Wednesday, April 29, 2009

INTERVIEW: The masterful genius of Cross Stitch, Mr X Stitch, tells all...

What do you find appealing about cross stitch as opposed to other fiber arts?

One of main appeals of the magnificent art form that is cross stitch is its constraints. Those little squares provide security and stability, as opposed to the freeform maelstrom that is embroidery. I’ve never been a great artist – as a comic collecting child I always figured I’d be the letterer, rather than the artist – and so the confines of the cross stitched form work well for me.

That said, I am developing a strong desire to do the Royal School of Needlework’s Foundation Degree in Hand Embroidery, but that’s a bit like a blue belt karate kid wanting to train with ninjas…

Like me, your work seems to focus primarily on what most people would consider "obscene" or "misanthropic". Are you full of hatred for the world? Or is it more of an artistic choice?

I’m a lover, not a fighter. I have hatred for some of the people running the world, but I have a lot of love for the rest of them. My work is a bit like therapy; at the moment I’m processing my feelings and experiences, particularly in relation to me as a manbroiderer. I’m just making things, getting stuff out of my system to allow new ideas and inspirations in. I’m sure that if I keep making this stuff, eventually I’ll start making something decent.

You have really stepped up and championed the cause of MANBROIDERY. Where do you see the future of MANBROIDERY heading?

It’s exciting being at the forefront of the MANBROIDERY movement. I know how much I enjoy stitching, and how much it settles my soul when I do it. And that’s why I want to spread the word about the concept. Stitching isn’t just for girls. You get much more stressed and angry using your X-Box than using your X-Stitch. It’s gonna take a few of us to stick our necks up and say “Hell yeah, I’m a guy and I stitch on the fly!” and I’m up for it. It makes me laugh how homemade clothes are often derided, but bespoke clothes cost a fortune, and yet they’re essentially the same thing. Once men start to realise that making a tie is just DIY, they’ll get on board.

MANBROIDERY is here and people had better get used to it, cos it ain’t going away!

If we ever meet in person, can we go door to door selling our respective wares? I'll bet you can really lay on the "hard sell".

We can do that, although we might choose to set up a table in Portland’s main shopping district and let the people gaze upon our awesomeness. Of course we’ll have to spend the first week shooting the breeze, but once that’s been shot, we’re there. I’m not that much of a salesman, I’m more of a natural phenomenon, but we’ll make the sales either way.

Is there a large craft community in England where you reside? Or are you more tied into the tight-knit (no pun intended) and cult-like internet craft scene?

The UK is definitely behind the States and Australia with regards to the Nu Craft Revolution, and so most of my homies live on the other side of the world to me. I’m doing what I can to make connections here, and there are some quality things happening over here, but it’s still early days. That’s pretty exciting for me though, as I’m in a good position to show people how cool crafts can be.

How the hell did you get all those amazing comic artists to do portraits of you? I would kill to have Glen Fabry draw me.

We have an annual comic convention in Bristol each year, and I went for five years running. The first year I asked artists for sketches of superheroes, but that seemed kinda lame. So the second year I summoned up the nerve and started asking for portraits. And it went from there. We’ve got some cracking artists over here and I’ve got sketches from the best of them. I need to get Stateside so I can continue my collection over there.

I’m surprised more people don’t do it.

Is stitching your main gig or do you have a "real" job?

Alas stitching is my passion, but it earns me nothing at the moment. So it’s fortunate that I have a full time job working as an IT Trainer for the UK’s largest children’s charity. It is my mission to develop a living out of this stitchery stuff, because I really love doing it, and I’m working my ass off to get there, so fingers crossed. I’m feeling pretty confident and I have a lot of supporters, so I reckon the future’s golden.

You mentioned that you have a "Mancave" that is like your fortress of solitude. Can you describe it without giving too much away?

I’d love to say it was only reachable via a rickety wooden rope bridge high up in the Andes, but the sad reality is it’s my home office. It has everything I need in there, including my comics, my stitch supplies, my computer and a growing collection of contemporary embroidery. It’s cool though, it has a big window which I can open and let the whole world in. It’s my zen space.

What other fiber artists get you excited or have influenced your work?

My biggest influence in the work I produce is my sister from an American mister, Beefranck. She’s been integral to making Mr X Stitch the success that it is, and we’re always bouncing ideas for new stitcheries off each other. I also have to give big props to Julie Jackson (of Subversive Cross Stitch fame) for breaking this boundary open in the first place. If she hadn’t done that first “Fuck You” cross stitch sampler, we’d still be stitching country cottages.

On the Mr X Stitch site we’ve featured some amazing artists, too many to mention, and they are a constant source of inspiration and amazement to me. William Schaff is a recent find who blows me away. And there’s this awesome dude called Johnny Murder who always impresses me with his technical skill and terrific humour.

It’s a great thrill to find a new artist on Flickr and post about them before anyone else. The more we look, the more we find. And new amazing embroidered art just keeps appearing every day. I love being able to share this stuff with the world.

What are your feelings on Blood Pudding? I tried it once comment. But I had Blood Sausage in Puerto Rico and it was awesome.

Black Pudding (as we call it over here) is perfect when you’re in the right mood for it. Try it with scallops.

(bonus question) How can a connoisseur of fine art purchase some of your amazing work?

My work can be bought via my etsy store, although I’ve not got much for sale at the moment. Once I’ve got a decent body of work behind me, I’d like to exhibit some, and then maybe sell it. If someone wants a piece of my action, they can get in touch with me via the Mr X Stitch site.

(extra special bonus question) Tell us about the new feature on your blog "Not Safe For Work Saturday". Are you concerned that it may affect your gig at Cross Stitch magazine? Or are they cool about that kind of thing?

NSFW Saturdays came as a direct response to someone on Twitter getting upset about a recent post about Lesbian Porn Embroidery. The concept behind the thread is to admit that people are doing some pretty rude things with a needle and thread, and to bring those ideas to a wider audience, in a context that there are no surprises. If a post says NSFW, it means you might get upset. If you think you’ll get upset, then don’t read it!

So we’re taking the step to showcase the rude stuff, primarily for the development of the genre. People are doing this stuff, it needs to be shown. The boundaries need to be pushed so that a new, natural level of stitched art can be established. It’s called evolution. We’re not going to show any old crap just because it uses the C-Bomb though, it has to be a decent quality of work.

I’m committed to helping the medium of stitchery develop as an art form, and these kind of posts are a part of that. Any work that I might do within a more mainstream context, such as posting on the Cross Stitcher magazine site, will remain polite and graceful, as the mainstream isn’t quite ready for the full impact of what’s happening. But change is in the air, and my involvement in Cross Stitcher is a sign of a willingness for that to happen. I’m not going to anything to upset them, but I am going to lots to broaden their minds. It’s what I’m here for.

Assertion of Self