Across the parking lot of Quirk Gallery this summer, Daniel Crawford spotted his ex-girlfriend kissing another man.
They were attending an outdoor movie screening, and Crawford knew what he had to do. He quickly reached into his pocket and pulled out a patch of fabric, which he hurled.
It landed directly between them. One of them bent over, picked it up and burst out laughing: It was an embroidered patch Crawford had created that read, "Get a Room."
"It was all in good fun," says Crawford, who sells his work through his business the New Woodsman. "The patches are like business cards. I normally have one on me."
Wearing a vegetable-themed trucker hat, the 29-year-old discusses how his art has sprung spontaneously from his life, and how it relates to his upbringing in rural Ivor.
"It's a one-stoplight town," Crawford says. "Maybe one horse too."
Though he's never been one to hunt, his father and brother do. That led Crawford to create a line of neon and transparent plastic antlers. Using real antlers — including a set from a deer his father killed — Crawford creates his own horns using molds.
He's made four types of antlers that can be cast in virtually any color. Things were fine until what Crawford calls the faux-animal boom of 2009. Everywhere he turned, someone was making fake antlers and fur pieces.
"I got really frustrated, so I stopped making them for a while," he says. "It was really infuriating to see so many people doing the same thing."
It led Crawford to reinvent his antlers. Before the boom, he'd done a lot of white-on-white antlers and pastels. Afterward, he incorporated clear, florescent and glitter-filled ones. A pink and orange one is for sale at Quirk Gallery for $120.
In the midst of it all, Crawford began working at an embroidery shop in the West End. Inspired by his mother's interest in sewing and embroidery, he'd already started incorporating it into his work.
"I learned the commercial side of embroidery," Crawford says. "It was monograms of bath towels and things for babies to throw up on."
Crawford since has used this skill to create fun patches of things such as avocados, pizza slices, and campfires.
To create them, Crawford draws a design, photographs it and plots the image points on his computer. Using an industrial embroidery machine, he can create a new set of patches in a few hours. They often carry antiquated phrases that hold some sort of "lost wisdom," he says. His moonshine-jug patches read, "They say whiskey will kill you, but I don't think it will."
"A phrase, a saying, a line, a quote — if it seems meaningful or speaks to me, I'll write it down," he says. "It makes me think of the old-timey ways that are long forgotten, or the things that have disappeared over generations. Things that came from somewhere and mean something else now."
Some of Crawford's recent embroidery work has included the graduation stoles for Virginia Commonwealth University's graphic design department, and creating a patch for a group of friends that refer to themselves as the Richmond Adventure Club. He accepts commissioned works, and is thinking about making merit badges for drinking.
Ever connected to his rural roots, Crawford works half the week at his parents' shop in Ivor, fixing small motors. He enjoys the juxtaposition between his art and his mechanical work, he says: "It's a nice balance of both — what would traditionally be masculine and what would be traditionally considered feminine." S
Crawford's creations are featured online at thenewwoodsman.com, and his antlers, patches and embroidered totes are for sale at Quirk Gallery.