written by:
April 7, 2010

When I first stumbled upon designer Nathan Vincent's work, I immediately knew I'd found something unique. Using crochet as a method to make traditionally masculine objects, Vincent challenges feminine and masculine stereotypes. In this Q&A, the artist talks about his beginnings, an upcoming collaboration with Jonathan Adler, and his fabric urinal.

nathan vincent portrait sewing

What was the first piece of art you ever made?
I took a pastels class when I was really young—eight years old or so—and I kept the first drawing; it's framed, hanging in my kitchen. It's a still life of a kettle with some fruit. I have to say that it's pretty darn good. I can't remember, though, if I did most of the drawing or if my hand was guided by the teacher. Let's just say it was all me. That's a better story. Thinking back on it now, I can't believe my parents put me in a pastels class. When I went off to college, my mother told me I shouldn't go into art because "you can't do anything with it." Strange that she was the one that sent me to art classes when I was a kid!
Who taught you to sew?
My home economics teacher taught the whole 5th grade class to sew. We made tote bags long before tote bags were popular. Mine was made of a purple plaid cotton. Very practical, yet sassy. The rest of it, embroidery and hand sewing, I taught myself from a book.

nathan vincent crochet cigars

When did you learn to crochet?
My mother taught me when I was about ten. I forced her to sit me down and show me how to make granny squares. I remember my first stitches being so tight that the hook squeaked as I was crocheting. Tension was the hardest thing to learn. I imagine I was taking out my childhood anxieties on the yarn. Once I learned to loosen up a bit, I made granny squares like no one's business. I had great plans to make a multicolored afghan, a coat-of-many-colors-type of design. I got bored halfway through and decided it should be a baby blanket. I completed them, but never sewed them together. It would have been atrocious anyway—I didn't necessarily have an eye for color at age ten.
What has been the most challenging piece to create?
Whatever I'm working on at the moment always seems to be the most challenging. I forget that the last piece was just as difficult as the one I'm working on now. If I were to pick a piece, it would be the Lion (above). Piecing together the face required more intricacy than I had expected, getting the differing colors of yarn to work together in a cohesive way. The mane proved to be the most baffling part of any project to date. It took me quite a long time to figure out how to make it stand on its own. I tried crocheting with wire and yarn together, wrapping the base of each strand, braiding...everything I could think of. The final solution was to just pack in the strands of yarn and let them hold each other up. The mane is done with the same technique as a latch-hook rug, but with about six strands in each hole. A bit time consuming, to say the least.
nathan vincent crochet Gazelle Lion Bushbuck

nathan vincent crochet guns
You crochet masculine images and objects using the feminine technique of crochet. Do you work in other mediums?

I have embroidered and knit in the past. My upcoming exhibition will include some knitting as well, if it all works out correctly. I also draw for a side project and was trained as a painter in school. But, for the most part, my main medium at the moment is yarn and a hook, which makes projects pretty portable and easy to work on in public.
nathan vincent crochet Urinal
Do women and men have different reactions to your art?

Yes, no, and, it varies. Can that be my answer? Everyone seems to be pretty amazed at the objects that can be created using crochet. When it comes to the objects and symbols, men tend to respond to the pieces on a different level. Often, they have experienced these objects in a way that women haven't. Take the urinal for example. I sent out a postcard with the urinal as the main image. The photograph was taken from above, the way a man would view it while using it. Women had no idea what the image was supposed to be until they read the title on the opposite side of the postcard. Men recognized it immediately.

Men and women also approach the concept behind my work differently. Women continue to struggle with gender stereotypes in society, having to prove that they are capable of the same things as men. Some men come at it from another angle. Some resent the act of using traditionally masculine objects/activities—they feel these activities and objects are being taken from them, and made available to all. This can frighten them, or make them excited that things are leveling out. Other gents have told me that my work inspires them. During a recent artist talk at Lion Brand Yarn Studio, a man told me he would mention his knitting to friends, but bookend it with his love for football and fixing cars. Some men have wanted to be crafters for years, but have not had the guts to do it in public, or to show off their wares for fear of being seen as too feminine.

From either perspective, male or female, people are forced to think about what defines them, and how they relate to their gender.
You've started a project with Jonathan Adler. How did that come about, and what will you be making for them?
I was actually just chatting with some employees at the Jonathan Adler store on the Upper West Side in Manhattan (they are a fabulous bunch, just so you know) while I made a purchase. We began to talk about what I do, and they asked to see my work. I showed them my website, and through that I got a meeting with the merchandise buyer. The Jonathan Adler collection has a similar look and feel to it, so my work will fit in perfectly. Apparently they like to work with and support local artists, which is fantastic. I'll be doing some limited-edition framed doilies for them. They'll be available in stores as soon as I can finish them! (You can sign up for my email updates and I'll send out an email when they are for sale)

nathan vincent crochet Bear Rug

You're working on a locker room installation, all crocheted. That sounds daunting. Are you nervous about the undertaking?
Short answer: YES.

Unlike with other pieces, this installation is going to be very large and will consist of a lot of different parts. It will be representative of a locker room, and you will be able to move around between the pieces. I feel that traditionally the locker room has been a shrine to masculinity. A place that men should be able to go and be men. To let down their guard. For me, it has been a place of vulnerability, judgement, and measuring up. There is an element of competition and comparing strength, and for some reason this is seen as particularly masculine. I am putting people in a position to question this by creating this space in crochet.

Like my other pieces, I have no idea how I will actually make it happen until I just start doing it. I've had to begin that process and it's sometimes overwhelming. Constructing the armatures for toilets and shower posts, etc., is a struggle, but it's coming along. The work needs to be completed before October of this year, and I still have a lot of work ahead of me.

The work will be on display at Portlock Galleries in SoNo in Chesapeake, Virginia, and I am hoping there is interest enough in the work to take the show to other venues around the country!

nathan vincent crochet A lazy Boy

Join the Discussion

Loading comments...

Latest Articles

Concrete floor, white walls, Bend sectional sofa, Metropolitan chair by B&B Italia, and Arper pouf in living room of Rhode Island family vacation home by Bernheimer Architecture.
Create comfortable areas to lounge, sit, eat, and entertain with these designs.
February 12, 2016
São Paulo apartment dining room with local wood floors and HAY chairs
From concrete to wood, these South American homes enjoy nature inside and out.
February 12, 2016
Custom cabinetry and trim in Chicago apartment renovation.
The Second City is second to none when it comes to inventive modern architecture, from Louis Sullivan to the present day.
February 12, 2016
Kitchen of 1956 midcentury modern Palm Springs home.
Celebrate Palm Springs Modernism Week, which runs from February 11–21, with a look at some of our favorite modern desert oases.
February 12, 2016
Gustav bicycle by Coh&Co
Designmuseum Danmark unveils a permanent collection highlighting new developments in Danish design.
February 12, 2016
A Seattle studio's courtyard
Every week, we highlight one amazing Dwell home that went viral on Pinterest. Follow Dwell's Pinterest account for more daily design inspiration.
February 12, 2016
Chalet in the French alps
An innovative glass addition adds contrast to a timber mountain lodge in France.
February 11, 2016
Aumas' assorted collectables.
Bright colors and vintage furniture are abound in these French homes.
February 11, 2016
Kogan designed a number of the built-in furnishings, including the headboard and cupboard in the master bedroom.The cupboard is deliberately reminiscent of a mid-century stereo speaker. The vintage lounge chairs are by Percival Lafer.
Need to relax? Make your bedroom an oasis from the rest of the house.
February 11, 2016
Modern Florida seaside home with corian island, dornbracht faucet, cees braakman combex chairs and marble knoll table in the kitchen
Read more about Knoll's impressive career here, but in the meantime, explore just a few of her works in these contemporary homes.
February 11, 2016
Modern small box home in Mexico
Letting the warm climate indoors is a common thread through these diverse dwellings.
February 11, 2016
Modern white cabinets under the stairs with skylight above
What could be better than a modest-sized house in a quaintly historic city?
February 11, 2016
dining room lighting
These renovations connect rustic, classic, and modern design in Italy.
February 10, 2016
12362509 211441865858796 1743381178 n1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most viral design and architecture shots of the week.
February 10, 2016
modern outdoor garden room plastic polycarbonate
From colorful living rooms to a backyard retreat, Belgian designers reimagine vernacular forms and materials for the modern world.
February 10, 2016
Tel Aviv kitchen with custom dining table and Smeg fridge
Would you go for an out-of-the-box palette for your major appliances? See how these kitchens tackle the trend.
February 10, 2016
Exhibition view, of Klaus Wittkugel works at P! gallery, New York
On view through February 21 at New York's P! gallery, a new show explores the politics of Cold War-era graphic design with a presentation of works by Klaus Wittkugel—East Germany's most prolific graphic designer. Curator Prem Krishnamurthy walks us through the highlights.
February 10, 2016
Reclaimed cedar and gray-stucco home outside San Francisco.
The new kid on the block in a predominantly Eichler neighborhood, this Menlo Park home breaks the mold and divides into three pavilions connected by breezeways.
February 10, 2016
A third floor addition and whole-house renovation modernized a funky cottage on an unusual, triple-wide lot in San Francisco.
From modern interiors hidden within historic structures to unabashedly modern dwellings, these seven renovations take totally different approaches to San Francisco's historic building stock.
February 10, 2016
Delphi sofa from Erik Jørgensen and gyrofocus fireplace in living room of Villa Le Trident in the French Riviera, renovated by 4a Architekten.
The Aegean's all-white architecture famously helped inspire Le Corbusier; these five dwellings continue in that proud modern tradition (though not all are as minimalist).
February 10, 2016
San Francisco dining room with chandelier and Eames shell chairs
Brooklyn-based RBW's work—from diminutive sconces to large floor lamps—shape these five interiors.
February 09, 2016
Glass-fronted converted garage in Washington
These garages go behind parking cars and storing your drum sets.
February 09, 2016
Modern Texas home office with sliding walls, behr black chalkboard paint, concrete walls, and white oak flooring
From appropriated nooks to glass-encased rooms, each of these modern offices works a unique angle.
February 09, 2016
picnic-style table in renovated San Francisco house
From chandeliers to pendants, these designs make the dining room the most entertaining space in the house.
February 09, 2016
Midcentury house in Portland with iron colored facade and gold front door
From preserved masterworks to carefully updated time capsules, these homes have one thing in common (other than a healthy appreciation for everything Eames): the conviction that the '40s, '50s, and '60s were the most outstanding moments in American architecture.
February 09, 2016
Modern living room with furniture designed by Ludovica + Roberto Palomba
These oases by the sea, many done up in white, make stunning escapes.
February 08, 2016
A Philippe Starck standing lamp and an Eames chaise longue bracket the living room; two Lawrence Weiner prints hang behind a pair of Warren Platner chairs and a table purchased from a River Oaks estate sale; at far left of the room, a partial wall of new
Texas might have a big reputation, but these homes show the variety of shapes and sizes in the Lone Star State.
February 08, 2016
Montigo gas-burning fireplace in spacious living room.
Built atop the foundation of a flood-damaged home, this 3,000-square-foot Maryland home features vibrant furniture placed in front of stunning views of a nearby estuary.
February 08, 2016
Studio addition in Seattle
An architect couple sets out to transform a run-down property.
February 08, 2016
West Elm coffee table, custom Joybird sofa, and matching Jens Risom chairs in living room of Westchester renovation by Khanna Shultz.
Every Monday, @dwell and @designmilk invite fans and experts on Twitter to weigh in on trending topics in design.
February 08, 2016