Interview: Cass of Crummy / Crumbs

At Twin Cities Collage Collective, we’re always interested in sharing different projects that intersect with the medium of collage, especially ones that prioritize traditionally marginalized perspectives! We recently had the opportunity to interview Cass of the gender-neutral clothing line Crummy after being introduced through the zine project Crumbs. Crumbs is a quarterly art zine that features non-binary/gender-queer artists from all over the world that work in a variety of mediums. This zine also has interviews, coloring pages, mad libs, sticker sheets, resources for the LGBTQ+ community, and MORE. Crumbs is organized by Cass, founder of Crummy, and made possible by underrepresented artists. The second issue is available now!

How did you get interested in zine-making? What about fashion design, sewing and garment construction? 

I moved to Minneapolis for college in 2015. Immediately when I moved to the Twin Cities, it seemed as though zines were all around me. Coming from Fargo, North Dakota, I had no idea what a zine was since art wasn’t as subversive of a culture as it is in Minneapolis. The friends I made in Minneapolis hosted zine-making parties at their houses, some of my friends had huge “release parties” for new issues of the zines they made, and my college (Minneapolis College, F.K.A. MCTC) had a huge (and mostly unknown) zine collection. I went to college for Graphic Design, so I would constantly go to the zine room and get inspiration for projects. 

Sewing, on the other hand, was something I grew up with. I was raised in a hyper-traditional family, so all of the girls got a sewing machine for a Christmas present at the age of 12. I was basically the only cousin who stuck with the practice, so I got my Grandmother all to myself to teach me intricate sewing tricks that were passed down to her from her Great-Grandmother. I also get all of the hand-me-down fabric and sewing materials from all of the older ladies in my family. 

Merging my passion for sewing and zine-making came to fruition basically right when I started my business, Crummy. I started Crummy for people, so it only felt natural to give non-binary/queer folks a platform for their art. 

What was the motivation behind creating Crumbs? Creating a space focused on the work of nonbinary and gender-fluid creatives is really exciting — are there any major takeaways from the process of working on Crumbs?

I know so many non-binary/gender-fluid folks who are also artists. There aren’t many easy platforms for artists to share their work other than Instagram these days. I am such a tactile/physical person – like, I love physically holding a piece of art (whether it’s clothes, a painting, a book…)  So, Crumbs felt like an easy little thing for folks to access, whether they submit their work to it or buy it to appreciate it. 

The major takeaways from creating Crumbs is the excitement that radiates from the artists who submit work. I’ve had a couple people admit that they’ve lost an interest and/or motivation to continue their art, but Crumbs helped spark their passion again. That is the most special thing to me. Cause I’ve been there. It’s hard to be motivated when we’re living in a crumbling world!!! So, giving this opportunity to folks who are otherwise marginalized is really great. 

Have you made any other zines before? Do you collect or read other zines? What about the medium of zine-making and self-publishing interests you?

I’ve only made zines for school projects and events I used to curate back in Minneapolis. The zines for school projects varied, but the zines for the events I curated were WHACKY. They really served no purpose, other than to boggle people’s minds and have a physical takeaway from the whacky events we curated. I would even print them off wrong on purpose so the pages would print overlapping each other in weird orders.

Tell us about the process of putting an issue of Crumbs together. 

Crumbs is a quarterly zine. The very first issue I created took so long. The technical aspect of making a zine was difficult for my brain to wrap around, but once I nailed down the template, the issues moving forward are a piece of cake!

As far as picking the artists to feature, I prioritize non-binary/gender-queer artists. However, I don’t turn anyone away (unless their submission promotes and/or encourages hate). I basically post a “call for artists” on my Instagram, and folks can just send a screenshot of a piece they’ve done (of literally any medium) and boom they’re a featured artist. EZ PZ.

The definition of collage is very expansive — opinions on this can vary quite a bit, but there’s a lot of room for experimentation and pushing the boundaries of the medium. Are there elements of collage in your work with Crummy, including the way you vision/create clothing?

I exercise collage in the way I create clothing. I take scraps of fabric, sew them together to make a quilt-like fabric, and make clothes from that. I also hand-embroider a lot, and that can get a lil crazy..  I’ll take different colors of thread and different stitches and overlap them to make a genuine piece of art on, like, the back of a shirt or pants or a jacket….

What subject matter are you drawn to in other art or media? How does it relate to the art you create?

I have a passion for physical, 3D spaces. I used to be a curator, so when I think like a curator when I’m designing and constructing clothes, I think it elevates them. That’s why I’m so excited for my upcoming collection. I’m planning on making those garments 3D and whacky, and I’m ultimately thinking about the way they take up space – even the negative space around them. I’m planning a fashion show to go with this collection, and it will all be connected in a very thoughtful way. I think I’m my most happy when my creative process goes beyond just a simple garment. 

Is there anything habitual you do before creating, or is it spontaneous?

I am a super habitual person by nature, but my process changes from time-to-time. Currently, I make coffee, blast a couple Deli Girls songs, and make a list of every little thing I have to do. Like, I’ll even put “thread the needle” on my list just so I can cross it off. It makes me feel way more productive xD xD

How do you feel your work has progressed during your time as an artist? Are there any major milestones or goals you’ve accomplished?

I feel like every week there’s a new milestone. I am a very easily-excitable person, so everytime I learn a new sewing skill, or get a new consignment store to agree to sell my garments, or come up with a new pattern, I simply geek! My ultimate goal, however, is to get Tierra Whack to wear Crummy. Once that happens, I might collapse and experience a rebirth on the spot.

Did the pandemic affect your creative practice or how you approach your work?

The pandemic made me realize that life is too short not to give it your all. I used to work full-time as a Graphic Designer in corporate America, but after the pandemic hit I realized I should really just do what I love, like all the time. So I quit my job and now I just sew all day until I get finger cramps. 

Are there any creative endeavors you’d like to explore outside of your primary medium? 

I really want to learn how to make music. I already have a DJ alter ego named DJ Bumpkin with a whole pumpkin suit and orange bob wig and everything. 

Do you seek out inspiration or do you just let it come to you on a whim?

It usually comes to me on a whim. But when I need instant inspo, I doodle. I really just let my pen dance across the page and I start to see shapes, and it eventually All. Makes. Sense. 

What has surprised you the most in your career as an artist? Alternatively, what’s been the biggest disappointment you’ve experienced?

I don’t know if I’ve experienced a straight-up surprise or a straight-up disappointment, but I have experienced disappointing surprises, if that makes sense. To be direct, turning my art into my only source of income has been difficult to get used to. I wish I could give away all my clothes for free, but at the same time I have to eat and pay bills. I knew that would be an adjustment going into this, but I wasn’t anticipating just how stressed it’s made me. I really just want the world to go back to a bartering system. Pwease. 

What art advice do you give others that you don’t follow yourself?

Don’t put shit off until the last minute.

When was the last time you saw a piece that really resonated with you? 

It was an installation/performance art piece by Elena Stonaker. I first found her on Instagram – it was a performance people were doing within her installation. It was all very cartoon-like. She constructed these huge flowers, eyeballs, naked human bodies, and random shapes and connected them all in a beautiful way. I love her brain. 

What purpose would you like your art to serve – or what sort of feeling are you trying to convey through your art?

My “motto” is that I want everyone (no matter how they identify) to feel seen, sexy, and satisfied. I make clothes for the people, so if I can make someone feel all 3 of those things just by wearing my garments, that’s a success story in my eyes. 

Do you ever have any hang ups about posting your art? Do you have works that only your eyes have seen?

Always. Being a creative means being vulnerable (in most cases), and being vulnerable is one of my biggest fears. I hide my most personal work from the world, like my poems and illustrations. But clothes, yeah. I love sharing that medium. It feels different than the more intimate mediums, because I’m literally decorating a human body with different fabrics rather than presenting a part of my brain in a more literal way. 

Who’s an artist or creative currently working that you’re always excited to see work from?

Stephanie Uhart. She’s a designer I found on Instagram. Her work is super inspiring to me – she makes these whacky garments that resemble goo, or like internal organs that exploded outside of the body. But she still makes them look comfy. I’m not sure how she does it, but I absolutely drool over each piece. 

Visit Cass and Crummy at www.crummyclothes.com, and connect with Crummy and the Crumbs project on Instagram by visiting @crummy.clothes. Crumbs #2 is on sale now, and features a variety of work in many mediums, including two collages by TCCC member allison anne

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