San Francisco artist Ben Venom (a.k.a. Ben Baumgartner), who makes quilts from t-shirts of heavy metal bands, was interviewed on this past weekend’s edition of “All Things Considered” show on NPR (National Public Radio). You can now listen to the segment at this location.
In a recent interview with My Love For You, Venom stated about his decision to begin quilting, “In 2008 I was invited to be part of an exhibition in Berlin, Germany and wanted to make a really large piece for the show but not have to pay a lot of money to ship it. I had been sewing large flags and banners while in graduate school at the San Francisco Art Institute and recently saw the Gees Bend quilt show at the De Young. At the time I had a bunch of all heavy metal T-shirts hanging in my closet. So…I decided to combine the two: metal and quilts!”
Venom told NPR his concert T’s were logical materials because “they’ve been lying around my closet for years. Like my TESTAMENT shirt was completely threadbare; you could see my nipples through it,” he said. “It’s not very heavy metal to wear that out in public.”
And concert T-shirts aren’t cheap. “A vintage BLACK SABBATH shirt can go for $100 or $80,” he said. His quilts have incorporated up to 120 different T-shirts and fetch as much as $8,000.
When asked by My Love For You why he wanted to combine a traditionally feminine craft with a male-dominated style of music — heavy metal — Ben said, “I see it as a high-speed collision of polar opposites like Large Hadron Collider —particles are shot at each other at an extremely high rate of speed and scientists measure the resulting explosions. It is at this point when something new is born. In addition, quilts are traditionally made from soft fabric and heavy metal music refers to a load, aggressive, and heavy sound. Just in the definition of each you can see the complete opposite sides of the spectrum.”
He added, “Heavy metal has always had this over-the top-mentality, with the ’70s and ’80s dominated by all these dudes wearing makeup and looking like strippers — Dee Snider, Alice Cooper, KISS, the list goes on and on. Even dressed up in some ridiculous clothing and makeup, these dudes scored all the babes! So… I was thinking about that absolute contradiction, and thought by combining quilts with metal, I would be able to achieve a similar result.”
For more information, visit BenVenom.com.