My absolute favorite local cafe, Farley's Coffee, has my work up on the walls for the month of July! They're a mainstay of the Potrero neighborhood -- they have a lovely parklet right outside, they host an annual pet costume parade for Halloween every year, and they always feature local artists' work on their walls. And they have bomb empanadas and oat milk matchas, too. Go check it out: Farley's Coffee SF 1315 18th St, San Francisco, CA 94107.
India's Platform Magazine recently did a nice feature on me. In this interview, I talk about why I started working with paper, my thoughts on having not gone to art school, and how client work has pushed me to grow creatively. Enjoy!
Bob Cut recently did a feature on me! They describe themselves as "a culture platform and magazine that speaks to living, loving, and being in the best city on the west coast." As a Bay Area native, I'm totally honored.
In this deep-dive interview, we discuss the recent name change, my creative influences, and how I feel about metal versus paper. Check out the interview here!
Every year, I raise money for the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center. I've raised $35,000 for the cause so far, and I'm planning to raise another $3,000 in the next month. In the past, I've raffled off a handful of prizes. This year, I'm switching it up a bit by guaranteeing a prize to everyone who donates a given amount!
Here's how it works:
- Decide which reward below you'd like to "purchase"
- Donate that amount here with a credit card: http://tofighthiv.org/goto/zai2018
- I'll send you a separate invoice for the shipping cost
- I'll ship you your reward!
Additionally, everyone who donates any amount under $50 will get one ticket in a raffle to win a small pleated paper piece or an enamel pin. Thus, everyone has a shot at winning something, no matter how small the donation.
Fine print: I'm capping my fundraiser at $3,000. Once I hit $3,000, you can still donate, but I can't guarantee any rewards. 100% of the donated money goes to the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center, two organizations that are doing critical, life-saving work to support people in my community. The shipping fees go to me, just to cover my shipping costs.
$50 (plus shipping): One enamel pin
$100 (plus shipping): One small pleated paper piece
$200 (plus shipping): One medium pleated paper piece
$300 (plus shipping): One large pleated paper piece
$500 (plus shipping): Large pleated paper piece + I will bike up the infamous Quadbuster hill an additional time
Under $50: One ticket in raffle to win a small pleated paper piece or an enamel pin
This June, I'll be participating in AIDS/LifeCycle for my seventh year in a row. AIDS/LifeCycle, for those of you who have never met me, is a seven-day, 545-mile bike ride from SF to LA. It's a massive fundraiser that supports the San Francisco AIDS Foundation and the Los Angeles LGBT Center, two organizations that are doing critical, life-saving work to curb the AIDS epidemic in California. This video about the ride will make you laugh, cry, and want to sign up: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HoxJ6G5OKTg
I participate in AIDS/LifeCycle every year for a number of reasons. I first got involved because the focus of my master's thesis research was HIV/AIDS, STIs, and sexual and reproductive health, and I wanted to find ways to support the cause outside of academia. I fell in love with AIDS/LifeCycle, and I kept coming back for more.
This will be my seventh year in a row participating in AIDS/LifeCycle. Prior to this year, I've personally raised $35,000 for the cause, and for two of those years, I was founder and captain of the Box Team, which raised over $130,000 while I was in charge. I'm currently a training ride leader for AIDS/LifeCycle, and spend most of my weekends leading rides and supporting people new to the community.
I ride because I have friends who have have been touched by HIV or AIDS, and I see that the fight isn't over. I ride because the federal government still refuses to fund effective harm-reduction programs like clean needle exchanges -- which means that we rely on private donations to keep these services afloat. I ride because I love the AIDS/LifeCycle community -- including everyone who has ever donated! -- and what we can accomplish together!
I was recently interviewed by Various Artists about what I listen to while I work. Various Artists is a neat project that features creatives and the types of music that they listen to at work. Check out the article for a discussion of the role music plays in my work, some of my guilty pleasures, and a link to my go-to playlist. Enjoy!
Exciting news! Starting today, I’m retiring the Elektra Steel brand, and will be going by my given name, Zai Divecha. Elektra Steel has been good to me, but I’m ready for a new chapter (at least with regard to the name). Cheers!
Introducing my collab with Fellow Products! We’re raffling off this hand-painted Stagg Kettle to raise money for Girls Inc. of Alameda County. This collab fundraiser is in honor of Women’s History Month (aka #BossLadies Month). Raffle tickets are only a few bucks, and you can get them here: go.rallyup.com/fellow. Raffle closes March 31st, 2018.
Here are some behind-the-scenes videos of me working on this piece:
One of my new year’s resolutions for last year was to make most of my Christmas gifts. Mission accomplished! I made these half-moon Cocobolo serving boards for everyone in my family.
It was a team effort, though! My (soon-to-be) father-in-law introduced me to his favorite exotic wood supply place, and my Maker Fam bud Jeff Goodwin from Krakatoa Design helped me with every step of the fabrication at his woodshop in Alameda.
Surprise: Wood is fun! What a revelation. Might consider making some of these to sell if there's interest...
I showed off some new work at Renegade Craft Fair this past weekend -- which included my largest piece to-date, a six-foot high ribbon wall hanging. Thanks to everyone who came out and said hello!
I've got a couple more holiday events on the calendar, so if you'd like to come check out these pieces in person, check out the events page. And if you'd like to place an order for one of these four pieces, you can do that through my online shop.
I recently made a Maple Loop for a San Francisco-based interior designer's home. His taste in decor is obviously impeccable, so getting a commission from him -- for his own home, no less! -- was an honor.
If you'd like to discuss a custom piece of your own, get in touch through this form.
I'm moving into a new studio space* next month, and because I'm all about that Marie Kondo life, I'm paring down my possessions. I have a handful of one-of-a-kind pieces in my studio that I'm never going to make again, and I'm ready to find homes for them. Take a look, and let me know if any of these strike your fancy!
Claro Cart: Normally $1,800, on sale for $1400
Dodecahedron Floor Lamp: Normally $1,200, on sale for $980
Nest: Normally $2,2,00, on sale for $1,800
Large Geo Vase: Normally $580, on sale for $450 -- UPDATE: SOLD
Cube Rose No. 2: normally $1,200, on sale for $700
Mountain: Normally $400, on sale for $250
On Thursday, I had an opening reception to celebrate some new works going on display at Harmonic Brewing in the Dogpatch. The three new wall hangings feature some new materials for me: maple, walnut, and mirrored acrylic. Check it out:
As an extrovert who's running a business solo, events like these totally give me life. It's highly motivating to have a deadline, and it's such a treat to have customers, friends, and loved ones show up and hang out for a few hours. Some of the neighbors came by, too -- folks from both Center Hardware and Philz Coffee stopped in to chat!
I also used the event as an excuse to do a soft launch for my new line of enamel pins, which are essentially wearable, micro versions of my wall hangings. Pins are available now in the shop.
This is a guest post written by Elektra Steel's summer intern, Alexis Bullock! Alexis is a rising sophomore at Northwestern, majoring in Art Theory and Practice and Psychology. She made herself totally indispensable this summer -- she produced and photographed a line of enamel pins, developed a launch plan, researched potential wholesale accounts, and helped paint a mural. In this post, she reflects on what she took away from her two internships this summer.
I started this summer wanting to get a better idea of the different paths that art offered. I had two jobs so I could test the waters in two different areas of the art world. The first was with Elektra Steel, so that I could see how a maker operates. The second with Catharine Clark Gallery, so that I could explore the gallery-side of artistic careers. Over the course of the summer, a simple two-month investigation of gallery and maker careers morphed into a reflection about my own artwork and how I wanted my future in the arts to take form.
I began to understand what it took to develop a portfolio of my work in a comprehensive and professional way. That understanding was supplemented by the work I did at the gallery, where I learned about the represented artists, their bodies of work, and how they documented them. I became invested in documenting my own work: I kept a journal of all previous, current, and future projects, photographed my finished works, and created a website and Instagram account to serve as my artistic portfolio.
Working with Zai gave me the opportunity to see the behind the scenes of all of her Instagram posts, blogs, and design thinking. It helped me to see my art not only as a hobby or a side project, but as a career. Despite this new outlook, putting together the portfolio often felt overwhelming: I had never created a website, and felt like I was posing as a maker when I didn’t have the authority to put my work out online.
Making a journal to track my works, the professional connections I made this summer, and my website and Instagram activity helped me focus on building a portfolio for my own sake, not for the sake of others to see it. Zai made sure I understood the most important part of building this portfolio: to document my work for the future, not for the present. I wasn’t starting an Instagram to get a certain number of followers or likes, but rather to have an established platform where I could collect and share my work going forward.
With that in mind, I began creating my website on Squarespace, and set up a professional email and Instagram as well. Although I only have three of my projects on the site right now, it has made me more sure that I want to continue creating and sharing work. I truly believe now that all makers should collect their work online in some form. For me, it has become the foundation of endless inspiration for more projects.
Here are some process photos from an experiment I did earlier this summer. It was technically challenging, and I learned a lot. This piece isn't quite ready for prime-time yet, but it was a pretty cool v1 prototype!
For the fabricators and tinkerers out there who are curious about how I made this:
- Created a sphere with Voronois facets in Grasshopper/Rhino (thanks, Phil!)
- Stretched out the form and removed facets in SketchUp
- "Unfolded" the model in the buggy and (I think?) now-defunct 123D Make (probably gonna switch to Pepakura or Fusion)
- Cleaned up the file in Illustrator and created the vector drawing for lasercutting
- Had the parts lasercut
- For two of the bowls, I tried TIG welding the parts together; for one, I MIG welded it. The welding would have been much easier if I'd had a second pair of hands. The parts required a lot of strength to hold them in the right spots (you can't clamp an irregular beast like this!), and TIG welding with filler rod requires two hands. I ended up getting crafty with weights, props, and using my elbows and knees to hold the pieces in the right place in order to weld. It was not pretty!
Things I still need to figure out:
- The edges and corners are super sharp, so it's unpleasant to touch
- I'm trying to avoid welding all of the edges
- I'm not sure I like the look of either tabs or perforations
For now, this piece is on the back burner. But it inspired another set of irregular, faceted vessels, so stay tuned for that!
I painted my first mural! Thanks to Redwood City Parks, Recreation, and Community Service, I recently got the opportunity to beautify a set of utility boxes at the corner of Middlefield Rd. and Willow St. in Redwood City, California.
One of my goals for this year was to paint a mural. I'd been wanting to explore my favorite patterns but on a larger scale. I saw that Redwood City Parks, Recreation, and Community Service had put out a call for artists, and I applied. I put together a proposal based on the maze motif I'd developed in a previous steel project. My design was selected, and I dove in!
This project came with a number of challenges, all of which made me a better artist. First, I learned how to work with paint! I hadn't painted anything in years, and this project was a crash course in primer, mixing colors, and using painter's tape. Secondly, working away from a studio -- and away from tools, a sink, and supplies -- meant that I had to plan ahead, and keep a mobile studio in the back of my car. Lastly, it was 90 degrees. Some days, my shirt was drenched with sweat by 8:30am! I have a newfound respect for anyone whose job requires them to be out in the elements all day long.
The best part of this project was getting to know the community during those six days I spent on that street corner. I had lovely chats with curious folks stopped at the red light. I fielded questions and waves from little kids. I chatted with Mexican workers in broken Spanglish. I got a joyful pep talk from a homeless woman pushing a shopping cart. On an especially hot day, an employee from the grocery store nearby came by and brought me a coconut water. An hour later, a woman in a passing car literally offered me the hat off her head. I got more smiles and thumbs-ups from strangers than I could begin to count.
I feel like I've gotten to know this corner of Redwood City so well. It's been an honor and a privilege. This sounds cheesy, but it was humbling to see how a little splash of art on a street corner could bring smiles to so many people's faces. This project was my first foray into public art, and I think I might be hooked.
If you're in the area, go check out the boxes in person! Here's a map of where they're located. And if you'd like to check out all of the other public art in Redwood City, check out the Explore RWC app for Apple and Android phones. (Side note: How cool is it that Redwood City not only invests in public art, but even built an app to help people discover it!)
Here are some process photos:
Thank you to the following folks:
- Redwood City Parks, Recreation, and Community Service: Thank you for selecting my design and giving me this amazing opportunity! Sheila Cepero and Beth Mostovoy, thank you for supporting local artists and giving us a platform to share our work.
- Alexis Bullock: Thanks to my awesome summer intern for being down to help me paint this mural in the blazing heat!
- Sigona's Farmers Market: Thanks for being my "home base" throughout this project! Your food, parking lot, and bathroom were lifesavers, and I really enjoyed getting to meet Carmelo and a handful of your employees.
- Johnathon DeSoto: Your tape tutorials were a game-changer, Johnathon! Thanks for sharing your secrets with me.
- Jeff Goodwin, Emi Grannis, and Nicole Sweeney: Thanks, Maker Fam, for your moral support throughout this project (and always).
- Phil Reyneri: I will never forget that you drove all the way down to Redwood City just to help me with that damned shade structure -- I owe you one!
Just wrapped up my biggest job to date: Six custom wall hangings for a San Francisco hedge fund office! These photos are from before the installation, so stay tuned for pics of the pieces in their beautiful new homes.
Here's Maze, a giant triptych for their main conference room:
And here are the three pieces in the Folds series:
If you're interested in a custom piece for your office or home, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.