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

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

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

For Abraham Von August, creator and owner of the “very curated, non-gender specific” clothing brand trashpaca, the ability to express themself without restraints is everything.

“Whether we believe we’re fashionable or not, putting clothing on is important for anything. It gives you this opportunity to feel empowered or emboldened,” August says. “I think [it’s] the same thing with queerness and being able to express yourself.”

In part, it’s what inspired them to create the brand. It started with a deep love for collecting vintage clothes, and then later downsizing a large closet. When they tried to sell some items at consignment stores around the state, they realized getting $7.50 for a denim jacket wasn’t a great bargain.

A thorough user of the web platform Etsy, through which many independent artists and creators sell their work, August decided to start reselling their clothing items there. The platform doesn’t let a vendor make a seller account without having at least one item available.

“I put up this black denim vest,” Von August said. “It sold immediately. I wasn’t even prepared yet for something to sell.”

With that, trashpaca was off and running.

(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 that their goal is "to really create a gender-free space, kind of eliminating gender from dressing yourself.”

“My whole goal with trashpaca is to really create a gender-free space, kind of eliminating gender from dressing yourself,” Von August said. “Just wearing things that make you happy rather than trying to genderize colors or clothing or fabrics or cuts.”

As a Black, queer, nonbinary person in Utah, Von August said they strive to make clothing items 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 kind of way, like wearing something that isn’t socially acceptable for their perceived gender, I feel safe. I’m like, ‘Oh, those are my people.’”

That safety extends to sizing and the way a body fluctuates. Von August makes an effort during photo shoots to show one piece of clothing on multiple different body types.

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

“Wearing clothing is vitally important for expression,” Von August said.

In the same vein of expression, Utah ceramic and pottery artist HB Hadfield strives to make pieces that resonate with people. Even though pottery may seem like a less obvious art expression in comparison to clothing, they say as a queer artist it’s important to set things apart.

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

“I feel like most ceramics that I have seen around are pretty mainstream and normal,” Hadfield said. “So what I’m trying to do is create funky things that people can really resonate with.”

Hadfield is now working on a series of mugs referencing the Pride flag, with subtle designs like flowers, or bigger ones like rainbows. Their designs are in various colors, representing the flag colors 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 some portion of art is: That you see yourself represented, where a lot of art forms have just been so heteronormative.”


Queer creators

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

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

Haybae Art • A commission-based artist in Salt Lake City, HB Hadfield, who specializes in ceramics and pottery, but also dabbles in watercolor and needlepoint.

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

tlcartco • An illustration shop that sells prints and stickers from artist Bea Colon, who is based in Pleasant Grove.

trashpaca • A non-gender-specific Salt Lake City-based clothing brand, focused on fluid-sizing and curation from Abraham Von August. They also make art prints.