Sandy Plotnikoff visited by Jesse Birch

JB: Hi Sandy, just a quick glance around this image, staged in your studio, reveals many formal links between different works and materials. Could you explain some of these materials and tools you are working with, and what you do with them?

SP: The studio is set up with equipment and supplies for snaps, buttons, and hot foil stamping. I’ve been making printed work and accessories, mostly small runs and one-off handmade goods. Lately that includes foil collage zines, altered postcards, blank pizzas, and starting up an etsy shop.

Besides my own stuff I help friends and community with projects, and sometimes take jobs or commissions.

By the way — that image was taken way back in fall of 2007, my place looks so much different now!!

JB: This photo suggests that the studio is central to your work, but your projects also seem to come from and lead to social exchanges. Can you talk about the relationship between the work you do in your studio and the interactions that happen outside of it?

SP: Yes, the studio is focused towards specialized types of production, but the projects can be anything else.

Besides studio production I see the picture continuing interests with socks, flips, wordplay, colour, relationships, ephemera, and so on.

JB: What about the role of collaboration in your work?

SP: It’s so many different things with different people and projects. The works are not always categorized as mine — sometimes it’s their work, our work, or anonymous work. Or not work at all, more for fun.

JB: What would you think of sending an email out to some people you have worked with asking a simple question like: “tell me about your collaboration(s) with”. It would be nice to have a flow of voices, and it could result in some nice perspectives?

SP: OK, sounds great.

Hello, my name is Jesse Birch.

I am writing because I have been interviewing Sandy Plotnikoff for the Art Gallery of York University’s “Studio Blog,” and during our conversation it became apparent that, considering the fact that such a large part of Sandy’s practice is, to varying degrees, collaborative, it would be good to invite some other voices to be heard.

Sandy gave me your contact information as someone he has worked with, and so here I am emailing you with some questions:

How did you and Sandy initiate the collaboration?

How did your collaborations take shape?

Hi Jesse,

That’s nice, that Sandy says he ‘worked with me’. Curator Inti Guerrero brought us together. He saw some of my videos of Leidsche Rijn, where I live.

Then Sandy told me about his post cards project, and being a part time mail/postman, I offered to deliver a couple of hundred post cards in the area, which was fun. And useless, of course, but hey, it’s art. Ever heard of useful art? But even if just one person thought, scratching his/her head: “What the hell…” it was worth it. I even asked a friend of mine to video a part of my round, which is still raw material. The editing could be fun too, because it was the first time she held a video camera.

I still have about ten post cards from all over the world saying: ‘Leidsche Rijn’ and I cherish them. Whenever I feel blue I look at them and feel better in a sec.



Willem Muilenburg

Hi Jesse,

Sure, Sandy and I made projects to test the so-called “social contract.”

Both of us were interested in propositions. The spaces available to us were public spaces, so that’s where the work took place. We were assertive and there was nothing to lose. Both of us were interested in simple formal principles like colour, piles, and wordplay. His view of the world was strange, which I liked. We visited the dumpsters regularly. Both of us were studying the remains of conceptual practices in Canada and the US, looking for new things to do. Our projects were sustainable because they were ephemeral: super-balls bounced into the ocean, booklets were distributed for free. We always thought the work was generous, economic, and generative. We had a profound influence on one another.

Hope that is useful.

Lucy Pullen

A few years ago I had an opportunity to make some work for show with Ridykeulous, a queer zine by Nicole Eisenman and A.L. Steiner, at participant Inc in NYC. It was close to Valentine’s day and I had been messing around with some homemade floggers made from cut up leather slacks and skirts and the sawed off wooden handles of dollar store plungers, pretty basic design and kind of serious (boring) looking objects. I had seen Sandy’s foil stamp work around and asked him if he would like to collaborate on a series of flashy foiled floggers. We had some pipe dreams to launch a line of thematically hand-crafted floggers that would be more conceptual (houseplant flogger, family tartan flogger, spaghetti flogger, etc.) than functional. After a brainstorm session, we borrowed Cecilia’s car and scoured suburban Value Villages for supplies and inspirational found material. Heaps of suede and leather garments were scored in the power-shopping spree and Sandy showed me how to work the heat-stamp back at his home studio. The collaboration had a surprise element … because of our tight deadline for the Ridykeulous show we ended up leaving leather scraps in each other’s mailboxes — Sandy would freestyle his magic with the heat stamp and build-up layers of texture, color, and pattern then leave me a rolled-up length of stamped leather that I would, in turn, fashion into one-of-a-kind floggers. A few of them had hair extensions (which turned into dreads with use), fancy piping and finishing details, studs, and gems. That was the collab! Man it was fun, we should mail some materials back and forth, patent those babies and make a buck, eh bud?

Onya Hogan-Finlay

How did you and Sandy initiate the collaboration?

Sandy said Flash ! I said Blue.

How did your collaborations take shape?

Hey, you wanna? ///|||\\\

I like colours, and so does he.


Hey Jesse,

here are my answers:

How did you and Sandy initiate the collaboration?

Sandy and I have been friends for years and when I thought of people who the grade 3 kids at Parkdale Public School should meet, hang-out and work with, he was at the top of the list. So I just emailed him and asked him.

How did your collaborations take shape?

I said: you can do whatever you want with the kids and long as it involves a field trip in the neighborhood. He came in, chatted with them, took them on a trip to the thrift store, brought them back, and they made little packages for the gumball machine.

It was pretty straightforward. Let me know if you need some more information.



Darren O’Donnell

hi jesse

heres a blurb

dont know if you need more

lemmee know



I had admired sandy’s work for a while, and by admired i mean mildly jealous, like, damnit, how does this guy do it? the thing about sandy’s work to me is that he still maintains a very specific style that never gets tired, even when every other ass fresh out of art school is trying to cop it. i ended up in his lil’ hobo basement, when he lived on croft, and would spend hours just nodding my head looking at his walls meticulously riddled with snaps and magnets and hilarious ephemera, and calling him a jerk for being so good. me and sandy share a really similar sense of humor; we both enjoy things like pranks and farts, machinery and video games, so were bound to get “somethin cookin”, as sandy would say. I had come to sandy for some installation advice on a project that i was doing called “Peanut Brittle”, a character based installation at Katharine Mulherin Gallery. Peanut Brittle is a geriatric dandy, a tottering, yet well dressed transient, whose apartment inhabited the gallery. sandy not only helped me fashion an entire old mans apartment from scratch, by pilfering bins and junk shoppes, but he helped me create the sense of the character in the space, whether or not the actual character was inhabiting the space. That’s the one thing that i think really bonded us — our love and respect for building art through the creation of a character. Whatever work we do together, there is always some voice that will come out of us, or we will affect a hunch back or goof ball face; a lot of volleying of these kinds of ideas and exchanges, that ultimately create the product.

Sandy, myself and Tej Ajji made a collaborative video of short performance for camera vignettes. Basically a series of exercises that took collaboration as a starting point … activities that would be impossible to do with only one person. It was a fun afternoon back in the spring.

Tej and I had been shooting some stuff and making a racket and laughing and stuff and Sandy stopped by to see what we were doing. In no time he was contributing great ideas and helping the project along. Some of the funniest and most endearing vignettes are the ones with Sandy.

Might take a while, but if you think it would be helpful, I can upload the .mov and send a link!


Jon Sasaki

hey there, jesse

here’s the answers.

How did you and Sandy initiate the collaboration?

i needed flat files, can drive, have access to a vehicle sometimes, and also have a garage.

sandy found a bunch of flat files, wanted some too and knew that i was into them, that i could drive, that i have a garage and so on.

How did your collaborations take shape?

at first sandy gave me his massive collection of socks cause at the time i was makin’ sock sculptures and i guess he was cleanin up his sock project.

that’s not really a collaboration,

we did try to do a sockdoll with snaps one time that didn’t really work out, i was collaborating with sandy’s hot foil stamper around that same time stamping bread tabs.

i guess we made some stuff that worked when we were both at a paul butler collage party, where my airbrushing and sandy’s hot foil stamping went together pretty well,

we continued that at some garage sales at plotties, customizing items for people, while raising funds for our trip down to philly.

plotnikopf has been working on some postcards i made and gave him, turning them into new pieces, that usually crack me up.

BUT! most importantly sandy and i have been partners in a flat file business this summer and fall, and there’s still some left, totally a good deal too, call (416) 834-1882 if interested,




Hey yeah, I love Sandy.

The thing about Sandy is that collaboration is kind of almost what it’s like to deal with him entirely, so yeah: sure, I used to run an artists’ run co-operative record label that craft made lots of it’s own records, and lots of the packaging was developed in collaboration with Sandy, he has such an amazing way of working with foil and pins and stampers and snaps and everything and has such an admirable workflow worked out. But that really says so little about what is really awesome about working with Sandy. And it also says so little about what’s awesome about the way sandy works. The things that are really Awesome about working with Sandy were things like the Value Village project or this amazing project called “porch” and “large umbrella” where sure, I “collaborated” I brought stuff to the Value Village, I used the large umbrella, but so did so many other people. I’d say that these things are mostly amazing because of language: I continue to collaborate with Sandy’s “what pant” project by wearing a “what pant” paraphenalium all the time. All these things catalysed language in awesome ways.

Basically: totally.

Does that make any sense? Is that legit?

Steven Kado

hi jesse –

it’s nice to hear from you and it’s fun to sit and think back on how working with sandy all came about.

you’ve been in his studio, right? that was the beginning for me — walking around checking out the one million and one pieces that were snapped, pinned, magnetized, hung, and standing all around. that gorgeous, massive foiler, the stampers and the drawers and racks of supplies … i have a little more experience with the volume of sandy’s work now, but i remember my mind being blown then, saying to myself “what IS all of this?” also, for me it feels like there is so much humor in what he makes. so the more i saw, the more i chuckled and i just wanted to take it all home with me.

sandy is very generous with his time, his work, his work shop, his supplies, and his ideas. many years later all my favorite objects at home are from sandy… and we had been talking about me making a sign or panel for him for quite a while. then sandy came up with the idea of a leaded glass thrift store sign, which is pretty funny. we worked out all the specific design details together, picked out the glass etc. in the end it became a direct trade : the goodwill panel (‘willy’) for a holidays canceled piece (‘miles’).

the little willy was a gift to say ‘don’t lose hope — i’ll finish it soon!’. i’d been tinkering away at the cut glass for weeks, i had sort of lost faith in the the mathematics of the design, but it came together beautifully when i finally started cutting lead and tacking it all down.

well, thanks for taking an interest!

hope that that ramble is what you were looking for, and feel free to contact me with any more questions that you might have,

heather lee

hi jesse,

thanks for including me for your studio blog.

How did you and Sandy initiate the collaboration?

it’s been a while since our original meeting, but i think it was at a performance festival in sackville new brunswick where i was given a copy of a cassette of music by the SECRET BAND either by sandy or someone else. i listened to the music, and thought that it was incredible, and something that i’d like to be a part of. later on i moved to halifax and became friends with sandy and started playing with the SECRET BAND.

How did your collaborations take shape?

the SECRET BAND was sandy’s electronic yamaha keyboard (or keytar to be more specific) my contribution to the project was another electronic yamaha keyboard. together (and sometimes with others) we played improvised live music in a wide variety of venues, and situations including; a parade, bars, college radio, graduation ceremony, in a tent in a gallery, etc. costumes and posters and distribution of recordings were also integral aspects of the SECRET BAND. there was also a related side project called GHOOST and PICKLE that was very similar to the SECRET BAND.

Terry Piercey

i’m trying to remember when we collaborated…

i mean there’s lots of interaction

but nothing that would sound too interesting in an interview


maybe i’m old and forgetful

Jacob Gleeson

Hi Jesse, with Sandy, one time he had a fashion show at his house, I think in 06, and I had some fashion earplugs there (earplugs that are attached to more fashionable items so that you can’t see the earplug).

And then another time I organized a Free Lunch (everything on the menu) at Lucky Dragon and then Sandy made some No-Can Pops to give away outside while people were waiting outside.

So really I guess our collaborations are just like opportunistic or whenever stuff happens! I like it.


Amy C Lam

How did you and Sandy initiate the collaboration?

Sandy was living in a communal house that I was clocking a lot of time at. (attending and organising events, sleeping on the couch when it was too late to go home).

How did your collaborations take shape?

just sort of happened. the next thing you know, we were working together.

Among other things, Sandy provides me access to his foil-stamping studio when I need to make cover art in order to fill orders for music cds (cds of my music.) All I have to do is buy the pizza , tell a few jokes and periodically, not annoy him when he’s concentrating and it’s all good. He’s a good guy. During his ‘studio’ show at Harbourfront — where he recreated his studio inside the Harbourfront gallery — he invited me to set up my cd-packaging-making studio within his studio-within a gallery. so I was sort of helping him and myself also by showing the public how he helps me by letting my set up a studio within his studio within the gallery.

At times, we talk discuss our creative ideas and provide each other with -> honest <- feedback.

Sometimes, he asks me to wear costumes and he films me. One time, I was dressed up as a green M&M and moved about in a tai-chi sort of way. Another time, he asked me to play bongoes naked. Thankfully, there was no nudity in the film. I would normally never take my clothes off and let someone film me! How did he do it? I guess he’s a magical fellow.

Basically, it’s good times all around.

Matias Rozenberg

I moved from Halifax to Toronto and into the warehouse Sandy lived in. I had just graduated from NSCAD where I had met Sandy and spent some time studying photography. It naturally made sense for us to work together. Sandy had the idea of using his large collection of solid coloured hooded sweatshirts as objects in photographs. He would wear one of his hoodies in a location that matched or responded in some way to the color of the hoodie. I would take a photograph of him in each of these locations.

Sandy not only has the ability to let things happen as they arise during the process of making his work, he actually thrives on rolling with whatever comes his way. This tendency of Sandy’s was apparent in the method he chose for scouting out locations. For the most part, rather than hunting out locations for each photograph first and then going to each individual location, we just rode our bikes around the city and spotted locations as we went. Sandy packed all of his different colored hoodies into a trailer that he had rigged up to his bike. When we spotted a place that looked like it was worthy of color matching to a hoodie we would stop and Sandy would rifle through his trailer of hoodies and pick out the right one or two.

The method of riding around on our bikes worked really well because we were able to get some photos that you could only find on the fly. For example the photograph that we took of Sandy sitting next to a family dressed in fall colors sitting on the side of a pond. In this way the work is more connected with a city that is alive and moving. Another example would be when we happened upon a back ally garage with it’s door wide open. The floor of the garage was fully blanketed with fresh tomatoes. There was an old car standing in the center of it. We managed to snap a photo of Sandy in front of it quickly and shortly thereafter the garage door came down and access to the site was denied.

Sandy is a trickster by nature, which becomes evident in his work. Once we had spotted a good location in our neighbourhood while walking home. We decided to go there to take a hoodie photo the next day. The site was in front of Honest Ed’s. In the store window there, there was a bald mannequin wearing a burgundy hoodie. We thought Sandy might look good posing next to him. When we arrived at the location, Sandy took off the hat he was wearing under his hood to unveil, to my surprise, his freshly shaved and completely bald head. He matched perfectly.

Christina Felderhof

How did you and Sandy initiate the collaboration?

How did your collaborations take shape?

Our collaboration, if we can call it that, arose out of a particular kind of social and experiential space that Sandy was involved in creating. I was in grad school, which meant that I often had large amounts of unstructured time on my hands. At the time Sandy and I got to know each other because we were living in the same neighborhood, and began talking about what both of us were working on, which had interesting similarities. I was writing a PhD thesis about the recuperation of historical images and objects as a medium for a transformed social space. Sandy was engaged by similar questions, but through formal practice. Although I’m not an artist, I inadvertently became a participant in some of projects and began writing about his work.

When I met Sandy, around 2001, he was working with materials that he could get inexpensively and in large quantities, which he would then experiment with as a social medium or aesthetic form: socks that he would get donated or from the Goodwill, snap fasteners and Velcro. Sandy would sometimes organize events, performances, and collaborations in the form of yard sales, parties, or fashion shows held on his front lawn. Friends, artists, neighbors, and passer-bys were invited to experiment with these and other objects they would bring: snapping clothing together in unexpected configurations, creating bizarre outfits that incorporated clumps of discarded panty-hose, or dressing in out-of-season in costumes acquired from second-hand stores. These events had a collective momentum, where people experimented with materials that were part of Sandy’s studio practice and introduced their own interpretations of these materials.

I think that in terms of his engagement with certain objects and practices, like snaps, or Velcro, or foil hot-press stamping, Sandy pushes these to a level of formal abstraction. His bracelets, made by putting snap studs on leather bracelets that could be capped with colored snap-caps, which he started by putting snap fasteners on unlikely objects that didn’t obviously require a snap fastener, became coveted fashion accessories. The snaps appear out of context, suggest unexpected or impossible connections, or join members of a dispersed public identified by their snap bracelets. The wearer would then become a collaborator, disseminating these objects into new contexts and networks of formal association.

I was writing about artists who used historical photographs in their work, and they shaped the way viewers conceived their relationships to the past. I was also interested in people who were not artists, who revived outmoded practices. There is a lot of work like this going on in popular culture: people who do wet-plate photography, civil war re-enactors, and old car enthusiasts, for example. Many of these people are engaged with extremely literal interpretations of the practices, regarding history as fixed script that they have to follow. At the time I was brewing my own beer and mead, a carbonated beverage made from fermented honey, in my apartment in order to save money, and started finding recently published recipes for beers that were common in the medieval period. Sandy and I started making some of these recipes, after some difficultly tracking down ingredients. We made gruit, a common beverage of pre-Renaissance Europe that used a variety of herbs instead of hops, and had a stimulating and aphrodisiac effect, rather than the depressant effect of regular beer, as well as a kind of mead that needed to be fermented inside a pumpkin for several months. We served the gruit at a Halloween party, and the pumpkin mead at a party for his sculpture students. The gruit had an unusual, not unpleasant, effect that was appropriate for Halloween.

I think that this collaboration, though not an artwork per se, expresses an engagement with outdated materials and practices, though in his work Sandy often refuses fidelity to their original uses or meanings. Objects are frequently being re-purposed, or de-purposed. He’s often subverting the meanings and the value of things, much like a practical joke or wordplay. For example, in one of many different manifestations of “Value Village,” he put Value Village price tags on objects that weren’t intended for sale. His work is clearly more abstract than the utility of these materials (in this instance it’s about value) though it generally uses collaboration, processes of social exchange, and meaning making for its realization and dissemination as well as its conceptual content.

Amish Morrell

Initially, Sandy had collaborated with Mazzie Design on a component for a desk that she was designing for our showroom. We had asked Mazzie to create an installation in our project room and she and Sandy extended their collaboration with that piece. That was the point where we started to have more direct contact with Sandi although we had already been his customers at various events when he had been doing button snaps! We then arranged to have Sandy installed within the showroom for our opening weekend and to be foilstamping items for visitors with their input. We had a foilstamping frenzy for a time.

One collaboration has always flowed into the other. Sandy has sometimes shown us a small sample of something he is working on which we then have asked him to apply to a project that we are thinking about. Sometimes we have had mail out information or cards that we wanted to have a personalised edge, so we have asked Sandy to garnish and elaborate for us. He has also made pieces for the showroom that could be called limited run product.

Julie Nicholson

I met Sandy through my friend Paige Gratland, when I first moved to Toronto. Sandy is the sort of person who lives his art in a really admirable way — and I was just coming from Philadelphia, where I had been part of an art collective/studio called Space 1026. I think from the first time I met Sandy he made it clear that he was always excited to collaborate — that I should tell him if I had any projects in mind — but it took a while for me to settle into Toronto, so we didn’t do anything together for a while. At the same time, Sandy was just starting to experiment with his newest acquisition (at the time) — this beautiful old foil stamping press. I remember one of the first times I came over to use it with him — I was immediately drawn to all of the possibilities for making abstract and non-representational images — I actually have the first thing we stamped together hanging in my house — a series of foil stamped dots, each row a different color, on fluorescent sticker paper. Sandy got really good at figuring out ways to re-use already stamped foil and to create interested layered effects with the foil stamper — and I was really drawn to it — as my own art had been getting increasingly abstract at the time. So, when Space 1026 was invited to make an installation at the Yerba Beuna Center in 2006, I told Sandy I wanted to figure out a way to collaborate with him for the show.

I don’t remember the specifics of the brainstorming process, other than a vague notion that Sandy shot down my first few ideas — he felt like I wasn’t thinking hard enough, or was coming up with ideas that weren’t interesting enough. Eventually I hit on this idea of foil stamping the bottoms of white running shoes — actually what we ended up doing was foil stamping large sheets of fake leather and then cutting out pieces to fit on the bottom of the shoes — which we then re-soled with the fake leather. I went to a thrift store in NJ where they sell shoes for 1$ a pair, bought 30 pairs of white running shoes, sandy had the pleather already in his studio, and we were ready for business.

Sandy is a great friend and a wonderful person to collaborate with — he is a very thoughtful artist that is able to strike a good balance between experimentation and deliberate, pre-thought out constructions.

At least that’s my take on it.


Jesse Goldstein