Welcome to eMbroidery, a series of interviews with male embroiderers. This month, some wiseacre called Mr X Stitch.
Name: Jamie Chalmers aka Mr X Stitch
Main embroidery medium: Cross Stitch
Noteworthy projects or pieces: Spam Stitch Series, assorted edgy cross stitches, running the world’s best contemporary embroidery website.
How did you come to be an embroiderer? I discovered it by accident, thinking that cross stitch would be a fun pursuit while travelling on holiday. Little did I know that such a simple idea would have such long-lasting consequences.
From finishing my first cross stitch piece, I sought out more contemporary patterns, choosing to make my own graffiti designs. In 2008 I started the Mr X Stitch blog and with plenty of hard work and support from an incredible collection of stitchy superheroes, I’ve arrived at this point in time. Five years since Mr X Stitch began, I could not be prouder of what’s happened and more excited about what will happen next.
What does it mean to you? I love cross stitch. There’s a slight irony in that the amount of time I spent on Mr X Stitch (as well a roller derby website and my day job) means that I have little time to stitch at the moment, but when I do it’s a treat. The gentle repetition of the stitches soothes my soul, while the joy of creating new embroidered art inspires me and reminds me that life can be simple and joyous.
Where do you like to work? At home, in my lounge, in the company of my girlfriend and the Ninjacats. My second favourite place to work is in a hammock at a yoga hostel near Lake Atitlan in Guatemala, but I don’t get to do that very often.
How do people respond to you as a male embroiderer? This element is something I’ve deliberately exploited. There’s no denying that my size, my bald head and my tattoos all add to the juxtaposition with being a male embroiderer. I’m aware that cross stitch isn’t taken as seriously in the textile art scene as some of the other embroidered forms and therefore my attempts to elevate its status – I’ve had more success in this mission on the website than in my personal practice – have added to the mix.
I think people’s response to male embroidery will always be more amplified than their response to female embroidery, and there’s 400 years of socio-political dialogue that is to blame for that. It’s going to be interesting to see how things evolve, but I am proud to be a man who stitches and honoured to meet and showcase my brethren in the world of manbroidery.
Who inspires you? I’ve been so fortunate to see a wealth of embroidered art since I started the site and every day I see new things that inspire me and make me want to do more for the world of stitch. It’s such a remarkable craft and I don’t think I could every tire of seeing new stitcheries.
How or where did you learn you learn how to stitch or sew? I’m self taught, which isn’t too grand a statement in the context of cross stitch. I’ve been making it up as I go along since then. One day I’d love to get some formal training and have a desire to learn Japanese Embroidery to really sharpen my skills. Anyone who would like to help me on that particular adventure is welcome to get in touch!
Are your current images new ones or have you used them before? Alas, these are images that have been used before. I’m working on a couple of projects behind the scenes, but life is so full that there’s little point in sharing them yet as they are a loooong way from being completed.
How has your life shaped or influenced your work? My experiences as Mr X Stitch have definitely impacted on my sense of what is an original idea, as I’ve seen so many great creations that it’s tricky to form a new idea without feeling that I’m purloining someone else’s concepts. However I do find that my creative path is making its way in its own direction – by the time I’ve finished one piece of work, the next idea has sidled up and started making itself known.
What are or were some of the strongest currents from your influences you had to absorb before you understood your own work? I’m not entirely sure that I do understand my own work. I certainly struggle to consider myself as a valid artist, despite putting a great deal of effort into convincing other people to take themselves seriously as artists…
Do formal concerns, such as perspective and art history, interest you? They do. I am a naive artist and have little comprehension of the historical narrative attached to most art forms, which is quite handy but at the same time a bit limiting. I’m planning on becoming more informed, particularly in relation to the gender/stitching debate, something that I’ve done some research into. There’s a lot to learn and it’ll be interesting to see what I find out.
Do you look at your work with an eye toward it like what can and can’t be visually quoted? In other words what you will or won’t cut out? I’ve done a few pieces of work that I wouldn’t expect to be quoted anywhere as their content is probably a bit too risque for mass consumption. However, unlike many of the amazing artists I’ve come to know, I don’t think my work is of a suitable standard or frequency to merit much consideration. One day i hope to stretch my artistic wings, but for now I am concentrating on curation and sharing the wonderful world of stitch with a worldwide audience.
Do you have any secrets in your work you will tell us? Not specifically, but if I’ve hidden the back of the work it’s because it looks like a dog’s dinner.
How do you hope history treats your work? With kindness.
Where can we find you and your work? I think I’ve got most of my work in my Portfolio on Flickr – my most meaningful work is this website though, and I hope you enjoy being here!
eMbroidery was created with the support and wisdom of the magnificent Bascom Hogue.
If you are, or know of, a male embroiderer that we should interview as part of this series, contact us!