Welcome to Manbroidery, a series of interviews with men who stitch. This time we interview Walter Bruno Brix who plays with textile illustration to explore history and identity.
Location: Cologne, Germany
Main embroidery medium: cotton, linen, wool, sheets, damask, silk, plastic, every fabric and and an array of threads from silk, plastic, wool, linen to paper. Just what I can find and what I like in color and structure. I love to use strange materials.
Noteworthy projects or pieces:
In 2010 I finished “Christi nehan-zu“, a work of 220 x 140 cm, in which Japanese and European ideas merge. It is the figure of the dead Christ, a drawing after a real figure in the Museum where I will exhibit in April, put into the place of Buddha in a so called nehan-zu (parinirvana), a picture of the moment the historical Buddha died and left the world. He was lamented by all beings. And maybe the womens hearts project. I made about 70 hearts of famous women from different materials. But this is more a sculpture project. Ah, there is a new work emerging, an sewn picture of Amaterasu ômikami the Japanese sun goddess.
How did you come to be an embroiderer?
Naturally. Born into a family with a grandpa who was a tailor, a grandma with handwork skills, I had thread, needle and scissors for me since I can think. Fabric is something very familiar for me. Sewing, I don’t consider my work as embroidery, but it is, in fact, sewing comes naturally for me. I can sew and talk and watching TV at the same time.
I remember the very big and high upholstered table and the very big scissors in the working place of my grandpa.
What does it mean to you?
To tell the truth, sewing is satisfying. I love to draw and sewing my drawings gives me more time together with the work. That is what I enjoy much.
Where do you like to work?
I have my studio at home and my atelier is a few minutes by feet from here. This is where I do most of my work. But I although stitch sometimes in the train, when travelling, and a lot in the evening, sitting in the bed.
How do people respond to you as a male embroiderer?
In public, like in the train, as I don’t do much fuss about it, nearly nobody is recognizing me, while stitching. Sometimes in exhibitions, where people see my work, I get asked certain questions and I know there is the idea, stitching is womens work. But this does not count for me. It is an idea of the 19th century and of the bourgeoisie class.
Who inspires you?
I love the work of Kiki Smith, Jochen Flinzer and Peter Roesel. And a lot more. My inspiration although draws from Japanese aesthetics and the tradition of sabi and wabi, from the traditional oil painting like van der Weyden, Cranach, Caravaggio and else. Despite this, every year we are living some time in Paris, the hometown of my friend. And this city is so inspiring. I love the dilapidated houses, the worn colors and the extreme mixture of elegance and trash.
How or where did you learn you learn how to stitch or sew?
As said before, it came natural in my childhood to stitch, I although learned to knit, crochet, cutting cloth, pattern-making and all that stuff. I got it shown and if I grabbed, good, if not, good. But I was very eager to understand and acquire as much as possible. So I asked everybody and learned without thinking to much about it.
But I think that just counts for me. My brother never learned it and he is working as a plumber today. He had never any interest in textile. And my mother, who has some interest, is not very keen in her textile work. She asks me sometimes for things she does not know how to solve. This is funny for both of us.
Are your current images new ones or have you used them before?
Mostly new ones.
How has your life shaped or influenced your work?
My life and my work are closely intertwined. One is influencing the other. I make no cut between leisure time and work, I enjoy to have time with me and my work.
What are or were some of the strongest currents from your influences you had to absorb before you understood your own work?
I had to draw back from the Japanese influence, to understand my work better. I changed my work about five years ago from scratch. One can see my work before on this website: www.uwagi.wordpress.com
Do formal concerns, such as perspective and art history, interest you? Art history is a big influence in my work. As I am working for Museums and galleries as an art historian. .
In perspective I’m interested insofar, that I use it in my work. But mostly for showing the problem, that we have a picture of the world in front of us and not the world itself.
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 try out very much, to defer my limitations. I like to find out, what can be done, to try out my techniques, materials and skills.
Do you have any secrets in your work you will tell us?
I have an interesting secret technique to thread a needle with a very fine hole. Sometimes it is very hard to thread a fine needle. But if one can get relaxed enough, to forget about the idea to thread the needle, it comes from itself. Sounds strange and I can not tell how I do it exactly. But it is a leftover from my time with zazen, when I was younger.
How do you hope history treats your work?
Hope some of my works get treasured by people who enjoy it as I did.
Where can we find you and your work?
I live and work in Cologne, a town nearly in the center of Germany, a bit in the western part, near to Netherlands and France. If nobody is in vacation, we would have one Million citizens. Here I live in an un-renovated Art-Nouveau flat (more the trashy style) together with my friend, the French Jazz-Saxophonist Yves-Alain Corandi and the cat Minka. Make a date and we can meet.