The first time I met Ryan Bross was when he walked into gaming store Classic Game Junkie with his most recent creation resting in his white, paint-splattered hands.
Bross had just completed a ceiling tile with the Philadelphia Flyers logo, the letters PHI and an 8-bit sprite of a hockey player cross stitched into it. Paying homage to store owner Frank Stanchek’s favorite sports team, he immediately had it installed.
This isn’t the first time Bross has brought in something to display at Classic Game Junkie, as the nearby Arcadia graduate in scientific illustration is known for his designing and cross stitching of retro video game art onto a number of things which can be seen on his Facebook page, Bross Stitching.
Bross was taught how to cross-stitch by his mom and uncle, who thought it would be a good rainy-day activity for a young kid. Cross-stiching is a type of embroidery where floss or thread is used to stitch “X’s” into a tiled pattern onto fabric, like Aida cloth or linen, in order to make a picture.
As he got older, this hobby became less and less consistent. A soccer tournament that resulted in a knee injury so severe that he couldn’t walk for six months and had to find a way to spend his free time.
Whether it’s with the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles stitched onto correspondingly colored hats or the classic Galaga spaceships on a pair of earrings, people have been noticing and spreading the word about Bross.
People also often request commissioned pieces when they want something more specific.
“It’s nice because you can do a small, simple one since people are used to seeing it already pixelated,” Bross said. “If you want to do Pac-Man, people are used to seeing him have these sharp edges; it’s not a round circle.”
Along with his video game-centric cross stitching, Bross also uses his artistic skills to help support the Philadelphia Union soccer team as the director of tifo for the team’s supporter group, Sons of Ben. Tifo, an Italian word for visual displays of support for sports teams, comes in the form of huge banners. He even found a way to cross his “nerd-dom” into his passion for supporting the local soccer team.
He once painted a 36-by-36 foot cloth banner to look like the cover of the Playstation game, Final Fantasy VII, with appropriate modifications to represent and support the Union.
“Being a supporter equates with, how in nerd-dom or geekdom, it almost borders obsession,” Bross said. “That’s how it feels like in the soccer world so it matches with that.”
Linda Blowney, a full-time employee at a needlepoint specialty shop called Rittenhouse Needlepoint, has been cross-stitching for most of her life. She thought it was great to see more people like Bross using cross stitching in a different way.
The team at Rittenhouse Needlepoint has recently collaborated with a local kink shop to use needlepoint to make things like submissive leashes and collars.
Cross stitching in general has had a big impact in helping Blowney connect with her mother who recently passed away. She said she values it as an analog process that is both fulfilling and relaxing.
“You can’t do cross stitch on the Internet, you can’t do needlepoint on your phone – it just doesn’t work,” Blowney said. “It’s something you do with your hands, there’s an immediate gratification.”
Bross hopes that people will become more interested in cross stitching after seeing his work with creating video game designs to relate to a new audience.
To help people get started, he’s started to sell Like a Bross Stitching Kits that come with everything people need to start and finish one of his Pokémon designs.
“If you got interested in cross stitching because you saw one of my video game ones and you have a video game pattern to make that, you’re probably going to want to finish it just so you can have it,” Bross said. “There’s a sense of community in that, seeing someone else like this as much as you do.”
Albert Hong can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org