When Ritual was just a witchy twinkle in a black shadowed eye, the partners stumbled upon a crazy trailer park of art and clothing while post-brunch strolling, (tipsily) through Georgetown. When we came across a series of pedestaled, disturbing dolls that had been rendered murderous with black tulle, hair dye, and bloody paint, we knew there were kindred spirits about. Inside the trailer, among carnivorous looking necklaces and pins, we took a card...and promptly forgot about it throughout the terrible bureaucratic process of starting a business. Thankfully, kismet intervened, and almost a year later the random beauty of Instagram connected us with Lisa, A.K.A. LadyHAKA of Art by HAKA.
Reaching out to strangers and asking them to sell you things is always nerve-wracking, but LadyHAKA was so cool that she not only agreed to supply us , she and her partner AxeHAKA, (who is in fact the Victor Frankenstein re-animating the dolls) came to the April Capitol Hill Art Walk and generously showcased a mini-horde of misfit cherubs at the front of Ritual. One adorable, animatronic nightmare named 'Jimmy' waved an electric candle menacingly from the cash point. Reaction of passerby to the David Lynch child mob staring at them through our glass was frankly, priceless - and inspired us to dive deeper into the haunted machinery that makes Art By HAKA what it is. The duo agreed to answer some of our burning questions, and the following interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Tell us a bit about Art by HAKA and your partnership - how did you guys get started doing what you do?
You could say that we started our “partnership” in 2006. We then married in 2009. The artwork itself didn’t start until 2013, and it was a result of wanting to find something constructive to do with my idle hands. It didn’t take long before we had so much inventory that LadyHAKA needed to step in and figure out how to go about selling it. That’s when we started to learn about the secret life of vendors, and in 2015 we became one ourselves! Since then we’ve done numerous conventions, events, and art shows throughout the states, and our product line has gone from just dolls to jewelry, cards, paintings, and sculptures with new products on the way. These days, ever since moving to the PNW we’ve been doing much of the same and even more. You can often find us setting up at one or more events every month and our next event will be Crypticon in May, so as LadyHAKA likes to say, “Won’t you come look at my creepy dolls?”.
We love the character names you give each doll...what inspires you when you begin a piece? Do you have an idea in mind and try to source a doll to see it through, or do you find the story from the object itself?
I definitely have a vision as to what I aim to create before I begin. A sort of rough draft. However, once I dive into it I will let the medium dictate it’s direction. More often than not, in the end I’ll have something that resembles my first idea, but with unexpected twist and turns that I could’ve never envisioned. Basically, I come up with the thought, and then I try to turn my brain off!
So much of your work involves mixed media - paint, electric wiring, fabric, etc...how long does it take on average to complete a piece? How do you balance art time vs. boring, everyday responsibility time?
I've just recently began really trying to calculate how much time goes into every piece. I’m usually juggling a few projects at once, so I never really kept track of any one thing in particular. Like most artists though, it’s always a tricky thing trying to figure out what kind of prices to charge, so I’m just now trying to alleviate some of the guess work that goes into it. That way I know what’s best for both me and my customers. As far as balancing life and art it’s pretty simple. I work four days a week, ten hours plus a day, so that leaves me basically with three days of free time to do artwork! I try to do a little something even on my work days just to remain consistent and vigilant about it.
Art by HAKA donates proceeds from your art each month to animal rescue causes...what instilled your passion for that particular philanthropic focus?
Shortly after starting Art by HAKA we went vegan, and had started to make animal inspired art as well as creepy doll art. We first started by donating a portion of our profits from all animal art sold. This quickly turned into us doing fundraisers and a variety of Vegan events where a portion of that days sales were given to a sanctuary in need. It all really just stems from our passion to save as many animals as we can. At one point we had 10 cats we cared for in a make shift cat sanctuary of strays and our own. Our love for pets soon turned into love for all animals and those that rescue them. It’s just our way to say thanks, and to give the voiceless a voice. The moment we decided this, so many opportunities opened up, we knew it was our purpose. Plus we learned people love to buy creepy doll art to help animals! Who knew!
What is your vision for the future of Art by HAKA? Where would you guys most like to be, artistically and commercially, in the next 5 - 10 years?
The artwork we produce is constantly evolving and changing, but the one thing that remains steadfast is our love for doing it! It affords us the means in which to help support our favorite animal sanctuary’s, and it’s a vessel for meeting and collaborating with future friends. This will continue on in the years to come, and the universe will do the rest.
And finally, we have to ask about some evil doll death matches...Chucky vs. AxeHAKAs Jimmy? Who wins? How about Jimmy vs. Annabelle?
Haha, of course I’m going to say good ol’ Jimmy would be the victor in both fights! However, I don’t think they would ever really fight each other. Instead I think they would team up to fight....us!
Swing by Ritual to grab some disturbing doll art in the form of an Art by HAKA greeting card, or just to say hello to Birdie, our very own adopted murder doll.