For these queer Utah creators, making art is ‘a safe space’

From ceramics to clothing, here are some of the many queer artisans working in Utah.

(HB Hadfield) Mugs, like this rainbow design, are the specialty of Utah-based artist HB Hadfield, who creates under the Haybae Art brand.

For Abraham Von August, creator and owner of the “very curated, non-gender specific” clothing brand trash canthe ability to express oneself without constraints is paramount.

“Whether we think we’re fashionable or not, putting on clothes is important for everything. It gives you an opportunity to feel empowered or emboldened,” says August. “I think [it’s] the same with homosexuality and the ability to express oneself.

This is partly what inspired them to create the brand. It all started with a deep love for collecting vintage clothing, then later downsizing a large closet. When they tried to sell items at state consignment stores, they realized that getting $7.50 for a denim jacket wasn’t a bargain.

A big user of the Etsy web platform, through which many independent artists and designers sell their work, August decided to start reselling her clothes there. The platform does not allow a seller to create a seller account without having at least one item available.

“I put on this black denim vest,” Von August said. “It sold out immediately. I wasn’t even ready to sell anything yet.

With that, trashpaca was on.

(Francisco Kjolseth | Salt Lake Tribune File Photo) Abraham Von August, owner of trashpaca, is seen here at a vintage market at the Clubhouse in Salt Lake City in September 2021. Von August said his goal was “to really create a gender-free space, sort of eliminating the gender of dressing.

“My goal with trashpaca is to really create a genderless space, kind of eliminate gender from dressing up,” Von August said. “Just wear things that make you happy rather than trying to gender-specific colors, clothes, fabrics or cuts.”

As a black, queer, non-binary person in Utah, Von August said they strive to make clothing in a way that helps people feel safe. “When you’re able to express yourself in a certain way, it creates a safe space for other queer people,” they said. “When I see someone dressing a certain way, like wearing something that’s not socially acceptable for their perceived gender, I feel safe. I’m like, ‘Oh, these are my people. ‘ »

This security extends to size and how a body fluctuates. Von August strives in photo shoots to show an item of clothing on several different body types.

Von August said he wanted to show people that a size, number or letter doesn’t mean they only fit in a certain box. With their work, they said they hope to not only challenge people’s perception of gender, but also encourage them to become more accepting of it.

“Wearing clothes is vitally important to expression,” Von August said.

In a similar vein of expression, Utah ceramic artist and potter HB Hadfield strives to create pieces that resonate with people. Even though pottery might seem like a less obvious artistic expression than clothing, they say that as a queer artist, it’s important to set things apart.

(HB Hadfield) Mugs, like this design of rainbow-colored flowers, are the specialty of Utah-based artist HB Hadfield, who creates under the Haybae Art brand.

“I feel like most of the ceramics I’ve seen are pretty common and normal,” Hadfield said. “So what I try to do is create funky things that people can really resonate with.”

Hadfield is currently working on a series of mugs referencing the Pride flag, with subtle designs like flowers or larger ones like rainbows. Their designs are in different colors, representing the colors of the flag for different gender identities.

“When they see a certain mug, they have to have it because they feel like it embodies them,” Hadfield said. “That’s what part of art is: that you see yourself represented, when many art forms have become so heteronormative.”

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Gay creators

Looking to support queer creators? Here are five Utah brands to try.

Aquatic underwear • This Salt Lake City company, run by Mel Martinez, creates custom handmade underwear for all genders, sizes, disabilities and people.

Art Haybae • A commissioned artist in Salt Lake City, HB Hadfield, who specializes in ceramics and pottery, but also dabbles in watercolor and tapestry.

SoyMurga • A clean, non-toxic home decor company in Ogden that makes mists, body scrubs, room sprays, soy wax candles and fondants by owner/creator Marcelino Murga.

tlcartco • An illustration shop that sells prints and stickers by Pleasant Grove-based artist Bea Colon.

trash can • A gender-neutral clothing brand based in Salt Lake City, focused on Abraham Von August’s fluid waistline and curation. They also do art prints.

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