By Kenneth Miller
Needlework on canvas has been a popularized artform since 6000 B.C, dating back to its origins within ancient China, when bead embroidery was used to stitch decorative designs into animal hides. Once a symbol of wealth, this needle-to-fabric form of embroidery was used to create furnishings and hangings during this period, and was produced by both professionals and amateurs alike.
Fast forward a thousand some odd years, and the medium is still actively practiced. Although embroidery today is associated with expressions of domesticity -- the mass production of Tabby Cats and endless landscapes oftentimes hones the market -- there are a few notable creatives who stray their stitches and stretched fabrics to craft not-so-kitschy, NSFW alluring pieces of art.
Enter Juan Diego, the lively stitcher behind ‘Kinky Needles,’ a fantastically queer and sex positive Etsy shop. Inside the online store (or on Diego’s Instagram account of the same name), it’s unlikely you’ll stumble upon any depictions of “Charlotte's Web” or multicolored butterflies. There’s lots of magnificent cocks, hairy daddies in bondage, and eerily similar representations of your past dirty Saturday nights. Each piece makes you tingle -- sometimes you’re green in envy over the action between the men, other times you’re struck to stillness wondering how a cumshot could be stitched so beautifully and provoke such a wide range of emotions that aren’t necessarily even sexual.
Diego, a 30-year-old queer based out of the South of Spain, tells Hooligan he has been gay AF since he can remember. Having received a fine arts education from three different universities in Spain, a majority of Diego’s commercial work is focused within graphic design. His embroidery work, however, comes with no formal education, yet somehow so directly delivers a message of sexual subversion in media, merging the masculine ideals so many queer men crave with the feminine pop that’s likely tickled them since a young age with bubblegum-like colors highlighting each intimate moment.
Hooligan spoke with Diego on what gets him off, the importance of projects like Kinky Needles, and how his queer identity allows him to make art about sex without an inkling of remorse.
1. Kinky Needles is a queer erotica embroidery store. How were you introduced to embroidery as a medium? What did some of the first pieces your started to make look like and when did you begin making erotic embroidery?
I only began making embroidery one year ago, and at first, my pieces were full of colors -- and not sex. I aimed to emulate a pictorial result with threads, but I never appreciated the final results. Each piece ended up looking confused, so I eventually started simplifying and reducing my designs to lines, featuring only one or two colors.
Although I started late-ish in life, embroidery is a handicraft I’ve always been interested in. My grandmother used to make embroidery pieces for pleasure in her free time. One day, I decided to mimic her and start my own personal embroidery project, Kinky Needles, with no tutorials or class instruction.
2. Your art has gained significant attention from media outlets because of its uncensored approach to depictions of gay sex. How has the attention affected your creative process and attitude towards the showcasing of queer sex?
I have never cared to adjust or make special changes in the content I create or the issues I represent. Depending on the day, I can craft a rather sexually explicit piece, like a cumshot to the face. On another day, maybe a piece that is intimate, something more light and soft.
However, I have had to change how I show some of my pieces in certain press offices because of censorship laws. Sometimes I’m forced to be less racy. (Sad face).
3. It wouldn't be a stretch to say your work is awfully alluring and intimate. Where does the inspiration derive from? Have you ever used men from your own sexual past, or even fantasies, as inspiration for pieces?
All the images I reference in my work are taken from photos I find on the Internet. I spend a lot of time scrolling through erotic and pornographic images -- I’m constantly on the search for the picture-perfect situations. Sometimes it’ll only take me a few minutes to find a really hot one, and other times it can take hours.
Obviously I choose pictures that follow my personal unquenched fantasies and tastes. And it is clear in my work -- notice furry men are always present.
4. Describe your stitched art aesthetic in five words or less. Or just five separate words.
5. What is it about embroidery (a medium that is oftentimes associated with depictions of flowers and domestic animals) that compels you to use it as a way to depict sex in art?
With my embroidery work, I try to explore the contrast between a delicate technique (traditionally associated with the domestication women) with images of rough and hard sex found in the gay BDSM community. Erotic male nudes, especially ones featuring hairy and muscular men, are the epitome of iconic masculinity. Seeing the juxtaposition of the two really makes you think.
And personally, I love the embroidery process too. It’s sooo relaxing and forces me to be less impulsive.
6. As an artist, what's the importance of creating work that is explicit in nature? How has the stigma surrounding sex -- specifically queer BDSM sex -- challenged you to create new pieces?
I think sexuality and sexual practices are present in our everyday lives always -- advertising, art, TV, etc. Most of us have fantasies or sexual fetishes which are healthy when explored and applied to our sex lives. So, I don't believe there are any drawbacks in creating explicit sexual images. I’m just constantly trying to represent kinks in a way that showcase the wide variety of sexual possibilities out there.
7. What can fans expect from Kinky Needles in the near future? Any upcoming projects to keep an eye out for?
I'm trying to make my embroidery designs onto t-shirts and hoodies, actually! But, before any of that, I need to be completely satisfied with the finished products before releasing them out the world. So, please stay tuned to Kinky Needles!
In the meantime, I will doing traditional kinky NSFW embroideries, as I usually do.
Images courtesy of Kinky Needles.
For more updates on Kinky Needles, check out their Etsy shop here.