For years now, concrete hearts have speckled Auburn, decorating buildings and walls with a touch of love. In recent years street artist Jakobi has added several new designs, including different-sized hearts, Washington State, and JAW robots. Their latest addition is a replica of the custom City of Auburn manhole cover.
New JAW Designs
Jakobi designs and creates every aspect of their pieces. After designing a piece, they create a mold that can be used to reproduce the design identically. “I have switched from using silicone molds to urethane molds. My silicone molds were all becoming warped after a few months of use. Switching to urethane should fix this; it is a much more flexible material,” explained Jakobi.
The street art is made from concrete. No actual Legos are used in any of Jakobi’s final pieces, despite the amazing detail that would lead one to believe otherwise. Jakobi uses concrete pigment to get the vibrant colors for his pieces.
Not wanting to waste concrete, Jakobi began to create smooth JAW hearts from their popular Lego JAW hearts’ excess material. “My favorite [design to create] right now are my smooth hearts,” shared Jakobi. “I am really getting into painting them and have a lot of ideas of things I could do with them in the future. The bigger extra-large ones will simply give me a larger surface area to paint on and are easier for people to see.”
Replicating Auburn’s manhole cover was the first relief sculpture Jakobi has created. “That one was successful on the first try. It took about 16 hours total to make that piece, though. It takes a lot of work upfront to get the mold made. But once it is, the reproductions I cast in the molds can be done really quick. I thought it turned out well,” said Jakobi.
Placing larger designs like the manhole cover or extra-large JAW hearts can be tricky due to their weight. “I have to make sure not to pour the concrete in the molds too thick. If they get too thick, the weight makes them slide down,” said Jakobi. The heat can also affect the adhesive they use, causing the art to slide down.
JAW Art Around the Sound
In addition to expanding their designs, Jakobi has also been expanding their footprint. They have spent more time installing hearts in Seattle, Tacoma, and Kent. Tukwila, Renton, and Federal Way also got some JAW love. The furthest Jakobi installation is in Palm Springs. Creating sticker versions of their Lego JAW heart and a JAW design has also helped Jakobi expand their reach. One sticker made it to Washington DC, one to Maui and another to California.
Placing more art does increase the risk of being caught, but Jakobi doesn’t seem too concerned. “I know people have seen me installing my hearts before, but they never say anything. Sometimes they will wait for me to leave and then take my heart or just rip it down and break it.” Jakobi said, “it sucks to see someone take them down, but it’s all part of the game.”
Also, part of the game is receiving requests for art to be placed. Jakobi has an open offer to install a piece of their art on businesses upon request, and several have taken them up on the offer. “I did a warehouse in Auburn for a really nice person. I am still welcoming any requests, though if anyone out there wants to give me a space to do an install.” Keep an eye on the Rainbow Café; there might just be hearts coming soon.
Collaboration in the street art world isn’t uncommon, and Jakobi is no different. “There are a ton of awesome artists in the Seattle area whose work I really admire. My smooth hearts make it easy for artists to incorporate their work on them,” said Jakobi.
Artists Jakobi has collaborated with include Jeremy Novy (Portland, @jeremynovy), Creature Panic (Seattle, @creaturepanic), and Starhead Boy (Tacoma, @starheadboy). If the artwork from Starhead Boy looks familiar, he designed artwork for one of Auburn’s utility boxes. “I am also still waiting on one other artist that I am collaborating with to send me back their finished hearts. [They are] actually based out of Tucson, AZ,” shared Jakobi.
COVID-19’s Impact on Street Art
“Other than just working from home and getting used to wearing a mask all the time [the COVID-19 pandemic] hasn’t changed my life much,” shared Jakobi. “As an artist, it has given me a little more time to focus on my work since I wasn’t able to go anywhere this summer.”
Being an art teacher, Jakobi admits that “teaching art virtually is doable but not nearly as fun. Although I am thankful that my district is beginning with distant learning. I would not feel comfortable being in my classroom with 32 kids any time soon.” Though, not seeing his students, they say, “sucks.”
Not only has the pandemic given artists more time for their art, but street art is very popular right now. “With all the protests going on, artists have a much bigger audience in the streets than they have had in a while. I was just up in Capitol Hill, putting up hearts, and the amount of art in that neighborhood right now is crazy. It is also of very high quality,” said Jakobi.
Famous street artist Banksy used his art to honor frontline workers of the pandemic, portrayed a nurse as a superhero. His second COVID-19 related piece, called If You Don’t Mask, You Don’t Get, depicted face mask-wearing rats around a London Tube train car. Though the sentiment of encouraging people to wear facemasks was appreciated by the Transport for London, there is a strict anti-graffiti policy. TfL offered Banksy “the chance to do a new version of his message for our customers in a suitable location.”
Though some may feel artists do not have a place in a global health crisis, “artists have a place everywhere. Exactly what that place is though is up to each individual artist and what they have to say,” said Jakobi.
If you want to support street art, Jakobi states the best way to do so is to “buy art from the artists you like. Most established street artists have websites and work for sale on them. Just buy it. Don’t ask artists for free work!”
Some of Jakobi’s favorite street artists are:
Locally: @starheadboy, @creaturepanic, @narboo, @mikuseattle @dozfy, @t.ffanny
Nationally: @raddingtonfalls, @divadog, @nero_one, @kook_street, @sleepisfamous, @fnnch
(tags are all Instagram)
Just as Jakobi appreciates other artists, their art is valued by fellow artists as well. One creator (@crossstitchbitch) replicated Lego JAW hearts in an awesome cross stitch display. Another person appreciated Jakobi’s art enough to have turned into a tattoo. Jakobi said it was “very flattering that someone liked something I made so much that they wanted it to be on their body forever.”
At the beginning of August, Jakobi held a scavenger hunt around Auburn for their manhole cover replicas. Lucky participants used photos posted on their Instagram (@j.a.w) to locate the art. On top of a utility box, slipped under the Les Gove Park rock wall, tucked into an ostrich’s tail feathers, and perched on a library sign, manhole covers were hidden throughout Auburn. After not recognizing a location (the community garden near Auburn High School), one hunter commented, “dang we were by the high school, oh well it forced is to explore more of Auburn.”
This was the first time Jakobi had done a scavenger hunt, and it “went better than expected. It was so fun to see all the pictures of people who found them and to just interact with people on Instagram about it.”
For the past few years, Jakobi has placed small JAW hearts along the Veterans Day parade route. As the parade is likely to be reduced in size, or virtual, they’re considering other options for his annual Veterans Day drop. “I have some ideas for another art drop I could do for the Veterans Day parade. I am also going to do another art drop once I hit 1000 followers on Instagram. It won’t be as big as this manhole cover one, but it will be the first time I give away hearts.”