Today we’d like to introduce you to Abe Heath.
Thanks for sharing your story with us Abe. So, let’s start at the beginning and we can move on from there.
I am a non-binary queer artist, and I was born into the Detroit sprawl (and for this reason will always have a deep love of post-industrial landscapes, of the feeling of the forgotten). Leaving Michigan, I moved to Austin to go to grad school at the University of Texas (I got two simultaneous MA, one in Information Studies/Archiving, and one in Gender Studies). In Austin I was apart of a really beautiful artist community that largely centered around raves (people don’t realize this, but Austin has a flourishing and distinct techno scene), but also contained filmmakers, photographers, models, etc. While I have always had my hands in different art mediums, it was in Austin that I taught myself how to weave chainmail, and began to conceive of Affect Metals. As of now, I am deeply grateful to live in and be held by the warm embrace of LA.
Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
I think, for anyone, finding your voice and deciding how to express that artistically is a sticky process! So much in my life has been defined by gray areas and fluidity (my sexuality, my gender—so much has been determined by the murky in between), and I think that kind of non-linear cloudiness has extended to my creative projects. Which is to say, I think the most difficult part of getting to where I am now hasn’t been one particular obstacle, but rather the lifelong process of learning how to not only teach myself a skill but to learn to be artistically vulnerable, to learn to peel away layers of repression, imposter syndrome, knowledge gaps, etc. When I was younger, as a queer, gender non-conforming Midwesterner, I think so much of my struggle had to do with coming to terms with myself and my identity in a space that didn’t always nurture those parts of me, and learning how to express that visually. I am many years and many moves out of the Midwest, but those feelings took long for me to sort through, and definitely informed the process of how Affect Metals came to be.
Beyond that, I struggle with what so many artists and makers struggle with in LA: lack of resources. Learning how to find ways to push your art forward when basic resources are limited is difficult. Learning to try to find balance is difficult.
Alright – so let’s talk business. Tell us about Affect Metals – what should we know?
Affect Metals is a contemporary chainmail company designed and constructed in Los Angeles, CA. Approaching traditional chainmail techniques with a modern eye, each piece is woven by hand with the intention of being worn intimately on the body. Ranging from full chain garments to lingerie, to everyday jewelry, Affect Metals aims to create lush, extravagant, and divine chain-ware.
I conceive of Affect Metals as “queer armor.” My primary intention with Affect Metals is to make fashion and fetish objects for queer and trans people, as I feel that there is a distinct lack of items made specifically for such identities (particularly pieces that are expressly made for trans bodies). However “queer” also functions as “strange” here, and in that sense I make contemporary armor for people, regardless of gender or sexuality, to protect themselves with in their everyday. While Affect is undoubtedly for anyone who loves chain-ware, I take deep and particular pride in uplifting queer and trans bodies.
Beyond my eye for design, what further makes my pieces distinct is the energy and care I put into them. I view metal as a way for me to charge and weave my intention into divine objects. Each chain is meant to be a positively charged, divine, and protective object for the wearer. Beyond this, each piece is somewhat painstakingly made, link by link, solely by me to the exact measurements of the person buying it–the intention here is to highlight and perfectly suit each piece to the person who will own it.
I chose the name Affect Metals for this project, because “affect” means to subjectively or emotionally effect. Affect Metals then, is about how the person wearing a chain, as well as the chain itself, interact with, change, and affect one another. It’s this beautiful cycle of the wearer feeling empowered and protected by the chain, and the chain then taking on the energy and characteristics of the person wearing it. It is divine subjectivity. This ideology shapes how I approach this business as a whole.
Affect Metals is a multi-disciplinary project—on the one hand, it exists as a shop, but it is centered not only on what I sell but how I present it. While I love to collaborate with photographers I respect, the majority of photos of my work are analog photos taken by me. I view this process—of slow, intentional film photos taken on sets I design, with pieces I designed, on people that I styled—as a more exact visual representation of my chain fantasy. Ultimately, Affect is my brainchild, and it is a space for me to express my art in varying forms, with chains as the connecting factor and medium.
Is there a characteristic or quality that you feel is essential to success?
I think some combination of discipline and vision! I’ve realized a skill I have is being able to have a specific vision and execute that (as a designer, I’m lucky to be able to visualize things three-dimensionally, visualizing things on the body, etc.). But to actually make things tangible though, it is necessary for me to move with discipline in order to actually complete and execute my ideas. I think there is always a push and pull between wanting to let myself envision without limits, and then me likewise trying to ground my ideas in material realities (so I can figure out how to actually make things work, how to complete projects).
- Earrings ($20-$40)
- Necklaces, collars, chokers ($40-$85)
- Lingerie, specialty items ($150-$400)
- Website: www.affectmetals.com
- Email: email@example.com
- Instagram: www.instagram.com/affect.metals/
Abe Heath, Alexandra Kacha, Lauren (Portrait Mami)