October 19, 2016 6 min read
Mason McFee is an artist and graphic designer behind Hello Maseman. There is no shortage of art styles and mediums that have captured his interests but the raw hand-sewn patchworks he has crafted lately became the focus of our collaboration. His early experiences are rooted in a DIY attitude in a small town in Texas mixed with growing up with educators gave him the freedom and opportunity to develop a unique tension between the constraints of a professional graphic designer and an artistic spirit that is anything but constrained. Altru had the opportunity interview him as part of our ongoing Artist Collaboration Projects.
Below is our interview with Mason McFee and some of his art on apparel produced by Altru Apparel
A. Hi Mason. How’s it going and can you tell us a little about yourself?
M.M. It’s going great. I’m an artist from Austin, Texas. I dabble in all sorts of artwork from zines to paintings to murals and whatever captures my interest.
A. Looking back through your art, you’ve worked with many different mediums. From collage to geometric shapes, zines to the patchworks we are involved with in our collaboration. They all seem to have a kind of natural organic feel. How do you go about doing that?
M.M. Well, I guess I’ve been a doodler and drawer my whole life. It’s just something I love to do. A lot of the organic nature in my work comes from growing up in Boerne, a small Hill Country town in Texas, outside of San Antonio. My parents were both educators when I was growing up, so they encouraged a lot of exploration while I was a kid. I grew up on ten acres and we did all kinds of things around the property including working on cars, building with wood, making forts and tree houses, going fishing in the creek and generally being outdoors. I enjoyed the experience of growing up outside of the city limits where we had a little more freedom to do what we wanted.
A. So you had access and were able to get your hands on different equipment for practical reasons and also to build and create?
M.M. Yeah, we’d do whatever you know? My pops showed us how to use power tools and bits about electronics. I did a lot of creating in my parents garage, making artwork with all the stuff my dad had laying around the place. I enjoyed learning new things. That’s sort of how the sewing thing came into play lately. I was interested in making patches, so I was screen printing my own onto fabric. My little sister showed me how to use the sewing machine to sew the edges. I ended up teaching myself to do embroidery after I saw how easy it was to use. Sewing is this weird combination of skills, similar to using a band saw and sort of like welding, but with fabric. I kinda enjoy that.
A. What other mediums are you interested in?
M.M. Right now I’ve been excited about getting back into making sculptures and installations. Also, I’m doing some collaborations with my new project, Elmer Gomer. This will be where I’m going to start selling my patches and artworks, but it’s also more of an avenue to sell stuff my artwork. I’m not going to just leave it to patches and hats and shirts and stuff, but start doing collaborative artworks again with friends on projects.
A. I saw that you and your wife had collaborated and made over 25 zines. How is it working with your wife and do you often collaborate together?
M.M. We collaborate on lots of stuff. The zine project we worked together on was called Crummy House. We lived in this run down house in South Austin that inspired the name. We’d invite artists over to collaborate on zines that we’d scrap together on our kitchen table. That was a project that became useful for meeting other artists and allowing us to do our own thing when we both had full time jobs. It ended up being a really great experience at a time when we were both creatively drained.
So, Jessica Clark is my wife and is a graphic designer in Austin, as well. Art + Math is her graphic design company. We do all sorts of stuff together right now. We finally moved out of the Crummy House and into a house over in East Austin where we now live. We enjoy hanging around the house with our two cats and having friends over. Jess is a graphic designer for a vegan cupcake company here in Austin. She does her own thing and I do mine. Having an artist and designer as a spouse inspires me to create each day. We’re going to collaborate on a project with Elmer Gomer very soon, so stay tuned for that.
A. You had been an art director at an advertising agency. How was that?
M.M. It was a good experience. I graduated college then jumped right into working with someone who was a graphic designer and ended up starting his own agency. I worked with him for seven years. It taught me how to take a project all the way to completion. It helped with learning how to work with people in a professional environment. When you work with someone else on a project, there are lots of steps making sure they are stoked on what they get at the end. Also, you know, learning about processes I needed to do when it comes to (ha) billing and invoicing and making sure you are getting paid. The business world is a tricky one and I’m definitely still learning.
A. If you had to choose a different career, what comes to mind?
M.M. I’d probably want to do something outdoors. I wouldn’t mind being a park ranger at a national park. Something out doors for sure. I was actually a tour guide as a summer job for a while at a cavern outside of Boerne. I enjoy the outdoors for sure, being out in nature.
A. Any artists or graphic designer favorites?
M.M. I was very inspired by Maya Hayuk growing up. I actually got to meet her and she’s kind of a rock star artist that I look up to. She does very large outdoor paintings, murals. I really like her brilliance when it comes to color and her positive energy. Her work is very bright and psychedelic and I like that she is constantly reinventing her work.
A. You said you once had a a chance to meet her. Tell us about that.
M.M. When I was still in school I used to do these mini-zines and send them out to people in the art world that I admired. I basically would find their email and ask them if they wanted to trade art packages. She was one of the people that responded back. We ended up trading stuff, like mix tapes, CDs and stuff in the early days. She was just one of those artists that really encouraged you and was engaging as a person. So, a week after I met Jessica, I was so in love I followed her on a trip to New York. Well, I thought I’d reach out to Maya and she invited us to an Anthony Lister art show and ended up getting to check out her studio, too. So that was pretty big, especially in my early years just getting started. She was inspiring for sure.
Oh, also in Austin I have a huge family of rad artist friends. I’d try and list them all here, but the list would seriously be way too long for this interview. They are all very inspiring to me for sure.
A. Do you get to travel?
M.M. I do get to travel, but not as often as I’d like. I’m heading out to the West Coast soon. Hopefully a Japan trip and maybe Sweden in the coming years. I’ve got my patches over in a little shop in Tokyo called LECHOPPE. They came to my studio in Austin and bought pretty much every patch I had in my studio. I’m excited to show off a new collatoration with them of 13 Wrangler shirts and jackets. They’ll be done pretty soon and for sale this Winter.
A. Final Question... Glitter, Yea or Nay?
M.M. Yea! (Ha)