A Little Gay Interview With Chronic the Hedgehog
Ollie Crain (they/them)
Ollie Crain is the mastermind turning pixels into tufts for Chronic the Hedgehog Rugs. Exploring the therapeutic nature of rug making, their apartment became a hyper-queer Home Depot in the blink of a digital eye. Follow us as we interview Ollie to explore how they pull beloved 8-bit characters into reality one thread at a time.
How long have you been creating?
Rugs? I made my first punch needle rug in Fall of 2020. But I’ve been making weird shit for as long as I can remember—this is just the most consistent it’s ever been.
What got you into it/how did you get started?
I got into rug making specifically as a way to process my grief. My cat and familiar of 12 years died by my hands in a traumatic accident, and I didn’t know what to do with myself. My childhood BFF showed me a video of someone making a punch needle rug and encouraged me to give it a try. Next thing I know, my apartment living room looks like Home Depot and JoAnn’s had a gay baby and that baby was really into tufting rugs.
What inspires you?
My work is heavily influenced by my longing for the quiet times of my adolescence. I didn’t have the same interests as most of my cis peers, and my home life was Not Fun, so some of my fondest memories are from late nights alone in my room exploring the worlds inside my N64 and Game Boy. As someone who had to grow up a bit too early, it was such a magical time where I could still escape into my toys and be whoever I wanted to be instead of who I was expected to be.
What's your earliest memory of creating?
I was OBSESSED with crafting books as a kid, and I was fortunate enough to have parents that encouraged that instinct. I loved following instructions on my own and making something out of whatever was lying around the house. My poor stepmom still has all the things I made for her when I was a kid, including the nastiest rotted ass perfume you’ve ever smelled.
What advice do you have for someone who's starting their creative journey?
Like all journeys, it takes time. While my recent success has come on pretty quickly, you don’t see all the years I spent trying out different mediums, finding my style, and ultimately feeling incredibly out of place in the art world. Let yourself have good things, and say nice stuff about your work! I see so many kids talking shit about their artwork (it’s me, i’m kids) and it bums me out! Tell your work it’s pretty and cool and unique so you can build up the confidence to let others do the same.
What are some of the biggest challenges you've faced so far?
Creatively and otherwise, I think my biggest challenge was realizing how much I was self sabotaging and overcoming that. In many ways, the world is so ready and willing to tear us down, and we’re taught early on that we can just go ahead and beat them to the punch. I had to stop punching myself, with toxic relationships, substance abuse, and the denial of my queerness, to really see that I was deserving and ready to accept love and joy in my life.
How important is community in the art and creator profession?
Community is ~everything.~ I would not be where I am today without community, specifically my queer community. The Man wants us to forsake community and focus on competition, but all of my personal successes have come from embracing community, asking for help, and uplifting others.
How do you know your work is ready?
Whoever is reading this, it’s ready. Your work is ready right now. Make a new Insta, post your shit, put yourself out there. Don’t show your face or add your real life friends if that feels more cozy—that’s how I started out. But get in the habit of doing this, and those anxious feelings of "should I post??? is this okay??" will go away. Because in reality, it’s very likely that you’ll always feel like your work is still in progress (bc it is! We’re all in progress all the time!) so you might as well just throw it at the wall and see what sticks.
What's do you love about your queerness?
My queerness goes beyond who I want to bone and reaches into every aspect of my life. If the world doesn’t support one of your most basic needs, the need for love and companionship, you learn that maybe you should take matters into your own hands. Embracing my queerness has taught me to follow my dreams and desires regardless of the societal expectations placed on me. I legitimately don’t think I would have ever broken free of that without fully accepting my queer and trans identities.
As you started to realize your queerness, how did the view you had for your future change?
Well when I first realized my queerness and started saying it out loud, I was in my mid-twenties. It didn’t change my view of my future at the time because I didn’t fully embrace it, and I viewed my future as being short lived. I couldn’t put my finger on why I wanted to be fucked up all the time or why my (many) relationships with cis straight men kept ending in flames. Cut to a few years ago when I started actually embracing my queerness, and that’s a totally different story. For the first time, I felt in control of my future, and I actually wanted to be a part of it.
When you came out, did that impact your creative process and output in anyway?
I’m 32 years old, and I’m still coming out! My parents don’t know I’m trans and still use my dead name, although they do know I’m queer. But my art has sparked several realizations within myself, so I would say it was the opposite—my creative output impacted me coming out. Like when I was younger, “why am I drawing only girls?” and then more recently “why have all the people I’ve drawn lately been non-binary and/or trans?” That last one was a big OH DUH moment lol.
How does your identity of being queer inform your art (if it does)?
My art would not exist in its current form without my queerness. Even if we aren’t talking about the more obviously gay pieces, my queerness is tufted into all of my rugs. My rugs are based on my obsessions, my interests, and in fact, all of my obsessions and interests are gay. Sorry not sorry.
In what ways has openly being queer positively impacted your life?
It has shown me who and what to put my energy into. When I was more quiet about my queerness, I constantly came across people that I thought were chill until something homophobic or transphobic inevitably slipped out. Now that I’m loud about my queerness, I don’t have to do that dance anymore. If you are homophobic or transphobic, I make you pretty damn uncomfy to interact with, which results in a lot less of those types in my life. This has led me to form way more meaningful relationships with friends as well as my first long term queer relationship. I’m astounded by how much love is in my life now.
What would you like the future of the queer art community to look like? Or to represent?
The queer art community needs to put BIPOC queer and trans folks first. Although I’ve met some hardship in my life, I’ve also benefited from immense amounts of privilege. I hope we all get to experience a queer art community where white queers are in a supportive role instead of taking center stage and trans POC are creating art well into their senior years.
Favorite color or pattern?
Seafoam green and bubblegum pink all DAY.
What's something people don't know about you?
I’ve never played Final Fantasy and I never will, you cannot make me.
Who was your first queer crush?
I had a raging crush on Debbie from the Wild Thornberries, although I didn’t realize that’s what it was.
What was your first ever email address or AIM/IM handle?
theinsaneone49…. idk man
If you could have any 'B' rated superpower, what would it be? (i.e. shooting frozen yogurt from your fingers - the idea is you can't save the world with just your super power)
The Ability To Remember Where I Put The Thing
Trade your coins for a piece of Ollie’s work at Chronic The Hedgehog Rugs.