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Etched and Stoned - By zruskin - November 29, 2017 - SF Weekly
SF Weekly

Etched and Stoned

The "Scrimshaw" PAX 3 designed by Jayde Fish. (Courtesy of PAX)

Art and cannabis have long gone hand-in-hand. For most, it’s the latter that inspires the former, but San Francisco vaporizer heavyweights PAX are looking to change that. Aiding the company in its quest are three local artists: muralist APEXER, painter Casey Gray, and illustrator Jayde Fish.

Each artist was given a chance to customize a PAX 3, the company’s latest entry in its flagship line of vaporizers. Their artwork was then laser-engraved on a limited number of units currently for sale. Each reflects the artist’s aesthetic and offers further proof that cannabis-related enterprises are rapidly becoming a popular avenue of collaboration for artists.

Jayde Fish, an illustrator and designer whose work has been featured on the Gucci runway and in publications like Elle, Vogue, and Vanity Fair, took the opportunity to give PAX an aesthetic inspired by the scrimshaw mode of art.

“It was primarily done by sailors who carved designs into shells, whalebone, ivory, or other similar materials they came across while at sea,” Fish explains. “The designs typically told a story about where they’d been or creatures they’d seen. The PAX is great when going on an adventure, so that’s the connection my imagination made.”

The final product is a PAX unit covered in intricate drawings — small panels that detail scenes like a hot air balloon, a sailing ship, and a bird perched on a branch. A compass surrounds the PAX’s signature LED petal indicator.

Fish’s partnership with PAX follows in the wake of a number of artists who have brought their work to the cannabis industry. From designing packaging to painting dispensaries’ walls, the bond between cannabis and art has been reinforced by the advent of a mainstream marketplace. Even Fish’s husband, Jeremy, got in on the action earlier this year when he designed a battery and limited-edition oil with AbsoluteXtracts.

Joining Jayde in this latest project are two other local artists. APEXER, aka Ricardo Richey, is a well-known muralist who has long worked in conjunction with the Gestalt Collective. His design features a single floral element that blooms from the LED display. Rounding out the trio is Casey Gray, whose skewed take on a hyper-realist style has been displayed at local galleries like White Walls, Hashimoto Contemporary, and Park Life. His PAX plays off a flower motif as well, with a vase at the unit’s base supporting a patterned plant.

Following the rapid rise of the local technology sector, many Bay Area artists found their livelihood in jeopardy thanks to skyrocketing rents. Coupled with diminishing opportunities as print magazines and other long established outlets for art fight to stay alive in a world increasingly built online, the advent of a legal cannabis market has inadvertently provided a new pathway for creators to supplement their careers. While Fish says her partnerships with the tech sector have been positive, she agrees there is a certain appeal that comes with working with the cannabis trade.

“I’ve had good experiences working for both,” she says. “However, I think the cannabis industry has a sort of down-to-earth vibe that — at risk of sounding cliché — makes for a very chill and pleasant experience. The tech industry can be very fast: things always changing, updates immediately needed, which can be draining after an extended period of time.”

There is also a more practical side, which is that while many artists working with companies may have little to no personal connection to the products themselves, they are familiar with cannabis. Fish is a fan of CBD-rich products, noting that she enjoys a tea before bed to help with aches and pains.  Thus for her, collaborating with the cannabis industry as an artist is an ideal fit.

“In my experience, cannabis has always been something that brings people together in a positive way,” she says. “As an artist, I feel it enhances the connection to my work, leaves me feeling open-minded, and assists my imagination.”