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Art & Life with Benjamin Sorrell

Today we’d like to introduce you to Benjamin Sorrell.

Benjamin, please kick things off for us by telling us about yourself and your journey so far.
My family is full of people who have been interested in music and craft, and I owe a lot to that. I’ve been drawing and making things since I was very little. I loved sketching and doodling in my notebooks nearly constantly in school, making up wild stories and ridiculous inside jokes with friends and drawing them out. However, I didn’t take art particularly seriously until my senior year of high school, when I was trying to understand what paths in life would be “good” for me to follow. Thinking about the future gave me some anxiety, and my ability to procrastinate would make tough decisions for me sometimes. Of all the subjects I cared for in high school – writing, biology, and art- it was art that stood out as the vehicle that kept my other interests together and connected to one another.

I figured that getting my basics in college out of the way would give me time to solidify my decision to pursue art, I entered Del Mar College in 2013 for an Associates’ degree and found that I had a love of printmaking. Finishing my degree, my education was followed by a Bachelor’s degree in Art at Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi.

I’m a very indecisive person and very easily distracted, but art did more than hold my attention- It was something I could pour a massive amount of time and work into. Art and the focuses I found myself in was something that tied me more deeply into my community and helped me reflect on myself, my heritage, relationships to other people- lots of things, really. In an age where alienation to others can happen often and easily, art keeps me grounded and connected.

Can you give our readers some background on your art?
I’m primarily interested in textile art, garment repair and printmaking, especially relief printing. When carving, I think of what kinds of images I would wear on textiles or images that would bring a more dimensional and collaged look to paper. Printing more graphic work and combining different elements together (like printing variable colors and woodblocks) is cathartic.

Printmaking is so great to me because of what it enables artists to do with their art- make it available to many. Print is historically a democratic art form, for and by the people, and I’m really happy when I carve a woodblock that can be printed on paper and sent to a gallery one day, then printed on fabric and patched to a friend’s jacket the next day. A big part of this is influenced by community print events like shirt printing with Full Court Press, steamroll printing events, public art walks, and fairs, and the traveling is fun and a big part of the experience.

My print work is coupled with textiles more and more, these days. In 2017, I patched a pair of jeans I had, and really enjoyed the process. My sewing or repair experience was basically non-existent, so I have taught myself the ins and outs of textile mending and pored over art related to it. Patching, clothing repair, natural dyes, and learning different stitching styles has been an amazing journey, I’ve found a deep connection to the craft of mending, with visible stitching but based entirely in practical repair instead of a pure aesthetic function, so I enjoy stitching and fixing clothes that someone’s going to wear.

I do the garment repair work based on commission, as one of the functions of visible mending is an advocacy for reducing textile waste, and re-igniting the once common practice of mending long-lasting clothing. I mend clothes and textiles that people use because there’s a fulfillment of function there, and it’s important to the art-making “process,” I think. It’s mundane to some, but really, I want people to wear the art- and wear it out, ready to be fixed again. Like printing shirts or patches, it’s really quite an honor to see someone wearing art I make out in the world.

Artists rarely, if ever pursue art for the money. Nonetheless, we all have bills and responsibilities, and many aspiring artists are discouraged from pursuing art due to financial reasons. Any advice or thoughts you’d like to share with prospective artists?
The financial challenges of art are always present and require as many solutions to that problem as there are artists. Learning to price your work properly is invaluable- I struggle with how to price work now! Think about how much you would like to make for an “hour” of your labor, what materials went into it and your costs of living. Also, keep in mind the shipping fees, gallery percentage (if the work is being displayed in a gallery) or the cost of the event you are attending. Artists that may be able to pool their time and/or resources together can get so much accomplished. This isn’t a cure-all, but democratizing the work of artists can do a lot when individuals are underfunded and overworked in other areas.

What’s the best way for someone to check out your work and provide support?
Right now, people can see my work online at my personal website, or on Instagram. I often show work out on the streets of Corpus Christi during the first Friday of the month, and I tend to telegraph where I’m going to show work ahead of time through social media outlets. In the near future, I have work at the Ao5 Gallery in Austin, TX, part of a Contemporary Texas group exhibition. I also have a natural dye workshop in mid-May at a local crafts store called Yarn Texas.

To support my work, follow me on Instagram, and check out my work there and on my website, Inquiry on prints is always welcome.

Also, talk to me about visible mending and how to rescue or transform any of your favorite clothes. I take commissions on mending through social media and email.

Contact Info:

Image Credit:
Debbie Noble, Payton Koranek, Arianna Soltero

Getting in touch: VoyageHouston is built on recommendations from the community; it’s how we uncover hidden gems, so if you know someone who deserves recognition please let us know here.

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