Welcome to eMbroidery, a series of interviews with male embroiderers. This month, Colin Holder aka Holder of Anime.
Name: Colin Holder aka Holder of Anime
Location: London, UK
Main embroidery medium: Gaming based Cross-stitch.
Noteworthy projects or pieces: My ‘Pocket Fighter’ Project, most people would know this project through the Chibi Street Fighter images of Ryu and Chun-Li and also the Akuma graveyard scene.
How did you come to be an embroiderer? I’ve always done anime and manga based drawing projects in the past, but gave up years ago. While on holiday with my girlfriend, we came across a book called ‘Manga Cross Stitching’ (by Helen McCarthy), and she bought it for herself. I’ve always sat back and watched her do really cool projects involving knitting and other crafts, so I thought I’d give it a go. At the time she didn’t know I used to do loads of manga drawings, so the two things quickly combined. Once I did my first project, I decided to design my own and it became natural that my love of gaming and anime would influence my work.
What does it mean to you? For my whole life I’ve always struggled to find a focus for my creative side as I’m easilly distracted. I’ve started so many projects which have just ended up unfinished and dumped in the corner of my room to be forgotten about. The good thing about cross stitching is that once I finished a few, I framed them and put them on the wall so they were always there to be seen. A few people have said that I should post them online so other people could see them as well, then it all pretty much took off from there. I love the fact that I’ve managed to keep focus on this for over two years, receiving messages from people saying that my work’s inspired them to get into cross-stitching has helped me to do that.
Where do you like to work? Because I’m easilly distracted, I like to find a place to stitch where there are no distractions at all. I put all the cushions on the floor and make it as mellow as possible. I use TV programmes as a timer, so if its a half hour program I’ll give myself a 10×10 square target and that way i know that if I’m not half way through when the adverts start I need to speed up.
How do people respond to you as a male embroiderer? It’s a really mixed bag to be honest. There are times when people are impressed that I’m a guy who’s stitches, and there are others who assume that I’m gay for some strange reason. For every 10 people that like the fact that I’m a male stitcher, there’s always one or two that do or say something that I don’t agree with. For example, at a recent event I had my Akuma picture there, and there were some people who were impressed not only by me being a guy that stitches, but also doing images that are themed towards things men are interested in as well as women, such as gaming. Then there are other people who say that this doesn’t really fit in the stitching genre, and turn my pictures over to inspect them as if they’re not good enough. I feel that people shouldn’t focus on whether it’s by a man or a woman, that’s why I like the way people put pictures of their stitcing online. Because then people appreciate the image on how good it is, not on who made it.
I feel that at times I need to defend myself not only for being male but also because of my age. It got to a point that I started stitching a piece with the words “Why Not?!”, so I can show people who ask why I stitch.
Who inspires you? Most of my inspiration comes from all the pictures uploaded online. Seeing people do large projects or projects that people don’t associate with traditional stitching is what keeps me going. I’ve never really liked the traditional style of things that you see in most craft stores, and it was books like the one that we bought that showed me that you can create good stuff with your own ideas. Growing up gaming and watching a lot of anime is where I was inspired to do the pictures I do now, particularly anime artists such as Akira Toriyama.
How or where did you learn to stitch or sew? I originally learned the basics from the book and from my girlfriend. Going to events has taught me little techniques to improve my work and to finish it to better standards. It’s not easy to find meetings of cross stitchers in the same way as other crafts, which is a shame because I’ve found it’s a good and simple craft to get into.
Are your current images new ones or have you used them before? All my pieces have been one offs, but are all influenced massively by the games they’re taken from. I like to use alternative ways of seeing famous characters. For example Ryu and Chun-Li aren’t often portrayed in the cute, childlike form that I stitched them in because of the aggressive nature of the game that they originate from.
How has your life influenced your work? As I’ve said previously, gaming and anime have been my main influence for the images I’ve chosen. To put a spin on it, my work has influenced my life in that if I was shown cross-stitching, or any other craft three years ago, I wouldn’t have found it interesting. Now I go out of my way to go to events and see what people do with their craft. I used to draw and paint a lot, and I always used as many vibrant colours as possible. I like that in stitching you’re limited to using colours you can buy as threads, so you need to be creative in which colours you use.
Do formal concerns, such as perspective and art history, interest you? I see anime as an art form, and I love finding out the history of who created the original image and how their thought shaped the original image that they made. For example having female characters coloured using a pastel palette in their design, makes them look feminine but in a strong way. In terms of perspective, I noticed that the angles used in manga, anime and gaming are quite different to other forms of art, so I like to use images that have quite interesting angles in them.
What do your choice of images mean to you? They’re characters that I grew up as a fan of. Most people grow up listening to music that influence them for the rest of their lives. So for example if someone hears a song from when they’re young, they’re reminded of what was happening at that time. In a similar way, Sonic the Hedgehog is a gaming icon, as he started off as a character in a game, and has now crossed over into things that I’m making today.
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? In work that I’m still designing, I like to use characters that are off-centre. Also, in my Akuma picture I realised that including all the details on every grave made the picture look too busy. So instead I gave detail to one or two graves, and made the others just a single colour, but it still had the same graveyard effect. Having lots of detail off centre, such as the wheel on the right of the picture gives people more things to focus on than just the characters.
Do you have any secrets in your work you will tell us? I don’t have any secrets, but I like to use colours that look like they’re one colour, but they’re completely different when you look at them closely. The perfect example would be a Pokemon patch I did for a charity quilt which had an image of Onyx on it. Originally it was coloured four shades of grey, but I used pink, green and purple to give it my personal twist on an existing image. People haven’t realised until I’ve told them that there are in fact, no shades of grey on that image.
How do you hope history treats your work? I just want people to remember them as good images, and doing something interesting with a traditional craft.
Where can we find you and your work? People can find me on internet forums for cross-stitching under the username ‘Holder of Anime’. I also have my personal blog which is http://www.holderofanimestuff.wordpress.com Feel free to check it out and subscribe if you want to. I don’t update it regularly as my pieces are on such a large scale, but I try to keep it up to date with what I’m doing.
eMbroidery was created with the support and wisdom of the magnificent Bascom Hogue.
The Kingpin of Contemporary Embroidery. Committed to changing the way the world thinks about needlecraft.