Jason Vanfosson Interview

8:22 AM

Welcome to a special edition of Indie Interview, featuring the work of my domestic idol. Move over Martha, Betsy, and Julia--there is a new boy in town. In this Q & A session, we will be taking a glimpse into the creativity of Jason Vanfosson, the founder of Domestigay.  The purpose of this series is to create an opportunity for independent embroidery artists to connect, share stories of their creative ventures, and to promote their amazing art work.

I am so envious of this stitcher, blogger, knitter, cook, gardener, and PhD student. His skills are truly amazing. 

Jason draws inspiration from gay culture and through his work, breaks down gender roles within this craft. 

1. How long have you been embroidering and who taught you this skill?
I've been embroidering regularly for the past two years. When I was much younger—like twelve—my mom had one of those stamped cross stitch kits for a table runner and napkins set. It had a cornucopia and grapes on it, very Thanksgiving-cute. I stole one of the napkins and tried to do it myself. She caught me needle-handed. She showed me how to do the basic cross stitch (on stamped fabric). I never finished that damn napkin.
Two years ago, I was in the middle of a graduate program, really depressed, and grieving the loss of my father. In a fit of fury, I decided to try free hand embroidery. I printed off a cartoon coloring page of a whale, poked some holes in it with thumbtacks, and penciled those holes onto some fabric. It was a disaster. The whale looked dead and deformed. I liked the process, though. I spent many hours teaching myself the different stitches from YouTube. I read any embroidery book I could get my hands on and ordered a beginner kit from Sublime Stitching. I have had stitching bliss ever since.

2. Tell me more about the beginnings of Domestigay, it's current purpose, and your hopes and dreams for it in the future. 
Domestigay's origins are really selfish. I wanted a space where I could embroider things that were not necessarily cute and challenge assumptions about gender and sexuality through embroidery. I was also preparing to move to the Midwest and made it my goal to become the best Midwest housegay I could be. Domestigay started as a place to create a community of other people who were tired of only finding patterns of cute ducks and dancing fruit. 

3. Wonderful, unique, exquisite, and striking. I'm running out of proper words to describe how much I love your work. Tell me more about the inspiration behind your designs. 
Why, thank ya. That's quite flattering. Well, right now, I am really inspired by sexy beefcakes. But who isn't, really? Seriously, my muses are many. A lot of my work focuses on images of the male body and masculinity. Many of my designs and projects have been inspired by American muscle magazines from the mid-twentieth century and bodybuilding photography from the earlier part of the century. I like embroidering beefcakes because it takes something extremely masculine—muscled bodies—and merges it with a completely feminized form—embroidery. I think this breaks down the gender roles in a constructive way, especially as a gay male embroiderer. 
I also draw a lot from gay culture—like sex positions and gay slang. For example, a project I am currently working on uses the gay hanky code that codes different colored handkerchiefs to identify a person's sexual proclivities. I am embroidering corresponding sexual images, words, and phrases on the handkerchiefs to make the code more domestic and available. 
Finally, I am a huge book fan. I can always find inspiration there. I've also been merging my embroidery with my love of books—as in embroidering books and embroidering text, images, and concepts from books. This inspiration is completely new, and a lot of times still influenced by muscles, masculinity, and gay culture.

4. Do you have a studio or a particular room in your home where you prefer to stitch? If so, please describe the space. Are you a mobile stitcher that carriers a project around at all times?
Yes and yes! I just moved into a bigger apartment and have a great little space in the corner of my bedroom where I design, stitch, and think. I love it. I feel divinely creative in this corner. There is a big window by it that looks into an oak tree. The natural lighting is perfect for stitching. I have also filled it with beefcake books and fabric, a bench recycled from Indian sarongs, and my favorite embroideries (of my own and others).
I also keep all my embroidery stuff compact so that it is also always with me. I keep a needle in my wallet, an embroidery tool case in my bag, and always have a project with me. Down time is embroidery time. I am also a huge fan of stitching in public. Embroidery is not a super prominent art, so when I do it in public, people get interested in a guy doing this thing that looks like what women did in the nineteenth century. A lot of times this leads to people getting interested in embroidering. I’m on a mission to convert the world to embroiderers.

5. Do you have a favorite stitch?
I love the herringbone stitch, but I rarely use it since it is more of a border stitch. I also have a special fondness for the simplicity of the back stitch. I use that one all the time. And, it is really versatile.

6. Do you sell your work or is your craft for fun? If it's for fun only, how can we talk you into changing your mind and selling us some of your pieces?
So far, I've embroidered for myself, for gifts, and in the name of art… but not for long! I made a New Year's Resolution that I would open an Etsy store before the end of the year, and I'm running out of time. Be on the lookout between now and the end of the year. I can be a huge procrastinator, so I’m shooting for a launch of 11:59PM on December 31st. 

7. You do it all. You cook, clean, stitch, garden, and knit. Let's not forget that you probably spend a fair amount of time working on your Ph.D. How do you find a good balance for all of these things and how does stitching contribute to that balance?
Stitching is the balance. I started stitching because I was highly imbalanced. Graduate school was taking over my life in a bad way. Now, embroidery is taking over my life—but in a really good way. Embroidery focuses me and is like daily therapy. I do admit that I have a hard time balancing things like embroidery and knitting. But at the end of the day embroidery always wins the fight. 

8. Is there anything else that you would like to mention about your awesome embroidery art and website?
Dudes embroider. They do it well, too. I hope that my work inspires guys to pick up a hoop and needle and start stitching. It is fun, cheap, and easy—what’s not to love? 

Keep up with all of Jason’s domestic adventures:

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