Craft Lake City Artisan Profiles
ABRAHAM VON WAFFLES
“I think of my work [as] me trying to work towards wizardry,” says Abraham Von Waffles, jeweler and visual artist, whose beard and accessories suggest that he may actually be a modern wizard.
Von Waffles constructs the majority of his pieces using teeth. On the decision to use these biological pieces, Von Waffles shares a story of how he and his girlfriend, Squid, had seen photos from a couple they follow on Instagram—the fellow had proposed to his wife with a ring containing a tooth. They agreed that the gesture and the ring were quite romantic. “We’re both enamored with the idea of having a piece of yourself in something,” Von Waffles says, “ you’re going to bond yourself to someone forever.”
Some may have hygienic concerns when deciding whether to wear something formerly attached to a living being. He says, “Everything is super-clean and ready to go. I use a peroxide bath to wash—enough to seal it off, so [only] the right bacteria is on there.” Regarding durability, Von Waffles says, “Teeth are actually the hardest part of the body. They hold up really well.”
We asked why Abraham chose “Von Waffles” as a title:
“When I think of forest magick, I think of a lumberjack [who] would only like a waffle. With breakfast being the most important meal of the day, it’s good to start off with something rigid [and] soft—butter and maple syrup. So it’s sweet, it’s crunchy—you’ve got the little pocket to take the hot butter … It’s a beautiful way to start out a morning.”
While jewelry is what Von Waffles is gaining the most attention for, he is also working on a series of notebooks called “Spellbound Sketchpads.” The samples I saw were very appealing, with a range of materials and color options. Von Waffles says, “My vision for them is, instead of writing a spell out—you’re drawing. Creating magic through your picture.”
Asked about what he’s looking forward to as a participant at Craft Lake City’s DIY Fest, Von Waffles says, “I’m just so stoked that we get to meet other artists and get deeper in the scene. I love the fact that it brings out and gives the artists that are more experimental an opportunity to come out of hiding, if you will, and show their work.” –T.H.
It’s always so pleasant to meet someone who is funnier and more thoughtful than you. That’s why, when I was tapped to write about Dominique LaJeunesse for SLUG’s Craft Lake City issue, I kissed my peace lily goodnight and wrote a small poem in my diary about how lucky I am to share with our city just how fucking wonderful this bitch really is. Oh, whoops, you got me there. I’m sorry, and I really can’t help it—therapy’s doing NOTHING—but my blood boils with rage whenever I scroll through Dominique’s Instagram account, @doorknobinique. Everything she posts makes me froth at the mouth with indignation at her pop culture know-it-all-itry. I love King of the Hill, Die Hard and Silence of the Lambs more than anyone, so knowing she can screen cap one of those tender moments and make randomly brilliant quips about them means that she has a deeper knowledge of those things than I ever will, and oh, God, do I hate her.
Naturally, about a year ago, when I started noticing her posting craft that she started making in celebration of all things Prince and American Psycho, my urge to get all Voodoo on Dominique turned into me drunk-dialing her for special orders of custom-made good shit. And let’s get to what that is: LaJeunesse and her mum frequent thrift stores and buy all of the picture frames, crappy jewelry, prayer candles, discarded shadow boxes and wall plaques, and she repurposes them with film, television and music photos—some of the coolest showing of memorabilia I’ve ever seen. I’m serious, you guys: Her work has garnered enough attention to be featured in an art show about Nicolas Cage, quite possibly the most bat-shit thespian that’s ever walked the Earth (Syrup Loft in L.A., 939 Maple Ave. on July 19).
Purchasing her stuff will make you EXPLODE (in a good way). Luckily, there are places to access her treasure trove of wonders, so let’s go through them now. The aforementioned Instagram is a great place for locals to browse and place orders. Then there’s her page on Etsy: etsy.com/shop/GlitterRansom. Please, please, please don’t forget that this lovely lady is participating in Craft Lake City’s DIY Festival for the first time this year! OK, so my hate has turned into fierce love—what? –Ashlee Mason
HANSON MUSIC WORKS
If the neck on Bret Hanson’s two-string, fretless cigar box bass looks familiar, it could be a leg from that table you left on the street for Salt Lake City’s neighborhood cleanup. But, unless you fantasized about that table leg in the context of a music store or thrift shop, you probably won’t recognize it.
Hanson combines cigar boxes, reclaimed wood and old bolts to create unique, bluesy-sounding instruments. He’s always gotten the cigar boxes (for the guitars’ bodies) from thrift and antique stores, but at first, he bought wood from hardware stores. Explaining why he now prefers reclaimed wood, Hanson says, “It’s more fun because each [instrument] comes out differently. They all sound different, and it’s a new riddle to solve. It’s a new challenge to figure out.” Remanufacturing the same piece with hardware store wood doesn’t appeal to Hanson. Plus, he likes the idea of taking throwaway objects and transforming them into playable works of art. He says, “It’s a balance between sculpture and instrument.” The cigar boxes with metal hinges and steel outlet covers give the pieces the look Hanson describes as “sound-based sculpture.”
The fabrication of custom, wooden bicycle fenders is what introduced Hanson to carpentry. Without any real training, he consulted the Internet and then tinkered until the fenders looked right. He transferred to luthiery out of necessity. Hanson says, “I just started building stuff I wanted because I write music.” The first instrument was a cajón drum—a wooden box for all your percussion needs. Next, Hanson built a lap steel guitar. Over the two years since, Hanson has built around 30 instruments.
In addition to spending time as the artist-in-residence at The Leonardo, Hanson sold his work at Craft Lake City’s DIY Festival last year. He’s excited for the upcoming DIY Festival because, as Hanson says, “The key thing is to get [the instruments] into people’s hands. When people hear them, they get excited.” Hanson sells most of his pieces over Etsy, but people want to be able to hear and play the instruments.
If you want to see Hanson’s work, check out his Facebook page or Etsy shop. Don’t be surprised if his online selection looks sparse right now. Hanson says, “I’ve dialed down my Etsy because I want to make sure I have enough for [the] Craft Lake City [DIY Festival].” –Steve Richardson
Finding the right vintage piece can be tedious, but thanks to Rachael Rawlins Skidmore (L) and Stefanie Lopez (R) of Maeberry Vintage, you can cut the hunt time and start looking fly today! Embracing retro style, the two carefully select and maintain a collection of clothing in which you can find timeless pieces that are classic works of art. What Skidmore started as a solo venture in 2010, with an online marketplace on Etsy, has evolved over the years (thanks in large part to Craft Lake City’s DIY Festival) into a partnership with Lopez, where the duo work hand in hand in their shop located Downtown beneath Now & Again on 207 E. Broadway.
Of the partnership, the two gush about how fate guided them to each other like business soulmates. When Lopez visited the Maeberry booth at last year’s DIY Festival, she spoke of a feeling she had that she’d never felt before, even toward a romantic partner. “It just felt like I should talk to her,” she says, and a week later, after a dinner to discuss business ideas, Lopez says that the two “decided right then that we would open up a shop together.”
The partnership has worked out in their favor, as they are able to balance motherhood with entrepreneurship. Having initially opened in the Artspace area, they were introduced to the world of manning a physical location, but, since March, they have enjoyed their new Downtown location, with higher foot traffic and neighboring shops to encourage shoppers who might have missed them otherwise to check them out.
While they still maintain their Etsy account, the physical location, situated in the lower level of what was once Retro Rose, allows people to bring pieces in to sell or trade, creating a diverse supply of classic pieces. Some people may come in and not know what to do with the pieces, but the pair recommend at least trying it on before dismissing an article of clothing. “A lot of people get really threatened by vintage clothing for some reason, almost like they look at it like a costume. I think people would be surprised if they tried stuff on,” Lopez says. As Skidmore advises, “The thing to remember is that nothing in fashion is new—it’s all a repeat, so why not have the original?” –Brinley Froelich
I have to confess: I’m the type of person that can kill the un-killable. Despite my best efforts, my caretaking skills for houseplants still, somehow, find a way to suffocate, overwater, or under-light the plants that you barely even have to maintain. This is a curse, but Lexi Dowdall of Northside Terrariums may have introduced me to a cure. Returning to Craft Lake City’s DIY Festival for her second year, Dowdall creates one-of-a-kind pieces by thrifting for ornate glass containers and throwing in a combination of moss, sticks, plants and small figurines to create tiny little ecosystems that not only please the eyes but are simple to maintain.
Graduating with a degree in biology from Washington State University, Dowdall did what most of us millenials have done and didn’t apply her collegiate studies upon graduation. This left a hole in Dowdall’s life until she stumbled upon the art of making terrariums, which ignited the flames of a new hobby. “It was kind of my way to getting back to my bio-nerd self,” she says, and she quickly started experimenting with creating her own pieces. After making a few for fun, she soon realized there was a market for her creations, and after a successful first year at Craft Lake City’s DIY Festival, she’s decided to return and expand on her terrariums.
This year, Dowdall will not only have an abundance of terrariums to choose from and customize with buyers’ accessories, but she has also decided to try her hand at wall-mounted pieces, with hanging succulent gardens and with string art that infuses locally inspired shapes with a vibrant flair.
As far as mothering these pieces, Dowdall insists that, “[they’re] really easy to care for. If [the terrariums] die, all you have to do is go on a quick hike, gather some moss and put it back in. It’s an easy fix.” Be sure not to make the common mistake that I always make, though: “You have to be careful about overwatering. That’s probably the biggest thing,” Dowdall says, and she suggests hanging succulent gardens: “For people who really suck at plants, it’s hard to kill it if you just water it once a month.” For more information, or to see some of her works, be sure to check out her Instagram, @kapowder, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. –Brinley Froelich
SILVER WOLF CHAINMAIL
The thought of chainmail artistry might have you picturing a crew of foam sword-swinging LARPers casting spells on each other in the park. I know I’ve seen some homemade chainmail deflecting spongy blades. What Steven May creates with chainmail, although influenced by medieval Europe, shouldn’t be called armor.
Like many habits, May was introduced to chainmail through high school friends. He stuck with it and, after teaching himself the craft in 2010, decided to make his hobby a business: Silver Wolf Chainmail.
May knows the general perception of chainmail and says, “When people think chainmail, they think of the medieval knights, but then they see it as fine jewelry, and they’re just blown away.” His fine jewelry includes earrings, necklaces, bracelets and even hairpins. One of his signature pieces is the chainmail necktie. It’s typically made from aluminum, but May doesn’t play favorites with metals. One client contacted May requesting a sterling silver tie. May says the finished product will take about 13 ounces of fine silver. Other chainmail artists have made ties, but when May didn’t like their knots, he designed his own through paper mockups and some trial and error. The shape and contours of his knot look cleaner than any silk knots I’ve tied. When asked about the specifics of the knot, May says, “I’m not telling how I made my knot. That’s my secret.”
Sticking to his method of trial and error, May recently designed a new product that he’s excited to have this year. It’s a woman’s top that’s more reminiscent of Princess Leia than the Knights of the Round Table. The top has a scale design that wasn’t easy to figure out. May says, “I’d think, ‘That doesn’t look right,’ or ‘That doesn’t lay right,’ and I’d have to take it apart and put it back together.”
Silver Wolf Chainmail doesn’t have an online store yet, but May shows his work at festivals and art fairs like Urban Arts and Craft Lake City’s DIY Festival. His friends have suggested renaissance festivals. I think his friends might be on to something. May is returning to the Craft Lake City DIY Festival this year and encourages everyone to come see his work. He says, “Support your local artists, because, you know, a lot of stuff from China is just junk.” If you miss him, shame on you, but you can still find his work at silverwolfchainmail.blogspot.com. –Steve Richardson
Lance Iden runs Softwire Synthesis, a Salt Lake City–based modular synth designer and builder, whose primary realm of development involves the modular format known as the Eurorack. A quick explanation: A modular synthesizer consists of a series of separate modules that can be reconfigured and patched into one another in any number of configurations—rarely creating the same sound twice.
“It’s open-ended,” says Iden. “There are probably 70 to 80 manufacturers you can choose from. I’m just one of those guys that produces options for people to build their system … I’m trying to implement my own take on something that might be classic, but make it more musical.”
Iden began as a guitarist and, as is often the case, quickly developed an obsession with effects pedals. “I ended up getting into the Moog pedals, which all have CV (control voltage—which creates audio signals or controls mechanical impulses) interfaces. So, instead of controlling a knob, you can use voltage to control it for you.” After waiting for, and eventually finding, a reasonably-priced modular system on Ebay, Iden had a new obsession. “Once you start, it’s like ‘I don’t need to buy guitars,’ so you can just buy modules. It just progresses—it’s what I’m interested in now.”
When asked which synthesizer builders and innovators may serve as an inspiration, Iden names early synth pioneer Don Buchla, designer of machines such as the Music Easel—currently in use by artists such as Alessandro Cortini.
“I’ve always liked the Buchla stuff. [Aesthetically], it’s just a beautifully designed instrument. I think I lean more towards that than I would, say, the Moog influence.”
Regarding Softwire’s future projects, Iden says, “as far as modules go, what I’m currently designing and planning on designing—the Eurorack—is super compact right now, and I [want to create] a simpler interface that’s more intuitive to use.” He continues, “so it changes from something that you can patch up [to something else], to something that you play as an instrument.”
As a participant in Craft Lake City’s DIY Festival, Iden says he’s looking forward to “interacting with people who’ve never seen a real modular in person. I’d seen modulars online for years before I got one. The likelihood of [many people] having seen one is pretty slim, so I think there are a lot of people that’ll be stoked by them.” –T.H.