“Aloha exists in your heart. It’s something where you’re coming from a place of giving. And that’s something that can happen anywhere in the world.”
The Pacific is what separates Matt Ortiz and Sean Woolsey, but it’s also what unites them. Both surfers and artists, the ocean is inspiration and life. They met at Sean’s studio in Orange County, CA to share their passion for craft, wood and coastline.
Wood is so central to Matt’s creativity that it’s one half of his artistic identity; he and his wife Roxy helm an art collective called Wooden Wave. Their illustrations, paintings, and iconic treehouse murals center around the life and culture of Oahu. “The idea of mauka and makai, the mountains and the ocean, are very strong in Hawaiian culture. Those are the places we go to enjoy ourselves, to relax, to play, to hike, to surf. So it’s something that comes out naturally in our work.” Being part of the emerging art scene in Honolulu has fostered a deep sense of community. “As a Hawaiian, I see other artists not as competitors, but as collaborators. Meeting Sean, it’s refreshing to see that anywhere you go in the world, you can find a likeminded individual who values the same inspiration and craftsmanship.”
Sean’s craft is both inherited and learned. His father was an artist and role model, building a stained glass business and later becoming a photographer. “My father instilled in me the desire to create things, and to fall in love with the process of whatever it is that you’re doing.” So Sean grew up drawing, designing, building, skating, and surfing. His passions culminated in a business making furniture and skateboards. “I love the idea of wabi-sabi: finding beauty in imperfection, in things that change. That’s what I find in wood. Every piece has a life and a story that it tells through the grain.” And like Matt, being part of the ocean culture and community is essential for Sean. “The ocean plays a vital role in who I am and what I create. I’ve designed my life around it.”