Ethan Sakon: the Man and his Stickers/by Kyle Hamrick
They’re everywhere. Slapped across a water bottle, camouflaging a shimmery silver laptop, and even on Dr. Blake Thompson’s iconic golf cart, Ethan Sakon’s stickers appear on smooth surfaces across campus and beyond. What started out with a profile on the art website Redbubble as a creative outlet for history-themed stickers is now a lucrative studio for adhesive icons of pop MC culture.
“I hated stickers before,” Sakon, a senior history major, said. Why someone would want to decorate an expensive computer with them escaped him. But he has always been what he calls a “crafty” person descended from “crafty” people. His parents are history teachers with generous appreciations for art: his father crafts with wood, his mother with a scrapbook. Sakon even recalled his father listening to Gregorian chants around the house.
Though his parents taught him to appreciate and understand the past, Sakon found his creativity as an identity apart from his cystic fibrosis. Being diagnosed with a chronic respiratory illness kept him from doing a lot of things, such as pursuing a major in music and vocal performance. However, Sakon could still do what his parents taught and encouraged him to do—create meaningful art.
About a year and a half ago, Sakon began to explore digital art. He assisted the campus chapter of Reformed University Fellowship (RUF) with a few of their graphics and decided to explore his creativity through that digital medium. The first two things he drew on his iPad were stylized portraits of George Washington and Elizabeth I. He discovered he could make and market history-themed stickers through Redbubble, and he created original content for his shop on Redbubble for another year. It was not until the campus and the world went into quarantine for COVID-19 in March that Sakon widened his vision.
“COVID-19 ripped us from the campus,” Sakon said. “When you’ve been here for three years and created memories of the campus, you will miss it. College becomes like home.” Motivated by his appreciation for history, Sakon set out to create snapshots of iconic places and buildings around campus. Just as Faulkner considered Oxford a wellspring of inspiration for his stories, Sakon made MC his muse. He wanted to amplify the place he grew to love like a home. Beginning with a pastel version of Nelson Hall, Sakon then captured Provine Hall and the MC letters outside the cafeteria. “It’s a memory associated with that piece of paper that sticks on something. It’s more than just a drawing.”
Quarantining at home over the summer in the woods of Demopolis, Alabama, Sakon decided to start E.A.S. Studio, independent of his page on Redbubble. He wanted a place where he could be entirely involved in the creation and production process, where he could make and sell more than he could through Redbubble. Taking inspiration from a handful of TikTok posts, he purchased a Cricut printer and a stack of sticker sheets, and he debuted his MC collection through Instagram. In one month, Sakon made over $600, and the business is still thriving.
Julia Ashley, an MC alumna and former intern with RUF, said Sakon’s love for MC shines through his work. “I think that’s what makes his business so special,” she said, “It’s a blend of everything he’s passionate about, and it makes his designs even more relatable.”
Sakon took a commonplace and disposable item and, with great admiration for his subject, elevated it to the level of art. His stickers are more than just snapshots of memories, but portals to a time and place where minds are challenged and characters are developed.