Tuesday, April 7, 2009
1. Mag ik bäden? Wullt du danzen? (Would you like to dance with me?), 2. Red Work frog dissection, 3. redwork devil handstitched
Click on the links under the photos to see more of his embroideries.
I do quite a bit of stalking on Flickr, mainly in textile arts and embroidery groups. This is where I first encountered Bascom Houge's work. I admit, at first I clenched my hands with envy when I saw his red work embroidery. I feel like there's a simple elegance in his pieces that is almost confrontational. It's as if the work need not rely on a wide color palette or various types of stitches to bring the viewer in and completely hold their gaze. To me, that is one of the hallmarks of truly masterful art.
According to Bascom's blog, “I am a Mennonite Brethren from Kansas. I like reading, going to church, sewing, art, food, animals, whiskey, and people. I have many books about potatoes - their history, lore, and ways to cook them. I also collect potato things such as antiques peelers and other interesting potato items.”
This short bio only added to my fascination with his embroideries. Fortunately, he let me interview him.
How long have you been embroidering?
I have been embroidering for about thirty years. I can also do needlework, crochet, knit, and cross-stitch.
Did you grow up practicing needlework, or is this something you learned as an adult?
I grew up using needles; no, not that kind.
Are people surprised that you practice needlework?
Yes, many people upon meeting me are surprised I work with needles and sew.
Do you have many artist friends?
Currently, because of geography, I do not have friends who do visual art – I am not including quilters. Most folks I know are wordsmiths. They are quite supportive of my art. I know a few folks who take pictures but I am still undecided if photography is art.
What inspires you?
I never wait for inspiration and fortunately because of this attitude I have never had a creative block. I am inspired to make art no matter where I am physically. A nature walk on the Great Plains does not inspire me more than changing spark plugs on my car. I learned long ago waiting for the muse to strike wastes time. However, I very much enjoying looking at art and seeing what others are inventing. I like all kinds of arts and crafts.
What themes are you drawn to and why?
I am drawn to themes of redemption, hope, failure, and tragedy. Maybe I am drawn to them because I am from the Great Plains.
Do your pieces come out finished the way you envisioned them?
My pieces come out almost exactly the way I envisioned them
Do you consider yourself an artist or a craftsman?
I am an artist who strives to be an excellent craftsman.
Do you think there is a difference?
Yes, there is a difference between craft and art. Let me explain this in classical terms: genius is the idea and talent is the ability to make your idea in the way you want it made. One can have genius and no talent or no genius but be an excellent imitator. I find replacing craftsmanship with talent and artist with genius more satisfying than the traditional polemics of craft versus art. When I am asked if I see the glass as half full or half empty, I answer the glass is twice as big as it needs to be.
What other mediums do you work in?
I paint, draw, and sculpt.
How has the Flickr community influenced you as an artist?
Flickr has not had much influence on me. I enjoy comments but I have never let them influence what I do when I make art. However, I have good time looking at what other people make. I probably like looking at others work more than I like posting my own. One should march to the beat of an indifferent drummer if one is to stay true one’s own vision.
What do you hope people take away from your work?
I hope people take away a sense of wonder.
What other artists do you admire?
Samuel Dinsmore, Jasper Johns, Sam Francis, Douglas Abdel, Edward Munch, Marc Chagall, Hieronymus Bosch, Mark DeSuvero, Arshille Gorky, Clyfford Still, Barnett Newman, Kandinsky, Robert Motherwell, the list is just starting. I think Johns, Francis, Munch, Bosch, and Chagall have the biggest influences on me. I would have a hard time saying who was my favorite though, probably Johns.
Do you feel like they have influenced your work?
Yes, they have influenced my work. I learned how to make art from looking at their works.
I saw that you collect books about potatoes, what else do you collect?
I collect domed lunch boxes, potato accessories, gnomes, books, and pocket knives.
Make sure you head over to Cottonwood Diner to read more about Bascom and his work.
Thank you Bascom!