in partnership
(Image courtesy of Dawn Fraiser).

Artist of the Week: Sophista-tiki

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?
My whole life. My mom was a well-known professional artist in Montana when I was a kid. I always had studio access and all the supplies I could want. In high school I spent all of my time in the art department drawing palm trees with fruity smelling markers (it was the 80’s). At age 17 I scored my first gig as a billboard painter in Helena, Montana. My first art school degree was pre-computer graphics design.

Do you work with other mediums?
I have always been a watercolor painter but my Moodxotica paintings in acrylics are what I’m known for. Currently I design fabrics, hand tuft rugs, build, sew custom shirts, and make tiki party décor from recycled cardboard. I have screen printed t-shirts with no electricity on a remote island in Fiji, made tiki mugs 15 yrs before the curve, and hand painted numerous award winning art cars over the yrs.

Can you tell us about your artistic process and how the different stages work into it?
Its all about imagination and problem solving how to get from idea to a finished piece. As an artist, that’s a lifetime of honing skill sets. I tend to guard my methods of production and problem solving. I’m not a teacher but I can share a couple bits of advice I live by. “Figure out what works best for you” - one size does not fit all kind of philosophy, and "paint your smallest detail with your biggest brush." That’s one to ponder on, took me about 45 years. A lot of times I figure out what I’m doing by just going for it with a general idea in mind and an arsenal of knowledge and tools. At my age I’m pretty well versed in getting from A to B.

Tell us about where your inspiration for your art come from?
My base of inspirations come from traditional South Pacific art forms, PNW mid century modern, vintage architectural renderings, the lifetime study of a limited color palette of aquamarines (technically phthalo blues and greens), and an unidentified memory from a parallel universe sometime in the 1970’s. All underpinning my biggest inspiration which is my own imagination.

Do you have a specific “beat” you like best – nature, food, profiles etc?
I am one of the founding artists of the entire tiki revival dating back to the mid '90s. The first woman artist still working exclusively in tiki , and still the only internationally known tiki artist in Seattle 30 years later. For decades I have identified as Sophista-tiki which I describe as "grade school 1962, meets travel agency reception area."

Do you have one piece of art that means more to you, or is extremely special to you?
Dawn of Marquesan Modern. My tiki magazine cover art from spring 2013. To me, its my perfect vision of my aesthetic. It was included in a museum exhibit in Paris that coincided with the Taschen book Tiki Pop. It was the first painting I put the space needle in and now I try to get it in every one.

What experiences in your life have affected your art the most?
Living on a beach in Fiji and the perpetual struggle for recognition as a woman artist at my level in my genre. I find the fight to be acknowledged and not copied to be a gigantic motivator in constantly topping my own work.

If we want to see more of your work where should we go to find?
I market all of my own work on social media. The best place to get all the eye candy including my house - The Bamboo Grove of Westwood, what I’m working on, and first peek at available originals is Instagram at dawnfrasierartistofficial. Prints, DAWNCRAFT, Sophista-tiki Togs, RUGXOTICA décor, and Sophista-kites tiki party decorations are all in my etsy shop. My 600+ fabrics are on Spoonflower.

What is next for you? Anything you’re working on right now that you’re really excited about?
I always have more ideas than I could complete in multiple lifetimes. Currently I’m launching my new flavor PanExotica77. The life's work of mysterious 70’s exotica artist Buck Masters. It's going to be so rad! I’m publishing several projects including my zine Sophista-tiki, The Tiki Revivals Missing History, a coffee table book of my Moodxotica paintings and a book of my fabric designs. I’m also making pieces for an immersive environment gallery space. I wont give away the details unless someone is offering me the space to pull it off.

Lastly, how do you take your coffee? We ask everyone!
Rocket fuel with a splash.