Ethan Estess

*The admiring time is different from other venues. Please be careful.

Born in 1989.
An artist and marine scientist based in California, Estess’s work, which includes sculptures and block prints, focuses on the impact human activity has on the ocean. Estess earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in environmental science from Stanford University, where he also studied oceanography and studio art. He currently owns an art studio and gallery in Santa Cruz, and conducts research on the ecology of bluefin tuna at the Monterey Bay Aquarium.

Enso / Lifecycle

Working on a commercial fishing boat off Sado Island as a research scientist studying bluefin tuna, I was inspired by the neat yet irregular coils of rope laid out on the vessel’s deck. The rope reminded me of the brushstrokes of an Ensō ring. Typically drawn on rice paper with a single brush stroke, the creation of enso rings is a meditative practice in the Japanese Zen Buddhist tradition. In pursuit of the perfect hand-drawn circle, the practitioner learns to let go and create freely, accepting the final result as beautiful despite any superficial imperfections. In this way, the Enso ring is a powerful representation of the Wabi Sabi world view that urges us to find beauty not only in growth and newness, but also in natural degradation, imperfection, and the end of life.

Returning to my harbor-side workspace, I dug into a large pile of decaying plastic fishing rope and began untangling the chaotic mass of knots into a single organized coil. I reinforced the coil with a steel ring and suspended it in the doorway of a traditional boat house overlooking the ocean as a symbol of the connectivity between land and sea, humans and nature, and the urgent need to develop circular economies for plastic materials.

Instead of allowing plastics to degrade in the environment or be incinerated, fishing rope, nets, bottles, and plastic packaging of all kinds should be designed with a cradle-to-grave mindset that plans for their eventual reintegration into new products. Around the world, novel recycling techniques and businesses are being created to take advantage of this latent material. By reducing our reliance on single-use plastics and designing a circular economy, I am confident that humanity can end the senseless pollution of our home planet and live in greater harmony. It will never be a perfect system, but we have to try.

Impressions of Sado Island

A series of works inspired by Estess’s time on Sado Island. Estess created the pieces after seeing a fish print in a fishing tackle shop, and used old fishing nets, pieces of plastic, and seaweed collected on the beach. Impressions of Sado Island is a meditation on biodegradation, permanence, and the effects of pollution on wild marine life.


*There are two exhibition sites.

〈Enso / Lifecycle〉
Sawane Marina

Address 993-3 Sawane, Sado, Niigata 952-1435

〈Impressions of Sado Island〉
HOSTEL perch
Address 4 Kawaharadasuwamachi, Sado, Niigata 952-0021

Business hours:16:00~22:00
May be closed for maintenance on some days
*Subject to business hours of HOSTEL perch.

Kuninaka Area

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