Q and A

I Got Wood

Hale'iwa's Jake Radcliff talks global art, recycling and his family of caffeine addicts

I Got Wood / You might think Jake’s Honey is a unique brand of honey sold only at Coffee Gallery. But Jake Radcliff, aka Jack of All Trades, isn’t selling anything. In fact, he’s a man who enjoys giving as much getting. And even as his hobby goes global, he says he can’t imagine living anywhere but Hale’iwa.


Have long have you lived in Hale’iwa?

I’ve lived here probably about eight years actually. I came here with the military. I was stationed up in Schofield. I got out of the Army and just loved this place so much I decided to stay.

Do you have family on the island?

Nope, just me. But the Coffee Gallery is kind of my family. The people that work there, the people that own it–they’ve kind of adopted me.

Do you hang out there a lot?

Oh yeah. The Coffee Gallery is really a hub for Hale’iwa. There was the earthquake last year, the power went out, all communications were down and everybody came to the Coffee Gallery. It was like seven o’clock in the morning, eight o’clock in the morning, everybody was here, everybody was swapping information, “Are you ok? Do you need anything?” The entire community converged right here.

On the bears, there doesn’t seem to be necessarily any kind of common theme.

The honey bears started…I like coffee. I like a lot of coffee. And I like to put honey in my coffee, that’s how I like to sweeten it. It’s hit or miss whether Coffee Gallery has any honey so I would start bringing in my own honey. Instead of carrying a bottle of honey around with me, I just left the bottle at the shop. Unfortunately, because the Coffee Gallery didn’t have honey, people would use my honey, and so then I, again, wouldn’t have honey. So I started putting my name on the bottle–Jake’s Honey.

Did that work?

No. No it didn’t. So after a couple bottles, you know you have this empty bottle, you just toss it away, and I’m really big into recycling, and I figured, “Why am I throwing away this bottle of honey, this good bottle? Why not use it for something?” So I just started decorating it.

How often do you do a bear?

I haven’t done one recently, but when I was doing it, it was every week. That was a challenge, a new bear a week. But the next bear is sitting on my counter, waiting.

It hasn’t been started yet?

It’s about halfway done. It’s actually gonna be a zombie bear.

Do you ever worry about them coming alive?

Um, they’re bears.

The Coffee Gallery is kind of a family, so it was natural probably to give the bears back, but whose idea was it to display them?

It’s just something that happened. A lot of the art that I do is not really intentional, it’s just something that happens. It develops on its own.

Are they lined up chronologically?

Yes. The first one is the first one.

What other artwork have you done beside the bears?

I have a couple projects that I’m involved in. There’s a website that has a very large artist community–it’s called Flickr[.com]. It’s a photo-sharing website. I’ve come in contact with artists around the world, and with that we kind of challenge each other with different art projects. The I Got Wood project, and there’s a few other project–Free Art Friday. That’s making something and setting it out there on the street for somebody to pick up.

Is that once a month?

Free Art Friday doesn’t have to be on Friday–but the person who came up with it decided to do it on Friday, just make something, put it on the street on Friday. It was about a year ago that they came up with this, and more and more people have gotten involved with it. It’s kind of a global phenomenon.

What are your political leanings? Do you have any?

You know, I really don’t. I think politics by and large make a lot of angry feelings, and I’m just not into that.

You said you were into recycling.

I like to use reclaimed material, like cardboard boxes to use as canvases. I think the less you put in the ground, the better. That’s a really big problem on O’ahu, the landfill is being filled basically. We’re just running out of room. So the less you use to begin with, and if you can reuse something, do it.

Tell me more about the I Got Wood project. Whose idea was it?

The same guy who came up the Free Art Friday, a friend of mine from England; he calls himself My Dog Sighs. And the I Got Wood project was actually a challenge. I had taken a photo of where I was working at the time–I was actually building stair rails, banisters–and he left a comment on there [saying] the scraps of wood could be used for something. And I said, “Ok. Fine. I’ll send you some, and you come up with something.” So I sent him all these little, wooden cubes, and he came up with a project. It started out to be very small, and kind of grew. We actually ended up sending blocks out to more than 500 people around the world.

How big are the blocks of wood?

It’s an inch and a quarter cube. Probably about 250-300 blocks got sent out from here, and I got about 70 back. There were one or two that I sent a letter to the artist saying, “Hey will you do this project?” but 99 percent of the blocks that came back were from artists finding out about the group and actually requesting to have blocks sent to them.

So it was their idea to get involved.

Yeah. All of them are just amazing. There’s graffiti artists, there’s also animators, there’s graphic artists, there’s photographers. It’s not isolated to one art form. Everyone gets the same block to start off with the same canvas, but as you can see, the end result is quite different. Each block has its own little story.

Were all the blocks recycled from the carpentry projects?

Yes, they call came from my job site. Those are the scraps of wood that would have been thrown away.

Will these blocks go back to their original creators?

Probably not. It’s a collection. This project is evolving. We actually have some offers from different places that want to exhibit them, so it might turn into a traveling exhibit.

Is there any particular pattern as to where the blocks were sent?

No. It’s completely random. The only common thing is this was pitched on Flickr.

Was there a large number from any particular part of the world?

Not really. I think we sent blocks pretty much to every single continent.

Antarctica?

Not Antarctica. So I guess maybe not every single continent.

Six of seven.

Six of seven’s pretty good.

I Got Wood. Split Obsession, Koko Marina Shopping Center, 7192 Kalanianaole Hwy, D-100, Hawaii Kai. Sat 8/23, 6pm, [www.igotwood.co.uk].