Thursday, April 30, 2009
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
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 and...no 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.
Monday, April 27, 2009
Saturday, April 25, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
ENTER THE MIND OF AUBREY LONGLEY-COOK. MANBROIDERER. MASTER OF FOUND FABRICS. DISGRUNTLED NON-BOY SCOUT. AUBREY WAS KIND ENOUGH TO ANSWER MY QUESTIONS. ENJOY:
1. How old were you when you first started stitching and why did you start in the first place?
I was 19 when I first picked up a needle and thread. I was in school at the time, but there weren't any embroidery classes offered, so I started stitching on my own. My mother embroidered, and her work was a huge inspiration for me. She died of lung cancer a few years prior, and the act of stitching helped me come to terms with that loss. I was able to enroll in a Fine Art Textiles class the following year, and it was really solidifying to finally show my work and get feedback from my peers.
2. I love your use of mixed media, it brings to mind some of the work of Robert Rauschenberg. What artists have informed or influenced your work?
That's funny, because I wrote a term paper in high school on Robert Rauchenberg and Jasper Johns. Having just come out, I found their relationship intriguing and their artwork inspirational. I am definitely drawn to the rich emotions of Abstract Expressionism and the graphic patterns of Pop Art. A lot of other artists have inspired me over the years. I love the playful and narrative work of James Jean, the serene series photography of David Hilliard, the lush and opulent watercolors of Jeremiah Goodman, and the rich colors and modern shapes of Henri Matisse.
3. I am originally from Texas and I know that it has affected my artistic sensibilities. Has living in Georgia had any influence on your work or your "philosophy" about art?
Even though I have only lived in Georgia for two years, I am told that I have biscuits in my blood. I was born and raised in Hartford, Connecticut and moved down south after graduating from school in Rhode Island. There is such a calm and comfort to southern living, that I immediately felt at home. The pace of my life settled, and I was able to focus on my work. This transition to a slower speed of life is very similar to the calming pace of working in embroidery and the distortion of time that occurs. The process is so meditative, and my concentration is so magnified that the world shrinks to the boarders of my hoop.
4. What is your concept behind the appropriation and embellishment of found fabrics in your pieces, if there is one?
Finding my own narrative in the fabric is very satisfying, and I enjoy the humor that can sometimes be uncovered. I am inspired by the wonderful embroideries of fellow manbroiderer Richard Saja. He is a master at embellishing found fabric.
5. Were you ever a Boy Scout? Some of your pieces have a demented Merit Badge feel to them.
Sadly, I was never a Boy Scout. I spent a lot of time hiking, canoeing, and camping as a child, and I loved being outside, but unfortunately it wasn't a popular group in my neighborhood. The patches were always the most alluring thing about the Boy Scouts, and I wanted a sash, and I wanted all of the badges. I did take ballroom dancing lessons though. Connecticut is classy like that.
6. As a "manbroiderer" living in the South, have you encountered any resistance to being a "guy that sews" or have most folks been supportive?
I certainly have gotten many odd looks in the past when describing my work, but people rarely voice their shock in a negative way. It's something that I've encountered both in the North and South, but in the end, the work speaks for itself, and most folks are supportive. I must admit it has always been more of an internal struggle for me. There is something sacred and forbidden about embroidery, and sometimes I feel like I should be doing something more masculine with my free time like hauling wood or working on my car. I find this "man guilt" so strange, but I like that it forces me to question my own gender roles. In the end, I enjoy the process, and that's enough for me.
7. What are your feelings on the "craft vs. art" issue? Is it an issue to you ? Basically, do you consider yourself an "artist" or a "craftsman"?
I do see "craft" and "art" as different things, but that doesn't mean they are not intertwined. I like to think of myself as an artist who aspires to be a skilled craftsman.
8. What are your favorite embroidery tools? You, know fave type of thread, fave stitch, wooden or plastic hoops. We wanna know your deep secrets.
I love working with bright fabrics, neon threads, color gradients, and monochrome two tones. Geometric patterns amaze me, and I always try to incorporate them into my work. I prefer natural materials like wooden hoops and recycle meterials.
9. Do you sell your work? If so, how can we get them.
10. I noticed on Spool Spectrum you mentioned that you suffered from herniated discs and did a great deal of stitchery while recovering. I have the exact same problem and have found that embroidering while recovering from that extremely painful condition is very therapeutic. Do you feel that creating art has healing and therapeutic effects on the artist? Is Art Therapy real?
When you're 6'7" back problems don't really come as a surprise. I was in a bad spot in fall of 2007 and couldn't get out of bed for two weeks. The time surprisingly ended up being a productive one. I was able to escape the confines of my bed through my work, and I found it very calming. This no doubt led to a faster recovery and helped me combat that gaping feeling of not being able to accomplish anything. I am much more careful with my back now. I workout regularly and stretch daily, and that's kept me on my feet. It's comforting to know that I can continue my work if my back acts up again.
11. (bonus question) Do you think there should be a MANBROIDERY backed candidate in the next election, running on the MANBROIDERY party ticket?
I think the work of William Schaff is unbelievably amazing. He's got my vote. http://www.flickr.com/photos/