in partnership
<p>Mix Up Stainless steel 168” H x 74” W x 56”D 2007 (Image courtesy of Micajah Bienvenu).</p>

Artist of the Week: Micajah Bienvenu

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?
I've been a bit of a maker since I was a child – tying flies, building fishing rods, woodworking, film photography, construction and boatbuilding among other endeavors – but I have been making serious metal sculptures for over 35 years.

Do you work with other mediums?
I have been using digital design techniques for more than 20 years now to create stainless steel sculptures and lately have started to incorporate 3D printed parts, solar cells, colored LED lights, mechanical drive motors and proximity sensors into recent designs.

Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
My entire process starts within a 3D modeling program called Rhino 3D which I have been using since 1998. It has become such an integral part of my process that I have come to think and create in terms of the program's commands, in fact even dreaming in the software, exploring forms while sleeping, unencumbered by the thought process. This is the time for happy accidents. This design process is used to explore ideas relevant to the particular subject and site. Ideas and concepts are developed, refined reiterated, rendered and engineered for fabrication. Once the sculpture is thoroughly 3D modeled the parts are digitally unrolled and imported into another program that generates the g-code (go code) that drives my CNC plasma cutter – which is basically a huge plotter with a plasma cutter attached. Once cut, the parts are textured before assembly. This is achieved by physically running up and down the sheet metal pieces with a 9" disk sander in a controlled frenzy, interpreting the shapes and putting interwoven "motion marks" that are sympathetic to the form. Cardio! These pieces are reassembled using what I call the reverse banana peel method. The panels are tack welded at the base, coerced and persuaded together with ratchet straps and clamps. Once assembled the seams are TIG welded together, sanded and attached to bases or plinths. When working on pieces 25 to 30 feet tall packing, shipping and installation is always an exciting and rewarding endeavor, often involving semi trucks, cranes and hard hats. Thoughts, feelings and emotions, the ephemeral frozen the idea solidified.

Tell us about where your inspiration for your art come from?
I am inspired by forms found in nature and science. I particularly love the fluidity of form found in the natural environment such as vines, tree roots, water currents and the paths of subatomic particles.

Do you have a specific “beat” you like best – nature, food, profiles etc?
The beats I travel down include nature, science, and interaction (human and otherwise).

Do you have one piece of art that means more to you, or is extremely special to you?
As hard as it is to choose one’s favorite child, Enlighten, which is my latest public sculpture commissioned by the Washington State Arts Commission, is a piece that I really enjoy. A monumental and interactive stainless steel sculpture, it is composed of three spiral columns that rise from a stainless steel turntable. The viewer can rotate this base to create a dynamic visual experience. It serves as a focal point and gathering place for the South Seattle College community. The sculpture celebrates community, inclusivity and inspiration.

What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
In the early part of my career my studio was in close proximity to heavy industry in Seattle and I was exposed to many large scale fabrication techniques. This really expanded my ideas of what was possible with my art making.

If we want to see more of your work where should we go to find?
My work currently is in the group show "Summer Moments" at Matzke Fine Art Gallery on Camano Island. There are several pieces at Pelindaba Lavender Farm and the Sculpture Park on San Juan Island. You can see my latest public piece on the South Seattle College in West Seattle.

What is next for you? Anything you’re working on right now that you’re really excited about?
I'm working on a monumental sculpture composed of nine counter-rotating, interacting, stainless steel spirals that are driven by a gear motor. The visual effect varies from waving sea grass to square dancers swinging depending on the viewpoint.

Lastly, how do you take your coffee? We ask everyone!
Double short breve.