Stab Magazine | Artist Jeff Canham's New Mollusk Show Is Bitchin

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Artist Jeff Canham’s New Mollusk Show Is Bitchin

Don’t miss “Everything Under The Sun,” opening tonight in San Francisco!

style // Nov 19, 2017
Words by Stab
Reading Time: 5 minutes

For the last two decades, Seattle-born, Hawaiian-raised, San Francisco-based artist Jeff Canham has quietly left his finely-tuned fingerprints on surf culture at large.

For half a decade in the early-’00s, Canham put his careful touch on 

Surfer

 as their Art Director.

Along with Thomas Campbell, Andy Davis, Nat Russel, Serena Mitnick-Miller, Alex Kopps, and friends, Canham helped definie the hip art/surf aesthetic that blossomed in the mid-’00s, his hand-painted signwork (polished at San Francisco’s famous New Bohemia shop in SoMa) hanging everywhere from gallery walls to the storefronts of some of the most beloved local shops in San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles. 

Tonight, Canham’s new show,

“Everything Under The Sun,” opens at Mollusk’s Sunset, San Francisco location,

and we sat down to chat with him about the show and his work, as well as the new towel collaboration he

just released with Slowtide.
CANHAM 7

“Everything Under The Sun” opens November 18th at Mollusk San Francisco.

Can you tell us a bit about where you are from and how you got into design and painting and art?

I grew up in Hawaii and went to college in Oregon. I took art courses at school, but graphic design seemed like a more practical option so I majored in that, with a focus on typography. I minored in Art History.

My first job out of school was at Surfer Magazine, which was a dream come true. I grew up reading Surfer and studied David Carson’s work in school (he is an influential designer that worked there in the early 90’s).

I moved to San Francisco in 2005 and apprenticed at a small sign shop here called New Bohemia Signs, that specialized in hand-painted signs. They taught me everything I know about sign painting and really changed the way I made work. I was still doing graphic design and making art while I apprenticed at New Bohemia and the techniques and skills that I learned there I applied to everything else I was doing professionally. 

Can you sort of explain exactly what you do, as far as your everyday output?

I do a combination of graphic design, sign painting, and artwork. There’s a lot of crossover with those and most of the projects I work on now are a blend of all three. I love my work and that’s why I do it. 

93B6560

“I moved to San Francisco in 2005 and apprenticed at a small sign shop here called New Bohemia Signs that specialized in hand painted signs,” says Canham. “They taught me everything I know about sign painting and really changed the way I made work.”

Sign painting seems a bit of a lost art. Is there anything you’re trying to communicate working in the medium?

Every project is different, but most of the time I’m trying to get someone to think about something they’ve encountered before in a new way. Since I have an interest in letters, it often involves exploring language and the multiple ways words and phrases can be read and interpreted. 

What role does an artist have in society?

I think a good artist opens your eyes to new possibilities and invites you think about what ever subject they are tackling from a new perspective. 

You do a lot of sort of sculpture and sort of object-based stuff, and you also seem pretty open to collaborative projects. Tell us about the new towel (pictured above, hanging out).

I like that it’s functional as well as decorative. And who doesn’t need more towels? I’ve had the same tired towel from the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in the back of my van for ages. I can always use another towel.

 

93B6586

“I live by the beach in San Francisco and my studio shares a wall with Danny Hess who makes awesome wooden surfboards so I’m still surrounded by surfing,” says Canham.
 

93B6574

How did you get involved with Mollusk?

I met John [McCambridge], the founder of Mollusk, when we were both in an art show in Laguna ages ago. When I moved to San Francisco, he was one of the first people I bumped into here. He told me he was thinking about opening a surf shop which turned out to be Mollusk. I went with him when he ordered the sign for the shop at New Bohemia Signs and that was how I got introduced to sign painting. 

Did you grow up with a connection to Surfing? 

Growing up in Hawaii, just about everyone surfs at some point, I just stuck with it. I live by the beach in San Francisco and my studio shares a wall with Danny Hess who makes awesome wooden surfboards so I’m still surrounded by surfing. 

https://player.vimeo.com/video/118565890

Do you follow mainstream surfing still? Thoughts on the WSL? 

I love the WSL. I tune into all the contests I can. Mostly I’m just listening to the broadcast while I work and will start watching when I hear the commentators getting excited. I’ve got alerts set on my phone when John John surfs. I’m into it. 

Advice to a younger artists thinking about pursuing as a career?

Make a lot of work, find your own voice, and try to add something new to the conversation.

Any new projects that you are excited about?

Danny Hess and I just made several longboards together, small D-fin pigs, and I’m stoked on those. They are based on boards that I like to ride. He built them and I painted some graphics on them. They are at the glasser right now. But isn’t that what shapers always say?

 And I’ve been designing two books that I’m excited about. One with a photographer named Tatsuo Takei who has been shooting single-fin surfing in California for the last twenty years.

The other is a book by Marc Andreini, a legendary surfer and shaper who lives in Half Moon Bay. I’m looking forward to both of those coming out. 

93B6507

“Who doesn’t need more towels?,” says Canham of his collaboration. ” I’ve had the same tired towel from the Royal Hawaiian Hotel in the back of my van for ages. I can always use another towel.”

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