Ben Venom is a badass quilter. Full of occult symbology, each one could be a cozy centerpiece for a satanic ritual. Venom earned his nickname as a teenager, and he is a self-taught, one-man show with a standard sewing machine, whose upcycled art represents his community and his subcultural interests. These mega-quilts are a trifecta of fine art, craft and function, with a heavy dose of punk rock. One of our favorite pieces he's made, "Live Fast" and two "Hand of Doom" jackets are part of Converse's Lovejoy Art Program and has been on display in their world headquarters. The work is now available, along with the works of other artists included in the program, as part of an auction benefiting Artists for Humanity.
Bid on Venom's work and others, here! (Ends May 2nd)
What inspired your work for Lovejoy?
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 Grandmothers 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?
Tell us about your workspace.
My studio is located in the back room of my wife and I's apartment in the Haight/Ashbury neighborhood of San Francisco. The room is cluttered with bins and piles of the donated and recycled fabrics that form the foundation of my work. They spill over and cover parts of the floor alongside thread, needles, and razor blades. My sewing machine and a large table emerge from the explosion of materials and this is where I do the bulk of my work sewing, cutting and designing. I watch documentaries and bad action moves on Netflix in between listening to various podcasts throughout the day. Its a nice disorganized room with lots of sunlight that I enjoy working in.
How do you alleviate creative blocks?
I walk around the neighborhood, listen to music, and do research.
Do you have any unusual sources of inspiration?
Old typeface books.
What is your process like from starting a piece to finishing it?
Everything I do begins with some amount of research into a particular topic or interest. I will come up with a general idea in my sketchbook by taking notes and doing some quick drawings to work out my idea. From there, I move the design into Photoshop or Illustrator and refine the design to its final size. The next step involves cutting all the shirts / denim / leather into pre-determined shapes that fit into the overall design much like a puzzle. Finally, I sew all the pieces together with the quilting stitch that holds all three layers of the quilt together.
What do you believe is a key element in creating a good composition?
Clean and Simple design.
What is the most challenging part about being an artist today?
Money and time management.
What do you wish you knew about the art world before you got started?
Make good art, arrive on time, and be easy to work with. As long as you do two out of the three you will have success.
Art is the ultimate example of subjectivity. How do you handle negative criticism?
I don’t listen...HA!