a new existence for these abandoned objects, repurposing their streamlined or eclectic forms into rayguns, robots, rocketships, roadsters or whatever I dreamt about last night. Thomas Edison said something like 'to invent or create, you need a good imagination and a big pile of junk'...you should see my workshop, no shortage of junk.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
When I am hunting for 'junk' at garage sales, thrift stores, etc., I am primarily looking at shape, always asking 'what does that look like, does it have the lines of a robot, a roadster, a plane?' A single piece of junk often inspires the idea but sometimes years go by before I find the right pieces to finish the sculpture. I have boxes marked dragonfly, submarine, aeroplane, spaceship, etc., all waiting for the final piece of the puzzle. In the interim, back on the grinder for a new fish or feather.
Do you have a specific "beat" that you like the most?
I don't know about a beat but I LOVE being in the studio creating, it is difficult to get me out of there. I have always been big on Re-Use, Reclaim and Recycle, and a lot of the shows I display at are based around this theme. Last week was the Seattle Recycled Art Fest and the imagination and craftsmanship on display was pretty astounding, amazing what people are doing with junk.
Do you have a piece of art that is the most important to you?
When I make one of these found object pieces I have a hard time parting with it for a few months, I can let it go eventually but when I sell a 'fresh' piece at a show there is a little seller's remorse. I made a couple of matching wall sconces out of vintage drills about five years back and I still can't part with those.
What life experiences have effected your creating process?
Travel has had a pretty major impact on me over the years, it introduced me to art and a bigger picture. Once you leave your little corner of the world you quickly realize there are a lot of different ways to go about life, everyone is pretty much doing the best they can with what they have. There are a lot of "have's" but a lot more "have not's" out there so a little bit more empathy and sharing wouldn't hurt.
I am constantly amazed by the ingenuity and skills I see from artists in third world areas, making extraordinary things from whatever they can salvage.
If we want to see more where should we go?
Check out my website. Upcoming shows at Edmonds Art Fest in mid June, Bellevue festival of the Arts in late July, Pt Townsend Wooden boat Show early Sept, Issaquah Salmon Days early Oct.
I have work at Smith and Vallee Gallery in Edison, Boundary Bay Brewery in Bellingham, Laconner Brewery and am always looking for Seattle display opportunities.
Anything else that you are excited about?
The next garage sale to find that elusive thing I didn't know I was looking for, I love the hunt.
How do you take your coffee? We ask everyone!
Unlike many I love the weather in Western Washington, but not the coffee, have never tasted it, there must be something to it, but can't get past the smell. I'll take a Boundary Bay Pilsner instead.