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

W House living room
Our best reader reactions this week.
April 29, 2016
Vineyard house illuminated at night
Rammed-earth construction fuses this Portuguese house to the environment.
April 29, 2016
vintage Scandinavian furniture Kathryn Tyler
In southwest England, interior designer Kathryn Tyler built her home around her ever-expanding furniture collection.
April 29, 2016
steel facade home Seattle
On the sandy shores of Fauntleroy Cove in Seattle, renowned firm Olson Kundig Architects crafts a subtle home with striking steel accents.
April 29, 2016
seperate piece renovated guesthouse eames storage unit cork floor tiles living room
An architect and an interior designer put the tools to the test for this impressive renovation.
April 29, 2016
Ceramics by WrenLab
Manhattan doesn’t get to have all the fun during NYCxDesign. Brooklyn is set for the return of BKLYN DESIGNS at the Brooklyn Expo Center in Greenpoint from May 6-8, 2016. Here are just a few exhibitors we are excited to see this year.
April 29, 2016
n0a6974 dxo
Architect Diego Revollo refreshes an apartment with a standout kitchen.
April 29, 2016
img 8652 1
The city of San Francisco has been eagerly awaiting the reopening of SFMOMA for years—and as the May 14th opening approaches closer everyday, the anticipation continues to build for art enthusiasts both near and far. This morning, we were given the opportunity to explore the newly expanded space before the crowds roll in. After a series of speeches, remarks, and tours, we left the grounds feeling thoroughly inspired and excited to share what we discovered.
April 28, 2016
Renovation of 1967 Hamburg apartment with Vipp kitchen.
In our April issue, we showcased an apartment in Hamburg, Germany, with a striking, matte-black kitchen from Vipp. The 77-year-old company became famous for its iconic pedal trash can before venturing into kitchens and other tools for the home. This isn't the first time that the Danish company's products have graced our pages, and here we've gathered additional examples from our archive that show how the brand's minimalist black kitchens are always a win in modern interiors.
April 28, 2016
Zafra residence living room.
A man and his wife make an emotional return to an apartment building he loved as a kid.
April 28, 2016
the garden inside concrete dining pavilion indoor outdoor custom cabinets thermador dishwasher refrigerator
A skylit conservatory doubles as a verdant dining parlor in Sonoma County, California.
April 28, 2016
Details of the Calico collection.
Calico Wallpaper founders Nick and Rachel Cope showed us through their home in our March Issue, now step inside their studio.
April 28, 2016
william krisel pow 1
Each week, we tap into Dwell's Instagram community to bring you the most captivating design and architecture shots of the week.
April 27, 2016
Dwell on Design and designjunction at ArtBeam
It's all part of Dwell on Design + designjunction's three-day event, featuring a program of talks chock-full of leading figures in design, architecture, urbanism, and beyond—coming up May 13-15 at ArtBeam in New York.
April 27, 2016
seattles mariners floating house prefab facade exterior fiber cement panels
A prefabricated floating home drops anchor in the Pacific Northwest.
April 27, 2016
royan treatment living room stone fireplace vintage new furnishings
French designer Florence Deau effortlessly mixes the old with the new.
April 27, 2016
modern netherlands 13 noordeinde schoolhouse parquet herringbone floors stove
Take a lesson from this school-turned-home.
April 27, 2016
The sidewalks of Copacabana in Rio De Janero, Brazil, designed by Roberto Burle Marx
The Jewish Museum in New York City takes it outside with a celebration of the Brazilian landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx.
April 26, 2016
Waterfront home in Belvedere, California
A 1960s home infested with powderpost beetles had to be sacrificed before this this Zen-inspired house could happen.
April 26, 2016
dialogue house
At the base of Echo Mountain in Phoenix, a geometric home by Wendell Burnette opens up to the surrounding desert landscape.
April 26, 2016
street smarts kitchen full view
A creative couple transforms an old Toronto storefront in Dundas West into a home and studio.
April 26, 2016
hald strand
This architect thinks of everything for his summer escape, pizza oven included.
April 26, 2016
gans turin residence living room
Thanks to a contemporary interior that she’s been updating for a decade, modern architect Abigail Turin has learned to love her traditional 1925 San Francisco home.
April 25, 2016
131
Johannesburg-based design studio Counterspace was founded in 2014 by young architecture graduates Sumayya Vally, Sarah de Villiers, and Amina Kaskar. Their projects are collaborative, research-led investigations into possible futures and ideas of otherness in Johannesburg.
April 25, 2016
through living room
A second-story addition and a new indoor-outdoor focus revive a nondescript house in L.A.
April 25, 2016
Modern living room with Flexform sofa and Jens Fager candelabra
An Antwerp home blurs the boundaries between art and design.
April 25, 2016
hillside haven  1
This backyard is its own modern retreat in the Berkeley Hills.
April 25, 2016
Two studios flanks a central volume at this home in Mexico
Art and life meet in the middle at a family retreat in Central Mexico.
April 24, 2016
natural instinct swedish family home kitchen table unfold pendants muuto lilla aland chairs stolab
With Alvar Aalto in mind, a renowned Swedish architect crafts a serene home on a long-held family plot.
April 24, 2016
clearing the table coffee tables boxinbox philippe starck glas italia storage
A half-century later, furniture designers are catching up to painter Yves Klein’s visionary Table Bleue.
April 23, 2016