“The past is a foreign country,” author L.P. Hartley famously wrote in his book The Go-Between. Perhaps that’s why we hold on to the postcards…
Hana Tojo is a local silversmith and woodworker who takes time to give back to the Topanga community by volunteering. Hana is nonbinary and uses the pronouns they and them. I met Hana on an unusually warm winter Saturday, at one of our Topanga New Times beach clean-ups. After the event, our volunteers took shoreline respite in the sun, sipping aqua fresca and nibbling on vegan sweet corn tamales donated by Adriana of La Chingona Tacos. At a safe distance, we peeled off our masks and dipped into the sea. It was sublime medicine. I later reconnected with Hana, in passing, while fueling our cars down on PCH. We agreed to meet for a discussion on community, creativity, and cooking.
What is it about community and our environment that propels you to be hands on in participating in volunteer work?
I feel community is part of life’s magic. We need it to breathe to survive this world we live in today. This past year was a great teacher in how we react and how quickly we can adjust to drastic changes. How we can build family around us to support one another when the government can’t. To feed each other and offer work/support to our friends/small businesses alike. To me community is all we have so whatever I can do to be of service is what feels most authentic to my being.
Your silversmith work and woodworking are entirely hands-on disciplines. When did you first feel compelled to explore these two mediums? How do they differ and how are they alike?
They both kind of started around 2016/2017. I had a lot of free time on my hands with a business that was thriving in Manhattan, while living in Venice beach, so I started to pick up some hobbies. The rings all started in my friend Tini’s shop on Abbot Kinney. She had some lost wax and everything a jeweler could ever want and told me to have at it. So I did. I fell in love with it the very first day. It came naturally to me, felt like an organic process.
The same thing happened with woodworking. I made a bench and that was it. I fell in love and couldn’t stop making things: tables, benches, desks and more. These two things feel similar and familiar to me. Like I was made to work with my hands. The textures, the feel of metal and wood, I simply love it. I really enjoy the ability to make what I need. I don’t have to buy much, which means less waste. I’m a big fan of using less. I use recycled gold/metal and reclaimed wood.
I am attempting to start combining the two mediums at some point. Metal and wood are a good marriage and I’m in search of something more sculpture like, more art pieces. We’ll see where that takes me. In the meantime I’m just enjoying the slow pace. Embracing this time to create. I’m very much a writer of poetry at heart but working with my hands is a must. Anything to express art in some form.
While observing safer at home guidelines do you find that there’s an ebb and flow to creating? Is there an impulse to start a project or does the inspiration gradually come to you?
I absolutely have an ebb and flow to my art. With writing, something channels through, something happens and I have to write. Sometimes for hours, sometimes it’s only five words that come out. But it flows and it happens randomly. No matter what, I exercise my writing daily. With rings it’s very similar. I think of a shape, a texture, and have to create it right then and there. I feel it’s a bit easier with wood, since most of the time I’m creating pieces designed by me and the client. So it’s a simple drawing and execution. There is always some improv in there somewhere, as I usually get a better idea towards the middle of the project.
Connect with Topanga artist Hana Tojo on IG @hanatojo www.htojo.com