subversive cross stitch  

Postcard designed for Subversive by Ray Fenwick!

While the rest of his kind pad listlessly through the forest looking for nothing more than rabbits and good hibernation caves, this fellow SEEKS THE TRUTH! Armed only with a customized divining stick and his advertising placards, he pushes aside even the fattest rabbits to reach for the one thing he knows is truly worth the search: RABBITS. I mean THE TRUTH. His fur is soft, but not too soft, and he'd be the first one to tell you that, because he IS UNABLE TO LIE.

sheets from Urban Outfitters

coin purse from blue Q

smacker book from if'n books


How does one even begin to describe the fabulous illustrator Ray Fenwick? How do you catch a cloud and pin it down? We decided to cut to the chase and just ask the genius himself. Don't miss his creation for us - our special big kit for the summer: Meat for the Beast!

CQ: You know, I always like to start an interview by talking about myself, Crafty Query, and I hear we have a little something in common. People are always mistaking me for Julie Jackson when I’m actually a separate character, a figment of her imagination. I hear you have a similar problem.

RF: Oh my god, first question in and we're already bonding over shared experience! I hope the readers can feel the energy.

CQ: Why don’t you start by telling us a little bit about your series Hall Of Best Knowledge and your boy genius alter-ego?

RF: Hall of Best Knowledge is a typographic comic I did that lasted just a little over a year. The idea was that each one was a lesson put forth by a nameless author who, for the most part, either gets things wrong or just uses the lesson as an excuse to talk about himself. The character is only ever present in voice, as the comic itself is mostly text, but you do get hints here and there about the age and life of the author. I mean, in the same way you get a sense of who your teachers are in any situation, which is to say that you learn about them in little stray bits and pieces over time. In this case, those bits and pieces end up telling you that the author is petty, insecure, obsessed with being smart and kind of a dick. Can I say that? Dick?

CQ: Please do.

RF: What's funny is that, like you mentioned, I think some people assumed the character was actually me, because there was no cartoon with a speech balloon that would tell you Oh, it's that guy there who is saying this stuff, right. So people who worked with my fiancé would ask her about the comic, wondering if I really thought such and such a thing, or if I was like that character. I'm not, in the literal ways, as some of that stuff was pretty ridiculous, but I do share some of his qualities. I mean, I'm ashamed to admit it, but I'm definitely obsessed with being smart. I often wish I was smarter, or am envious of other people whose intelligence I admire. I'm also insecure, petty, and can be kind of a dick. So, um, kind of similar?

CQ: Hmmm, interesting. Speaking of smart, as a Print magazine subscriber, I was super-impressed by their very smart interview of you earlier this year. They really showered you with admiration, and rightly so. And now I feel I know you a bit, it’s like… the web imitating art imitating life or something. How do you stay so friendly and clever and grounded – is it Nova Scotia? Do you live in a cabin out in the wilderness or something? Do the bears in the forest surrounding your house not read Print? Don't they know who you ARE?!

RF: No, they don't know who I am, but it's not for lack of me trying. I actually roll down the street in a shiny, self-powered parade float, waving, nib-pen in hand, and on the side it says RAY FENWICK, ILLUSTRATOR WHO OFTEN DRAWS LETTERS, LET US CELEBRATE HIM. You know, just to get the word out. Any day now someone is going to chase me down and beg me to sign something and at that point I'll have to decide whether to stay grounded or just cut loose and become a celebrity. Weak and power hungry as I am, I'll probably choose the latter.

Now, as for bears, and the whole wilderness thing, I hope you aren't saying that because you assume Canada is some kind of untamed wilderness. Maybe you should come to Nova Scotia so that one of the bears can give you a geography sensitivity lesson.

CQ: As a Colbert fan, I simply couldn't put myself in the path of bears because of their extreme threatiness, but thanks. Speaking of bears, I’d love to know more about the Truth Bear. Is he a neighbor of yours? A pet? An illusion? Has Werner Herzog filmed you together?

RF: He's a complicated dude, The Truth Bear. I actually came across that image in an old book and loved it, the goofy look combined with the sense that he is guarding something, and he was holding up these blank signs. So I redrew him and thought that he would probably be guarding the truth, if anything. I realized later that it kind of made sense, if you think of truth as being, pardon the pun, the bear facts. That's flawed though, because I'm not so certain that that truth has anything to do with fact. Doesn't truth have more to do with acceptance than facts? See what I mean? He's complicated, and while you're puzzling over this stuff he can swat you with his paw and shatter your jaw.

CQ: Yowch! Another thing I have to ask about – the piece of yours that Julie has in her office. Is there a story behind it, was there anything in particular that inspired it? I love that it’s drawn on an old book cover. Is that what people in Nova Scotia use for canvas?

RF: Actually, we make our canvases out of old lobster traps and ground up Americans. Watch it, lady! (see, he meant to say "mister"!) No, I am doing these single panel comic/art things and I thought it would be a nice contrast to have the medium they were drawn on be something with a history of sorts. The pieces are like the shortest of short stories, so it seems appropriate to have them on something that hints at a larger story, a larger idea. I also love process of art and craft as much as the finished piece, if not more, and so the hunt for these books satisfies that. As a book lover it feels strange to pull books out of thrift store bins, take them home and rip the covers off, but it kind of makes me feel like a man. I hunt, I kill, and then I, um, draw pictures on the skin.

The baby stealer, I have to say, is pretty random. I had drawn this little guy stealing a baby in my sketchbook, and there was this whole conversation between the baby stealer and the baby, a very calm and rational one, where they both speak like bored adults. The baby stealer is explaining why he looks the way he does, and the baby is going on and on about how surprising the whole process is. The core premise being that stealing babies is... funny? God, I don't know.

CQ: Right, you have to wonder how much money you'd get for them (I'm SO kidding!). I’m very impressed with the number of diverse products your designs are appearing on, including wallpaper (seriously?) Do you sleep on Urban Outfitters sheet sets?

RF: I told someone that I thought it would be vain and weird to sleep on sheets and pillow cases with my drawings on them, but the colour works nicely with the room so I caved in. I might be embarrassed if someone comes over and sees that though, because they might think, I don't know, that I am so self-obsessed that I have to swaddle myself in my own work just to get to sleep.

CQ: Will you start carrying a man purse when blue Q comes out with those excellent Fenwick coin purses?

RF: Are coin purses not masculine? I am so clueless. I guess the word purse implies feminine, but whatever, I would totally carry a coin purse. I would carry my brass knuckles and PCP in it. Open the purse, take the PCP, put on the brass knuckles, and then just go for it! I know PCP is not something to joke about. I'm sorry. But do you really want to make fun of the coin purse of a dude who is amped on Angel Dust and swinging his brassed knuckles around?

CQ: Oh HELL no! Of course you also created more clever artwork for a smacker book at if’n books (I’ve been smacking the cats with it all week, they love it). I wonder if you’ll be taking up cross stitch and bookbinding now. Were you crafty like that as a kid? Are there any memorable little crafty projects you were particularly proud of that you could tell us about?

RF: I took a bookbinding class in art school, and it was a lot of fun, but for both that and cross stitch I think I prefer to leave that to people who have a consuming passion for it. I'm obsessed with making, but for now that mostly means drawing, and some printing.

I think I was pretty crafty as a kid growing up. I've made cards and gifts for as long as I can remember, which is a long time for the people who get that stuff every year—sorry guys. I also remember my mom and brother encouraging me to try and make a massive cardboard submarine in our basement, and I was pretty proud of that thing when I was through. My brother was the craft prince of our family though. For one of my birthdays he had the idea to convert the basement into a spaceship, so he covered all the walls with tinfoil and made these portholes with space scenes all over the place. You even entered the basement through a sort of airlock. It was incredible! He also made wireframe models of skulls out of twist-ties. How do you compete with a guy like that? I basically copied everything he did.

CQ: Wow, any photos of that spaceship??

And Lastly -- how busy is your life now and what’s next? And would you design holiday cards for me before you get any more famous? I’ll send you a fruitcake and some elves made of felt - promise!!

RF: The most pressing thing coming up is a vacation visiting family and friends in my old hometown. As for the holiday cards, as long as I can be paid in felt elves then I'm game. I try to negotiate felt things in to my contracts so this would be a pretty standard business transaction for me. We can talk.

CQ: Ooh- I'm off to gather some felt for elf-making! Thanks, Ray, for everything you do. We can't WAIT to see what's just around the corner!


Got a question for Crafty Query? Someone in the craft scene that you'd like to know better?
Just wanna say HEY? Send your note to CRAFTY QUERY c/o

email | subversive cross stitch ® site and content © 2003-2007 | legalese


Be the first to know when Crafty Query's at it again - enews, baby!