Welcome to eMbroidery, a series of interviews with male embroiderers. This month, Robert Marbury.
Name: Robert Marbury
Location: Baltimore, MD
Main embroidery medium: Cross Stitch
Noteworthy projects or pieces: Cute Vandalism
How did you come to be an embroiderer? I was partnering on a project documenting bathroom graffiti in cross stitch, with a fellow artist named Jes Schrom (http://jschrom.com/) , when we were both in Minneapolis. It was a great project because there is so much material out there and we both approached it from a different perspective. As for the actual act of cross stitching, it seemed pretty familiar. Growing up, I was a big latch hook fan. I did work on a series of latch hook pillows of Kiss for a friend and I almost lost my mind with the process. Cross Stitch doesn’t drive me as nuts.
What does it mean to you? Cross Stitch fits comfortably into the Technology/Craft dichotomy. With more distance from handwork, we crave work that requires touch. Of course, the irony is that technology still acts to spread the work created. It is also a bit of a meditative practice for me.Where do you like to work? I like to think of myself as a domesticated artist. I mostly cross stitch in front of the tv. I find humor in cross stitching during football games and champions league.How do people respond to you as a male embroiderer? I am not sure, exactly. Often times, I feel that the response is “yeah, of course you do”. I dont think I bring it up much anymore.
Who inspires you? I think that changes. Mark Dion is always an inspiration, in the way that he comfortably comments on the world he’s in. however, right now, mostly musicians are inspiring me. Nick Cave might be the big inspiration right now. He has a way of being romantic and horny.How or where did you learn you learn how to stitch or sew? My mom is a talented knitter, so I grew up seeing her knit. That process seems so familiar. But I started sewing with a project called “Urban Beasts” (www.urbanbeast.com). I was taking thrown out stuffed animals and re-sewed them as rogue (faux) taxidermy. I realized I only had one stitch in my repertoire (I think it is a blanket stitch). Cross stitch came easier.Are your current images new ones or have you used them before? These images are on my website, although I think two or three might be new.
How has your life shaped or influenced your work? Nothing like trying to take pictures in dirty bathrooms to shape your life…
What are or were some of the strongest currents from your influences you had to absorb before you understood your own work? I work in projects. these are often very rule dominated. So, it takes a while with those rules to see the pattern develop about a project. Sometimes the rules screw up a nice project other times, the artwork wouldnt be worth anything without the repetition and form given by the rules.
With the cross stitch, I am enjoying making them, even if most of them go in a box for a later date.
Do formal concerns, such as perspective and art history, interest you? Yes, they do, but I don’t necessarily worry about the male/female art/craft splits too much. I am reading Walter Benjamins “the Work of Art in the Age of its Technological Reproduction”, which is shaking me up a little.What do your choice of images mean to you? At first, I tried to make the image work, but I am learning that the image is not the central piece. by forcing an image into a cross stitch, it might not work. So I am trying to keep it simple and enjoy the whole piece, as opposed to focussing on the words or the image.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? Hmm, not sure I have the skill to work unedited. The rules I have set up don’t require me to have the words and the imagery inline.
Do you have any secrets in your work you will tell us? No. you can decide if that means I don’t have any secrets or that I won’t tell you.
How do you hope history treats your work? Ha. I assume someone will find one in a St. Vincent du Pauls and say “what weird old lady made this”…
Where can we find you and your work? In Brooklyn, stop by Boat on Smith street for some great graffiti, a Guinness and look for Boat’s Cross-stitch. Friends in LA and NYC have received some as tokens, or a purchases. Otherwise, digitally you can see my set on www.robertmarbury.com
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.