Kindred Artist of the Week: Abigail Kokai

It's kinda like, solving the problem is your brain working, and finishing the project is your heart working.

Presenting our Kindred Artist of the Week series! We are big fans of all the artists we work with and we are so excited to share their stories!

This week’s featured artist is Abigail Kokai, the creative force behind Homer Whales. We love her delightful upcycled creations, plus her commitment to the real creatures - 10% of every purchase goes back to whale research!

Who are you?

I am a professional artist and creative quilter that landed in Alaska some years back and just kinda never left.  I was born and raised in Ohio and started sewing when I was about 7. My mother and grandmother made quilts, and my mother is very artistic. I have a BFA in Industrial Design from the Columbus College of Art and Design, and MFA in Fibers from the Savannah College of Art and Design.

What do you do?

I spend most of my waking hours cutting up old clothes and turning them into whales and then shipping them around the state. When I'm not doing that, I'm sketching, hoarding quilting cottons, drinking coffee, mending my socks, making art, designing posters, and cooking.

Who/what inspires you?

A couple of things:

  1. graphic novels, telling stories through pictures and sometimes adding words. To me, really simple line drawings can say sooooooooooo much.
  2. elements of everyday life, there are a lot of seemingly insignificant objects and practices to our day-to-day life that are in other ways very distinct to our current place in history, like how people live right now, right here.
  3. movements from around the world and through history, that have been quietly expressed in quilts (arpilleras, sujini & kantha, even 'war rugs', the supposed Underground Railroad quilts, etc.)
  4. geographically based aesthetics/trends when it comes to making quilts.

What’s your favorite moment in the process?

The most exciting moment for me is about 1/3 of the way into anything. It's that moment when you have an idea that you've been thinking about for a while, then you have that 'poof' moment of realization of how you are going to do it. That's it. After that, then it's all labor and time, and then you have the finished item. Granted, every time I finish a whale I take a little look at it and it puts a smile on my face...every time. Ya know, it's kinda like, solving the problem is your brain working, and finishing the project is your heart working.

What’s a trick of your trade, or a piece of advice for other artists in your medium?

Never. Stop. Reading. I cannot stress this enough! Read books relevant to your business, medium, craft, history. Podcasts are good, but books are the real deal.

What’s next?

Obviously, more whales. But I want to take more time for myself to continue making art, quilt, and textile stuff about my experiences in Homer and in Alaska. Alaska is a unique place, and while there are a lot of creative people here, I still find myself scratching my head and trying to figure out how to express all this vastness.

Stop by the shop to see our current selection of Homer Whales!

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