Sad Clown, Happy Customers

Homegrown Success in Southern Oregon

Written by Dominic Adams, Photos Courtesy of Danny Infante

Pride Edition, 2023.

Sad Clown Studios just recently celebrated its 1st anniversary of producing high-end, ethically-sourced products. According to Sad Clown Studio’s founder, Sage Hansel, “It’s very eclectic. I have a couple different niches that I work into, but I haven’t found one that I really corner. I have so many different things that I love working on.”

A couple of different niches are quite an understatement. Hansel makes chain mail and reclaimed bone jewelry, crocheted garments and a host of other items – all for sale, as with most small businesses these days, on Instagram @sadclownstudios and a linked website.

Hansel is a sophomore at the University of Oregon studying anthropology. They started Sad Clown Studios during their freshman year, and it quickly went from a place for them to document their art to a thriving business all based on word of mouth.

A major component of their jewelry utilizes reclaimed animal bones, usually coming from rodents or other small animals. Hansel assures that the bones are sourced ethically: “I go out and source all of my own bones. Typically what I find is roadkill. A lot of it is being able to repurpose animals who often have died in pretty horrific ways and being able to turn them beautiful again. I have a really big focus on sustainability,” Hansel said.

Their dedication to sustainability and ethical practices for their small business is incredibly admirable and sets a standard for their products that is hard to match. In order to process these bones, Hansel leaves them to soak in a maceration pit, essentially a tub of water, to strip the bones of any soft tissue. Then they degrease and clean the bones and finish it off with a coat of resin to stabilize the bone piece protecting it from taking on moisture and becoming fragile. This fascinating and necessary process for preparing the bones to be made into jewelry is a return to a state of beauty even after death.

Sad Clown Studios also prolifically produces crocheted garments typically made out of mohair sourced from the local business “Cozy.” Mohair is a very unique textile that comes from Angora Goats as opposed to the more commonly known Angora wool from sheep. This results in naturally soft and warm wool without any scratchiness. Most of the crocheted garments are gloves or headgear, but they also do tops, scarves and all manner of other crocheted goods. Particularly in the headgear department, they have a wide range of beanies, bonnets and balaclavas (which is even more fun the faster you say it). Some of these designs feature bunny ears or other bits of frill and fringe.

Hansel is a familiar face in the Eugene DIY scene. They have been vending at shows and pop-ups all across Eugene this year most recently appearing at “The Green House,” which hosted its debut show on April 1. This is a great example of small communities in Eugene supporting each other by collaborating to create fun and inclusive spaces that provide a good experience for attendees and financial support for the hosts, artists and bands. Sad Clown Studios perfectly fits into this symbiotic environment. The local scene has hit a bit of a downturn this year due to an increase in police response to such events stemming from the implementation of a “Party Patrol” by the Eugene Police Department in the fall of 2022. So, now is the best time to come to events such as this to help financially support these local creatives and house venues so they can continue to provide the scene with an outlet for dancing and socializing – but, most importantly, building community.

Sad Clown Studios is here to stay. Hansel envisions themself as a full-time artist in the future and hopes to turn Sad Clown Studios into an avenue for a liveable wage. Based on how quickly Hansel has built their business from the ground up, it seems like they are certainly on the right track to achieve this goal. For now, though, they have to balance their business with schoolwork.

“It’s hard. I definitely would rather be making art all the time, so I tend to focus on that more,” Hansel said. “It’s been a big practice of learning how to slow down and really balance my time, especially as someone who has ADHD. I am someone who will hyper-focus on a craft and I’m like, ‘This is it. There’s nothing else going on.’”

It’s this single-minded focus on crafting that allows them to make such beautiful pieces of art, but at least for now, school will continue to interrupt their true passion. Hansel works incredibly hard, and their beautiful handmade art is the existing proof of that labor of love.