Bellevue artist Aki Sogabe isn’t big on fairs, but says she never misses the opportunity to show her pieces at the annual Bellevue Arts Museum ARTSfair, this year being her 32nd showcase.
Sogabe was born in Japan, and moved to Bellevue from Singapore with her husband, Bill, in 1978. It wasn’t long after that she attended her firs ARTSfair.
“My friend told me, ‘Why don’t you try it,’ and I said, ‘OK,’ and so I applied,” she said.
Sogabe produces her pieces — many with a local flare and Asian undertones — using a paper-cutting technique known as kirie, which she started doing in middle school. A smaller piece can take a week to cut, while a larger picture can take up to a month.
“When I tell (people) the process, it’s kind of hard to, and they want to see it,” said Sogabe, who used to teach the technique at area schools.
She acknowledges an Asian style is visible in her pieces, but said it’s never intentional — it just shows through. What is intentional is her attention to the desires of her customers, whom she said can’t get enough cat pictures.
“I found that the dog has to be the customer’s own breed,” she said, “… but the cats are always universal.”
There are not many Bellevue artists who actually attend the BAM ARTSfair, Sogabe said, but she appreciates having an easily accessible venue for showing her art and seeing her regular customers come by her booth every year.
As good as the fair has been for her, Sogabe gives back each year by donating an original art piece for BAM’s Artful Evening auction fundraiser.
“I love this fair, and that’s why I always donate an original,” Sogabe said, adding she also gets to spend three days with her son, Steve. “Every year my son comes with me. I stay with him because, of course, the customers always have questions.”
To learn more about Sogabe’s work, which can be found in the Pike Place Market, Uwajimaya Village in Seattle and more than 30 Washington schools, go to www.akisogabe.com.