Studio Music: Lush // Grit

Here's what I've been listening to the last few months. It's a lot of hypnotic, edgy beats with lush instrumentals and couple sexy vocals thrown in. Enjoy!

Micro Pleats!

Just as an experiment, I replicated one of my larger pieces at half-scale. I halved it again, making an even smaller one. I thought I was done, but my studiomate Emi Grannis, lover all things microscopic, challenged me to half the scale again! Challenge accepted! I did some of the smallest pleats I've ever done. Here's the largest and the smallest ones:

Connections: Open Studio Exhibit

My studiomates and I opened our doors and showed off new work this past weekend. I showed a paper installation that featured projected light effects by Phil Reyneri and Lightform

Work on Display at Farley's Coffee

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.

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Red Stitched Accents

I've started incorporating tiny red stitched accents into my paper pieces, and I'm feeling pretty excited about it. It's such a small detail, but on a simple, otherwise monochromatic piece, it can change the feel of it.

Bob Cut Feature

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!

Zai's Annual HIV/AIDS Fundraiser

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:

  1. Decide which reward below you'd like to "purchase"
  2. Donate that amount here with a credit card: http://tofighthiv.org/goto/zai2018
  3. I'll send you a separate invoice for the shipping cost
  4. 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


Some backstory:

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!

What I Listen to While I'm Working

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!

Elektra Steel is now Zai Divecha

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!

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You can find my artwork on Instagram at @zaidivecha. And if you're interested in my cycling adventures, my personal Instagram account is over at @zaiilsa

Photo by Jaclyn Le, one of my fave portrait photographers around. She’s based in SF, and she’s currently accepting bookings!

Kettle Collab with Fellow Products

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:

Experiments with Paper Folding

I've been experimenting with paper folding lately! I've been making pleats and pop-ups, working my way through Paul Jackson's beautiful instructional books. I love that it requires precision, it's highly tactile, and it involves a good amount of logic. 

Cocobolo Serving Boards

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...

Loczi Design Opening

Had a lovely little opening at Loczi Design in San Francisco in early December! My work will be up on their beautiful walls for the next few months. If you missed the opening, swing by before April 2018! All of these pieces are available for purchase

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Renegade Craft Fair - Holiday 2017

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

Maple Loop for an Interior Designer's Home

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

Early Elektra Steel Pieces on Sale

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

*For those of you curious about the studio move, I'm staying at ShopFloor, but moving into a bigger, nicer space within the building. And I'm going to be sharing it with one of my favorite makers and humans on the planet, Emi Grannis!

LOOPS Opening Reception at Harmonic Brewing

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.

Come by Harmonic Brewing if you'd like to see these pieces in person! They have excellent beer and cheesy popcorn, and they often have a food truck parked outside. If you're interested in an enamel pin, my online shop is open for business.

Reflections from Summer Intern Alexis Bullock

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.

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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. 

  Alexis working on enamel pins for Elektra Steel.

Alexis working on enamel pins for Elektra Steel.

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.

   Drip I  by Alexis Bullock

Drip I by Alexis Bullock

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. 

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Check out Alexis's work in wood, metal, and thermoplastic over at alexisbullock.com, and follow her on Instagram at @alexisbullockdesigns

The Trickiest Thing I've Welded Lately

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!