Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Real Chaos Needs A Fez! An interview with Fez-O-Rama

The H.P. Lovecraft Film Festival and CthulhuCon approaches Los Angeles with every day.The festival shambles into the Warner Grand Theatre in San Pedro, CA from September 27-29th.  One of the vendors who will be there are the eclectic visionaries of Fez-O-Rama.

Purveyors of fine embroidered velvet fezzes, they have just the thing you need to face Great Old Ones and Elder Things. I had a chance to speak with Jason Rodgers about their strange labyrinthine route to the worlds of H.P. Lovecraft. 

Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get started on all of this? What was one of the hardest things for you to learn?

I have a background in art and theater as well as a degree in fashion design. Back in 1999, while recovering from cancer treatments, I decided to make my friends fezzes as Christmas gifts. It was presented as a instant secret society kit and there were about 8 of them initially then more were made as birthday gifts and such. Soon we would all wear our fezzes to go out to dinner or bowling, just for kicks. We were constantly asked where we got them. A few of us wore them to an art show were we involved in and after getting asked if we were selling the hats over and over again I decided that I might have to consider making this a more serious project. It seemed like a good way to combine my art with my fashion design experience and challenge myself to learn more about creating embroidery designs.

The most difficult thing to deal with when blending art and commerce is finding the balance between creative integrity and a quick buck. Not everything that brings creative fulfillment will be a big seller and it is far too easy to cheapen one's work by simply chasing dollars. The fact that I'm doing something as absurd as embroidered velvet fezzes only adds to the confusion.

What's your favorite H.P. Lovecraft story?

While I do love "At The Mountains of Madness," having spent most of my childhood in a pool as a competitive swimmer, I would have to go with "The Shadow Over Innsmouth." I can somehow relate to that one a bit more... assuming that being able to relate to one of H. P. Lovecraft's stories is a good thing.

What's been your favorite creation so far? What was the most unexpected surprise you've found when making these creations?

Like most artists my favorite creation changes over time as I am usually looking towards the next design. I am particularly fond of the designs that caused me the most difficulty to create. I can see the most growth in those works. The Cthulhu design spent about a year in my mind and many weeks in my sketchbook before it got to the embroidery stage. I knew I wanted to do a Lovecraft themed fez but I just didn't have an angle on the design when I started. The Ganesha was another design that I knew I wanted to do for some time before I started sketching. The concept came together quickly but the embroidery design was a challenge. I did the Feznovian with my good friend Troy Zimmermann. He is a brilliant artist and after I pitched the idea of a pre-Soviet Russia controlled tropical island nation, something that would only exist in a bad James Bond knock-off he came back with a black ink design that I knew would be a great jumping off point for an embroidery. The challenge here was creating depth and texture and working with the colors to capture the tropical feel for what is a rather somber crest.

What's your advice for learning how to appreciate a truly exceptional fez?

Dress up to the fez. Sure it's fun to just casually don a fez now and we'll often wear them just as a comfort thing but to truly appreciate it, one has to take it to the nines. Get out the suit and tie and make a statement. Wear it out on the town. Will people look at you oddly? Sure, but let's face it. Our society has a pretty jacked up idea of what appropriate attire is and it's not like we should trust that decision to the middle-aged guy in short pants and flip flops.

What's a project you really hope to take on in the next few years? Where do you hope to go from here?

We are currently working on expanding our line to include new styles of hats. This process has taken far longer than I would have liked since Fez-o-rama is not my full-time focus. I am hoping that very soon I can make Fez-o-rama my full-time focus and expand my attention to new artwork, new designs and more shows.

Where else can we find you throughout the year?

In the last year we have greatly expanded the number of shows we attend and expanded the range of our travel. This coming year we will be at the Emerald City Comic Con in Seattle, WonderCon in Anaheim CA, Phoenix Comicon and Denver Comic Con next June, as well as a return to GenCon in the Summer.

What's your favorite music to listen to as you create a fez?

My musical tastes are all over the place. I go from funk to gypsy jazz to bhangra to hip hop at any given moment. I especially like music that has an exotic feel to it. One of my favorite bands to listen to is Movits! a Swedish jazz hip hop group. On a more local front Shotgun Wedding Quintet is great for inspiring creativity with their amazing groove and deep narratives. For setting a really exotic tone Beats Antique is my go to.

You can visit Fez-O-Rama at https://www.fez-o-rama.com but be prepared for madness and insanely good deals!

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