image by Bobby Fisher Photography, @bobbyfisher
Honestly, I'm not sure how to introduce you to Thom Gonzo. He's a pesona, a masked mender, a punk, a dancer, a maximalist minimalist who truly lives by his motto #stitchitdontditchit. His work is his life, stitching daily to repair, rework and mold his clothing with layer upon layer of punk patches and upcycled scrap materials. The materials are minimal to the extreme- patch, needle, thread over and over again until the original item is reworked beyond recognition, but part of his lived story. Themes of resourcefulness, non-conformism and anti-consumerism are at the forefont of his messaging in hopes to inspire people to shun the pressures of consumer culture.
Let's let Thom Gonzo speak for him self now....
1. How did you get started with mending?
A young unmanageable punk with too many holes in his jeans, offended many with his shameless presence. Punishment was administered accordingly. All adored, shredded, and indecent denim was confiscated and destroyed by authorities with scissors. Due to an exceedingly rampant fast pace lifestyle, blown out jeans were unavoidable to this young miscreant. Conflict ensued. In order to mediate this conflict he found a middle path to keep awkward angry nay-sayers away with creative intuition, dental floss, and said scissors while also developing comfort and self worth, a creative outlet, and preserving his thread born exterior.
2. Tell us a bit about your process. How do you plan out a project or mend? What kind of materials do you use?
#dontditchitstitchit is in essence a desire to innovate the old and unuseful. In a lot of ways the process is life and reacting accordingly #designedbyliving. I believe this to be an important element because clothing hangs on everyone differently. It doesn’t actually fit until it falls apart in the stressed areas. Followed by mending. .....OR that same desire to have that personal fit in something shaped not necessarily to your liking or social norms. Don’t supply, #diy. I filter all my projects with this in mind and more that I won’t disclose completely.
Materials, I use scraps a lot. People throw away a lot and I have never had to buy materials. Discarded work pants are ideal. Unless it’s canvas prints by admired artists. String, heavy polyester blend thread, mostly but started by using dental floss and still burn and melt my knots.
3. Hand work can take a fair amount of time and patience. How do you carve out time to mend?
I have never used a machine nor will I. I meditate a lot and chant mantras while I sew, but beyond that I just love doing it. I’m not all that talented or skilled. I’m just a laborer and mending is what I do. My story spikes interest, so at some point my partner encouraged me to share how much work I do. Which is why I adopted a Gonzo Journalism lens. Clichés aside this is truly a way of living for me. There’s no carving out time. There’s just survival.
4. Are there any projects that you're particularly proud of? Maybe you tested out a new technique, had some breakthrough in your process, or just felt elated with the finished outcome.
My prize achievement is my first project that I started in 2001. My crust pants. They were actually cut off of me in an abundance in 2006 after a nearly successful suicide attempt. I still wear them. To show that kid all the things I’ve done and places I’ve been and why survival is important. Even though the surrounding world doesn’t present you with a livable situation, molding the world to your form is what makes life inspiring and beautiful.
I’m a performer and classically trained dancer, singer, actor and have been performing and touring the world as a soloist and co-rehearsal director with Shen Wei Dance Arts for the last 8 years. My sewing skill set has proven beneficial to stage work as well. Lots of sock darning and altering costumes on the quick.
I love trekking, long 3 day mountain hikes, and I’m also a downhill longboarder. Mending with denim and leather also helps protect me from from high speed road rash with my downhill racing. Exposed skin at even 30 miles per hour is a danger for serious road rash, which is why I patch with leather sometimes. A lesson taught to me from old bikers that were parents to some punks in my tribe.
I have a wool candy skull mandala long coat, in process still, that I’ve been hand stitching patches onto for years. Probably my most difficult project.
5. Besides mending what are some of your interests? What are some ways you incorporate the "mend and make do" ethos in other aspects of your daily life?
My practice is loosely non-excess based, but really I just don’t throw anything away or thrift. I repurpose and commit to each item, which inconsequence leaves the newer clothing less used with a longer self life. To prove to myself that my favorite pants are still wearable, I put them back together and they become more interesting as a consequence. This was effective in being nutritious to life. So this idea spread to anything I could pierce with a needle, network, and help others find.
6. Any upcoming events or projects you'd like to share?
Humbly, I haven’t really stepped out into the sewing public or events. My friends just started requesting my mending. In 2016, I thought how can I weaponize what I do to smash divisions between hardcore culture and fine art? Giving anyone a license to humbly exist in this clusterfuck of humanity on non-elitist, cross cultural, multidisciplinary terms for self preservation. The solution of raw grit and profound intelligence to share what I’m already doing but in a way that can be mocked, but also understood as a raw elemental way of self betterment.... and it all sounds like a kick to the face!!! #dontditchitstitchit