23 February 2005

The Uncanny O-Man: Profile: Jigsaw & Ben Jones

  • Age: Roughly ¥ð^3.
  • Height: 293 in dog inches.
  • Weight: Equivalent to the amount added to Milla Jovovich by six and a half cameras.
  • Place of birth: Well, I was awfully young, but I'm going to assume it was somewhere in the vicinity of my mother's womb.
  • Religion: No thanks, I already ate.

About a year ago, I found out my friend Ben Jones was moving to New York and was going to open an indie comic store / art gallery. I got excited. Real excited.

His store, jigsaw, is full of fantastic comics you will not find anywhere else and art you wouldn't be able to afford otherwise.

Browsing through his stock has an odd effect. Looking through these varied comics makes you think, "Hey, I wanna do this too!" I don't have any delusions that I could make money off of comics; it's the sheer joy and love of them that makes me want to take pen to paper. Probably the most mainstream publisher you'll find there is Fantagraphics (though some might argue Harris). A lot of his comics, however, are self-published and full of passion. I picked up a series of 2x3 comics published by Eleanor Davis. No, I haven't heard of her either. Yes, they are amazing.

Along with comics, Ben has a gallery of indie art. I'd call it Outsider Art, but there's a reason Outsider Art is called Outsider Art (meaning it sucks). There's no reason why Ben's shows should be on the Outside... Well, aside from the fact that he's not charging insider prices.

I asked Ben a few questions about his first year in New York and his upcoming show by Molly Crabapple opening this Saturday (February 26).

O-Man: What inspired you to move to New York and open an art and comic book store?
Ben Jones: They were really two different inspirations. The move to New York was an idea I had after drinking a bunch of whiskey. Opening Jigsaw was the brainchild of a large bottle of gin a few months later. If I'd been drinking beer and tequila, I would now be a bartender in Kansas City.

O-Man: Almost a year into it, what have been the high and low points?
Jones: High points. Hmm. Well, having Leslie Stein's band play in my office was pretty fun. Watching Duane Bruton cover my wall in contact paper. Having twenty people show up to Danielle Corsetto's show during the massive blizzard. Watching Max Fenton pelt the front of the shop with cream pies during the opening of Clowns in Love. Low points? Cleaning up the pies the next day. And the fact that I don't pay myself.

O-Man: Could you have predicted where you are today?
Jones: Sitting in front of my computer answering email? Yeah, that was a pretty easy prediction. Safe bet.

O-Man: What are the goals now?
Jones: To keep putting on shows that make me happy. To throw parties and bring people together. To attempt to bring small media some well-deserved attention. To get more groupies. And to invent a new kind of absinthe that doesn't taste like anise. Sort of like hallucinogenic vodka, only green.

O-Man: Do you feel competition with local stores that cater to more mainstream interests?
Jones: Nah. The only art galleries really competing with me are in Brooklyn, and there aren't really any shops doing what I do. I've got customers who work at the bigger stores (and publishers) and come to me specifically because I have things they can't find anywhere else.

O-Man: What's been your experience with the indie comic scene in New York? Funny stories welcomed.
Jones: The indie comic creators in New York are some of the sweetest people I've met in comics. I've been all around this crazy world and met a ton of comic creators, and it's pretty amazing how little friction there seems to be here compared to other places. My most successful event was the book release party for Josh Neufeld's A FEW PERFECT HOURS back in September. We lost count, but we're pretty sure around 250 people showed up over the course of the night, no mean feat considering I can only fit about 40 inside at any one time. I wish I had some incredible scandalous behind-the-scenes story for you, but honestly, everyone who comes here is supportive of each other. Everyone just seems thrilled to be making comics. And no, you don't get to find out which indie comics creators I've kissed since opening the store. I wouldn't want to sully their reputations.

O-Man: You hosted a series of informal write-in for this year's National Novel Writing Month. Did you expect the event to be as successful as it was?
Jones: Frankly, no. I was already doing NaNo, and I had a bunch of friends who were signed up as well, so I decided to hold weekly write-ins on Saturday nights. I figured a couple people would show up and hang out on the couch and write and have a glass of wine and it'd make me feel like less of a social outcast during NaNoWriMo. As it turned out, I had eight to twelve people show up every week, forcing me to find extra chairs and make multiple pizza runs. As it turned out, EVERYBODY wanted something to do on Saturday night that didn't involve fighting the typical New York crowds. I just wish more of my regular attendees had actually reached their word count. Then I would have felt more successful.

O-Man: What can you tell me about the upcoming Molly Crabapple show?
Jones: It's shrouded in mystery for me as well. It all seems rather strange and dream-like. This attractive woman wandered in one day and asked if I would look at her portfolio. She showed me these astounding black and white illustrations. I looked at my calendar and gave her a few weeks for her show. Fast forward. Periodically she emails me with more information. She has gotten a sponsorship from Original Sin cider. She has hired a go-go dancer. She will probably give prizes to people dressed all fancy-like in black and white formal wear. I have no doubt that come Saturday, she will show up in full Victorian regalia and then explain to me how we can increase the size of the space exponentially if we just move the chair a few inches to the left. I think Molly may be some sort of magical burlesque robot.

O-Man: Past the Crabapple show, what's on the horizon?
Jones: Molly's show is up until the 13th of March. After that, rogue artist and rock god Nicholas Gazin hangs his show "Gut Feeling" (it's a DEVO thing). And when I say "hangs" I mean "installs", as it is entirely possible his entire show will be painted bottles or something. After that, the astounding Evan Cairo does a robot show, followed by a display of absolutely stunning lightboxes by Angelina Mortarotti. After that there's a couple indie comic creators, Dash Shaw in May and Dan James in June. The current information is usually up in the "events" section of jigsawnyc.com.

O-Man: What is the air-speed velocity of an unladen swallow?
Jones: What, African or European?

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