The photos speak for themselves. Whether captured in the soft glow of analog film or the clean sparkle of digital, Affect Metals models look empowered, comfortable and deeply authentic, daring the viewer to deny their divine allure. The metal links of Abe's creations become what they call "queer armor". Like tattoos, they are a representation of self that is unique and tenacious. Each Affect Metals offering is handcrafted together by Abe, also known as sad__sack, in Los Angeles with the clear intention to create something that protects and enhances the internal strength of us all. Abe not only pieces together magnificent chainmail for collectors around the world; they also support and collaborate with many artists within and beyond the boundaries of sun soaked L.A.
In this interview, Abe talks about why they were drawn to chainmail and started Affect Metals, as well as the transformative act of tattoo collecting and the artists they admire.
First off, can you tell us a bit about yourself like your background, what you love to do and why you were drawn to it?
I am a non-binary queer artist, and the designer behind Affect Metals, a contemporary chainmail line designed and constructed in Los Angeles, CA. Affect Metals is made up of a range of types of pieces (from jewelry to lingerie to chain sex toys), and serves as an all-encompassing art project for me, in which I design and make pieces, but also photograph them, move in them, create art surrounding them. I think I have always been attracted to metal and chains--some Joan of Arc obsession intersected with my great-grandfather as miner that makes me feel a deep connection to metal.
I am from the Detroit sprawl, where I lived before moving to Austin, where I taught myself to work with metal. I then moved to LA nearly two years ago after completing grad school, where I now live as a dyke chain freak. ;)
I’d love if you could talk a bit about your tattoos, the meaning behind them if any, who did them and why you were attracted to getting tattoos as well? Were you worried about any stigma and was it a transformative experience for you?
Getting tattoos is extremely transformative for me--I think it is such a beautiful way to reclaim my body (and I appreciate the intimacy of the exchange of getting a tattoo from someone, too). I think i have always believed in the transformative power of pain (like what pain teaches us), and that is definitely an attraction to tattooing for me too.
A lot of my early tattoos came to me in dreams, they all felt like ways of adding a/symmetry to my body, divinely modifying my body to align with some higher idea of myself. One of my favorite tattoos is one of my earliest, it is a gradient stipple column on my chest that moves down my sternum. Because of its abstraction, I see a lot of how I felt in the moment that I got it, but I also constantly find new ways to relate to it. All of my tattoos have deep personal meaning to me (they are like a map of where I've been emotionally), but I also appreciate the ways in which my relationship to them can change over time.
What has your experience been like in tattoo studios or the tattoo community at large? How do you choose artists or studios that you know will facilitate a good experience?
That's a good question! A lot of tattoo studios are extremely masculine spaces, and I think this resulted in me not always feeling totally safe or recognized in the people around me, but also feeling uncertain of how to ask for certain things or assert myself (my least favorite tattoo for example, is one in which I think I struggled to say what I wanted to the artist, but now it serves as a reminder of the importance of advocating for myself). For me, it is important to not only find someone whose work I really love and appreciate, but also to find artists that I want to have that intimate exchange with. Now I really try to honor the identity of those whose work I am getting tattooed (so prioritizing queer, trans, POC artists over cis white men, for example). I definitely use the Internet as a tool to find new artists (following someone on Instagram for example can really give you a longterm exposure to their work). I feel like we all have friends doing beautiful work (both in and outside of traditional studios!). The internet seems to allow for a lot of travel and movement, and I love to catch a visiting artist, too.
This is a bit tangential, but I am from a conservative family in the midwest that was always anti-tattoo, but I had a very sweet experience this past summer, where my dad decided to get his first tattoo for his 60th birthday. He ended up going to the same artist who gave me my first three tattoos in Detroit, which felt like this extremely wholesome full circle exchange in which my dad and I got to share an experience I had never anticipated, which was a reminder of how lucky I was with the first artist I went to.
I love that Affect Metals is called “queer armor” and I often think of my tattoos as exactly the same. Was there a reason why you were drawn to creating such a time consuming, but powerful, piece of wearable art? Do you have an artistic philosophy behind your artistic output?
Mm, I love the connection to thinking of tattoos as armor as well! Yes, there is definitely a deeper intention behind the work I do with Affect Metals!
I have always been attracted to chains and chainmail, but I didn't start this project merely with the intention of making jewelry. Rather, I realized that chainmail felt like this deeply intimate and intentional way of weaving magic into something wearable, sensuous, and protective, all things that aid me in my own healing. I think that I have a magical relationship to metal--I view metal as a way for me to charge and weave my intention into divine, wearable objects. Each chain is meant to be a positively charged and protective object for the wearer, a type of armor. Every piece is painstakingly made, link by link, by me in LA, which further adds an element of the deeply personal.
I started using the phrase "queer armor" to describe my work in part because I am creating from the space of my own identity, but also because one of my primary intentions is to create fashion and fetish objects for queer and trans bodies. However, in this context "queer" also means "strange," and I aim to make contemporary armor for people, regardless of gender or sexuality, to protect themselves with in their everyday. It is all meant to be powerful, protective, and healing, a safe barrier between you and the world (much like skin, much like tattoos).
A lot of the pieces that I create are meant to be sensuous (such as lingerie, harnesses, as well as straight up sex toys, such as a chainmail flogger and a ball gag). I have realized that the feeling of being strapped in with chains allows not only for a sensual experience, but a healing one, as my work has helped me to feel sexually safe. This has become a major focus of what I'm doing now (and what I want to be doing in the future), as I think anything that helps people to feel comfortable and heal (especially in sexual situations) is deeply necessary and important.
How do you feel about the rise of queer voices within the tattooing/fine art communities? How do you think people can support these communities more?
I love this development! Having a greater variety of perspectives and identities involved in any art form only helps to push it forward and create positive change, in my opinion. Because traditional tattoo spaces have not always reflected this diversity, I think this development is deeply needed (and needs to expand and continue). I think the best way to support this is simply by reflecting this in your own tattoo practice. For example, prioritize getting work done by QTPOC artists! Pay people for their work! Follow their social media!
What advice would you give to young queer creatives trying to find their style or voice? Are there any up and coming artists that you think should get more attention/support?
I think my greatest advice would simply to be make art for yourself first; worry less about what your overall output will be, and simply work on developing your skillset and expressing yourself for yourself (I think if you do that, the output and the audience will come). I've found that in creating things I wanted or needed, I also create things that resonate with other people, because it feels like an honest expression of me. Cultivate your own magic.
Yes, there are so many beautiful artists (I feel like I am constantly finding people doing deeply impressive work). I really like Trash Baby's tattoo work! Bored Lord (Oakland) and Ghorba (LA) are two of my favorite DJs and producers. Monique Gardner makes beautiful video work, and Jordyn Belli is a beautiful queer photographer.
Do you have any projects, collabs, travel plans, etc. planned for 2020 that you’d like to share?
I am currently working on a collaboration with a leather company that I am very excited about, combining chainmail and leather. I worked with Chakrubs to create a small run of crystal chainmail ball gags, many of which will soon be available on their website. I am also working on developing a full line of chainmail sex toys, as I have found chains to be an extremely healing site of sexual pleasure for me and my partners. Beyond that, I always have many shoots and new pieces in the works, with some bigger plans yet to manifest in 2020 :)