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John Jeffries on inclusivity and body positivity

John Jeffries, Claude (2020)

John Jeffries on inclusivity and body positivity

Through the pandemic I have had the opportunity to interview many artists/designers for Glory Hole, a much needed respite from the chaos around me. John Jeffries was no exception— his vibrant rose-tinted world and overall joyful disposition is a happy distraction from the news. He’s got a series of pins and stickers on Tom of Finland store that are sure to make you smile (a menage of colorful undies, and men). His assortment of hunks come in all shapes and sizes, representing the diversity within the queer community, which we love! Whether you’re into Hank, Jaspar, or Bruce… there’s something for everyone!

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How did you get started making stickers, pins, and other objects?

Being able to provide accessible art is very important to me. Since not everyone is able to afford a one-of-a-kind print, I think it is great to distribute art in forms such as stickers and pins, to fit within most people’s budgets. Aside from the enamel pins and mugs, all my current products are made myself by hand, which allows me to create a wide range of designs and also avoid having a surplus of inventory weighing me down.

You offer enamel pins named Hank, Tim, Jaspar, and Bruce (among others I'm sure). Who are these guys? Are they fictional characters or modeled after real humans?

Most of my current pin designs are modelled after vintage porn stars, some of my first illustrations. Jasper was my first pin modeled after someone I met via Instagram. I hope to make more pins based on the real humans I’ve had the pleasure of drawing and interacting with. Using photo references helps me connect with people from all over the world, and from all walks of life. I have always loved using Instagram as a tool for finding inspiration. In the beginning, I would browse until I found a photo that inspired me, and would then surprise that person with an illustration of themselves. More recently, I have been relying on submissions from followers, commissions I receive, and of course, my imagination.

John Jeffries, Varsity (2019)

Your work embodies Tom of Finland's spirit, but feels contemporary. Have you ever created ToF caricatures before?

Tom of Finland is, of course, a big influence and source of inspiration for my work.  I haven’t created any Tom of Finland caricatures before, but I would absolutely love to!

“Dickers” rather than dick stickers, very clever. There’s a sense of humor to your work. Has that always been part of your brand?

Humor has definitely always been present in my work. The main message I want to send is that all bodies are worth enjoying and celebrating. This means we all need to stop scrutinizing ourselves and stop taking things so seriously so we can truly enjoy being who we are and the bodies we reside in.

Why is inclusivity so important to you?

I’ve come to understand the power of visibility and how important it is to celebrate all types of bodies and the unique sexuality that comes with each one. Without visibility, we can often feel like outsiders, and uncomfortable with our bodies. It is so important to showcase all the different types of beautiful and sexy bodies that exist. This is one of the reasons I love working from photo submissions. Most of the photos I receive are self-portraits where the subject is feeling their sexiest. I get to take that and amplify it into something new that’s both cute and sexy, and share it with the world. I want to be able to create work that makes people feel seen, valued, and desired. 

John Jeffries, paul (2019)

Do you think you’ll continue to put work out during the pandemic? Do you anticipate changing production with that in mind?

I will do my best to put out as much work as possible during the pandemic.  Luckily, since I make most of my products myself, I am able to continue producing and creating new products.  As long as the postal services keep running, I’m happy to keep creating. 

With the shelter in place ordinance, I’ve taken up coloring. Tell me about your coloring zine, Hunks… Do you plan to make further editions? 

So far I have released only one colouring zine, but I’d love to release an ongoing series of them.  It’s a big task to take on, but I’m hoping that I’ll be able to release more editions soon! They are a lot of fun to make and allow me to create something that is interactive for my patrons.

John Jeffries, Lyle (2019)

We need it! With the uncertainty of the times, how do you feel your work can lift spirits and bring joy?

I’ve gotten a lot of feedback so far about the impact that my work has been having on people who are stuck in isolation. It’s incredibly motivating and means a lot to me. It has always been important to me to create work that makes people happy and feel represented in a positive and empowering way. Hopefully I can continue to do this and provide a welcome distraction. I know that a lot of artists online have been in high gear and creating more work than ever. There’s also a great sense of camaraderie right now, with lots of artists supporting each other as much as they can. The online community is definitely thriving. I am lucky to have found an amazing audience that is so supportive and encouraging of all the types of people I’ve been able to share so far.

I noticed on your website that you offer an uncensored artwork membership platform. Can you tell me about that? 

I created a Patreon account to combat some censorship issues I was facing on other platforms.  I currently have two different tiers. For just $1 patrons have access to all fully uncensored work, and work I can’t post at all on Instagram. The second tier is a Sticker Club where I send out a different sticker each month. It’s still in early stages, but it’s a lot of fun and I really appreciate the support I’ve received so far. I look forward to developing new exciting rewards for patrons!!

John Jeffries, Danielle (2020)

Have you struggled with censorship as an erotic queer artist?

The struggle with censorship has been a strange one for me. My main platform has been Instagram. When I first began, I had an account that was all illustrations of dicks. This account would get deleted quite often, but I was able to appeal the decision a few times and have it restored. It’s hard to understand what exactly the rules are — what's "art" and what’s not. With @mypinkyourpink, I’ve had to play around a lot with what gets flagged and what doesn’t. It seems like a flaccid penis can be okay, but an erect penis will most likely get flagged. Luckily I’ve only had a handful of posts deleted and no threats of my entire account being removed. Out of fear of losing what I’ve built, I’ve resorted to censoring most of my work, which is really unfortunate.

What can we expect next?

The pandemic situation has put a halt on some things, but I have so many ideas for new projects that sometimes I get overwhelmed! Things that I’ve been mulling over include a whole series of zines, new sticker designs, lots of new enamel pin designs, greeting cards, and more!

John Jeffries, Buns (2020)

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