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(Image: Jon Haaland)

Artist of the Week: Jon Haaland

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! See all of our past Artists of the Week in our dedicated section.

Seattle Refined: How long have you been creating? Tell us about the different mediums you work with.
Jon Haaland: I have been creating art since I was a child. I can't remember a time in my life when I was not making something. I majored in printmaking and sculpture at Cornish College of the Arts. That foundation has been the backbone of my life as a working artist and designer. Throughout my career, I have produced and designed hand-painted wall coverings, handbags, specialty paint finishes, while currently enjoying work as a color consultant and colorist for a local special finishes and design studio. I work with traditional and nontraditional mediums. I have used photography, traditional building materials such as plaster, tar and salvaged shiplap as a medium. Other nonconventional mediums in my work are burned books, charcoal, dried grasses, seed pods, glass, human teeth, and human hair. I let the medium be what it wants to be and am careful not to completely cover flaws nor manipulate too extensively. If the cement that I use cracks, well, that is true to the material. I then try to figure out how to make those imperfections stable while keeping true to the material. I find beauty in imperfection.

Can you tell us about your artistic process and the different stages that work into it?
My process is intuitive and usually driven by the materials. They happen organically. I will have an idea that I sit with for a while and then start to play with materials that I have gathered over the years, like assembling a puzzle or collage. Similar to how one would process within a dream. I work out how I would like the piece to look, remaining open to where the materials will lead me.

Tell us about where your inspiration for your work comes from.
My design work does have a bit of darkness, even when that isn't what I am striving to achieve. Even my bright colors are a bit tinged and muted. Leather can have that aesthetic naturally. My inspiration in the last two series and the pieces I am currently working on is the confluence of nature and the blight of humanity upon it. The hubris and greed of humanity. I try to use the industrial materials that humankind uses to build up our cities and explore a more organic, thoughtful use of said materials.

Do you have a specific "beat" you like to capture best – nature, food, profiles, etc.?
We are seemingly obsessed with our own demise. I try to find the beauty in our ruin. My work shows the beauty of what is left behind from our rapacious needs. This is my way of processing the actions of humanity. It is my therapy. The media and process will hopefully have relevancy that will achieve those ends.

Do you have one piece that means more to you, or is extremely special to you?
Smite. This piece is about myself. It incorporates materials from my home that my partner and I partially tore down. It is a self-portrait that represents collapsing of structure and rebuilding. A theme that has reemerged in my art and life quite often. It is also the first piece of my current series that represents a new beginning in working with the materials that I am currently utilizing. Before Smite, my primary focus was handbag design and production. In Smite, I am attempting to obliterate history, and destroy the foundation, however, utilizing what I have and recreate something new from those ruins. We have to learn from history, tear it down, dissect it, and turn it into something that speaks to the present.

What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
Lessons in impermanence. Nothing is forever. Everything is mutable. But all things leave their residues, their scars. I've always felt I needed to be able to find a type of beauty, even in that residue and ruin—an ugly beauty in our collective action toward the world around us. Out of the crumbling foundations and wreckage we can build anew, we can use the past without holding onto it. Whether in my artwork or design, I try to use found and collected materiel, the castoffs, in my work. In fact, when we started Chemical Wedding, we used 100% scrap from other companies. Things change, but it's an important starting point for me. I need to process things in order to move forward, to become.

If we want to see more of your work, where should we go to find it?; Chemical Wedding Handbags

What is next for you? Anything you're working on right now that you're really excited about?
Right now, things are up in the air. COVID and the BLM marches and protests have really shown America its true self, good and bad. I am working on coming to terms with that. I try not to be a reactionary person but am letting it resonate, and sitting with it and am in the process of working through these events. The one good thing about the COVID epidemic is that it has allowed people the time to focus on injustices and focus on changes that are long overdue. I wish that serious injury and death wouldn't have to happen to open our eyes to what is right in front of us.

Lastly, how do you take your coffee? (We ask everyone!)
I like about four shots of espresso with half and half and Stevia!