Ben Venom: See what goes into this creative’s hardcore quilts

Textile collagist Ben Venom's toolkit contains a little bit of everything — just like his work.

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In one word my work can be described as a COLLISION.

  1. Juki F-600 sewing machine
  2. Black and Decker Iron
  3. Safety pin
  4. Fabric Scissors
  5. Thimble
  6. Scotch Tape
  7. Sewing Machine Tool
  8. Gutermann Thread
  9. Bobbin
  10. Leather Needles
  11. Pencil
  12. Exacto Knife
  13. Seam Ripper
  14. 505 Basting Spray

Who are you, and what do you make?

I graduated from the San Francisco Art Institute in 2007 with a Master of Fine Arts degree. My work has been shown both nationally and internationally including the National Folk Museum of Korea, the Japanese American National Museum (Los Angeles), Jonathan LeVine Gallery (New York), Charlotte Fogh Gallery (Denmark), Circle Culture Gallery (Germany), Wolverhampton Gallery (England), and the Craft and Folk Art Museum in Los Angeles. I was included in the November 2011 issue of ARTFORUM Magazine, and was selected for Bay Area Now 6 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. I have been interviewed on NPR: All Things Considered, the Frame, and Creative Mojo Radio. Recent lectures include the California College of Arts, the Frist Center for the Visual Arts, Southern Graphics Council, and the Oregon College of Art and Craft. I was the artist in residence for the month of May at the de Young Museum and am currently adjunct faculty at the San Francisco Art Institute.

I’m interested in juxtaposing traditional handmade crafts with extreme elements found on the fringes of society. My work can be described as opposing forces colliding at lightening speed. Imagery found in vintage tattoos, the occult, and motorcycle gangs are stitched together with recycled materials using techniques usually relegated to your Grandmother’s sewing circle. Serious, yet attempting to take on a B movie Horror film style where ridiculousness becomes genius. The question remains… Can I play with madness?

What do you keep on hand at all times?

My Juki F-600 sewing machine, scissors, and a knife are just a few things I keep close at all times while working in the studio.


The kind of art you use as source material is at odds with the traditional domestic acts of sewing and quilting — how did you get into both?

In one word my work can be described as a COLLISION. Much like the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland that shoots opposing forces at near lightening speed to create an explosion and release of new energy, I combine various machismo, loud, and disparate elements of culture with a relatively soft functional medium…textiles. Turning it up to 11, pushing past the RED. The idea of masculine and feminine, yin and yang, craft and fine art forced together in one piece.

Textiles has allowed me to combine my varied interests into an art form that is fuses fashion, art, and most importantly function together in one piece. At the end of the day even if you do not like what you see aesthetically…my art still serves a distinct purpose in the world. You can wear it, keeps you warm, etc.

Your work features so many iconic images — who are some of your favourite designers to appropriate in your work?

I appropriate a lot of very old typefaces and icons from a couple of books I have in my library. I have used t-shirt designs from Skinner, Pushead, Andrei Bouzikov, PS1 Brand, and Harley Davidson to name a few.

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