Teen Interview #24

Charles Coffen, 16.


How did you start doing art?

I actually had zero experience before high school. Besides IDEA I had no shop making experience. So, really it started with IDEA and being encouraged to do things; to learn and to fail.

Describe your art-making process in three words.

Pinterest. Failing. Trying.

We were surprised that you do laser engraving because no ones ever done that, it’s mostly drawing and painting. Do you feel that that’s [engraving] is really unique and special to you?

Yeah, I started doing laser engraving…I do CNC work, which instead of a human cutting pieces of wood, it’s a robot doing it. And, I started learning how to do that because I was too afraid to use the table saw, and I didn’t want to lose a finger. Now, of course, I know how to use it. I started doing it because…no one else wanted to, no one else was doing it, so I do feel like it is unique to me. At least at my school, no one else is the laser engraving person. When someone needs something laser cut or engraved, or any of the CNC work it comes to me.

Would you like to have other areas of art? Like music or painting?

My sister did music, she went to Stadium and did Bassoon; got a full ride scholarship for it. So it was like.. that was already done. So I thought I’d do something else. It doesn’t really interest me. I’d like to get better at drawing.

What would you say is something that represents your art? What emotions affect your art?

Ingenuity, I guess would be it. My quote for myself is, “I like making things that make other people happy. ” I like making people happy. I like making people smile. So a lot of the stuff I make I give to other people, that’s why I don’t have a lot of it physically. Like, I made a laser engraving of Tacoma, a map of it, put it in the laser engraver, burned it onto two pieces of wood and gave it to my sister. I give a lot of stuff to my girlfriend. I give a lot of stuff to my family and our school and other people. I do the same with my friend. So I tend to give away things, I don’t tend to keep them

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When you make art do you think, “Oh this is really great I want to keep it for myself” or are you specifically hoping to give pieces away?

I usually start by making things for myself, because I want to make it. Unless it’s a present specifically, I start by deciding, “Oh I wanna try this, I wanna try this new method of doing this. I wanna try this and see if it’s easier.” I don’t really think of the whole plan, like where it’s going to end up. It usually just ends up something else thinking it’s cool and me saying, “Oh do you want to have it? Keep it, go for it.” Or this is really cool, this means a lot to me, I’m going to keep it. Or, sometimes no one wants it.  And, then I’ll keep it.

Would you say your school inspires your art or passes you by?

The school really inspires me. With IDEA, we only started three years ago, we’re brand new. I was actually our schools first ASB president. And, so being in our school and being in an area with people who also like doing this, people are really creatively charged and also want to try new things. And, they know what you’re talking about. If I say to someone at IDEA, “This COT laser blah blah blah,” just general jargon, they’ll know what I’m talking about. They’ll say, “Oh that’s super cool!” Or, “That’s kinda lame.” They’re very honest and they’re very supportive. I really like the culture and community thats at the school.

Go Follow Charles on Instagram @Charles_Coffen !