Name, Location, Occupation
Nathan Thomas Hanford, Becket, Massachusetts/Shoreditch, East London, Hand Embroiderer
Please describe your workspace:
My workspace is a derelict summer music camp cabin in Becket Massachusetts. I gutted it a few years ago and made it open plan and put in seven foot tall schoolhouse style sash windows to let in more light. It is currently a very rustic space, exposed woodwork, and no plumbing... yet. I have the vintage linen I like to use in my stitchings folded neatly in old chests of drawers and my silk floss kept in old boxes given to me by my friend Crispina French. The cabin is on 13 acres of forest in the Berkshire Hills of Massachusetts. It is a basic space... a space that will grow as I do. Every once in a while a red squirrel will squeeze in through the roof and visit me while I stitch, a large Great Horned Owl often sits in the tall white pines outside, I'm constantly reminded that I am surrounded by nature.
What are you working on right now?
Currently I am working on embroidered botanical images that merge into a woodsman's tools. Stitched repetitions of basketball players and dancers that merge together, and of course my ongoing portraits of my family and friends.
What has been your most rewarding project to date?
Definitely the collaboration "Noetic Corpus: Sojourn of the Soul" a work titled "Alis volat propris" with Predrag Pajdic performed at WE*DO Gallery, Bangkok, Thailand and Wrong Weather in Porto, Portugal. There is also a book that has been produced of images by Predrag Pajdic.
Which designers and artists inspire you?
I'm mostly inspired by sound... I love music. It keeps my hands, fingers and arms moving as I stitch... like dancing.
I have a dance background and it often inspires me in my embroideries. My favourite company of all time is Inbal Pinto and of course there are Papa Ted Shawn and Ruth St. Denis who founded Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival which is in the town that I call home.
I also love photographers Brock Elbank and Gregory Crewdson, Paintings by Aaron Smith, Maggie Mailer, and the amazing Walton Ford, Nina Katchdourian and Emil Rocky Fiore who work with spiderwebs, and Zachari Logan's work is exquisite. Living in Shoreditch, East London it was hard not to be inspired by those that surrounded me there; Sibling London, Photographer Rebecca Thomas, Mia Wallenius and Klaus Haapaniemi, Jonathan Saunders, and Richard Nicoll who both inspired me as designers and as friends.
Has there been a defining moment or turning point when you realized what you wanted to do for a living?
When I met the lovely Nancy Fitzpatrick while I was working at a coffee shop in Lenox Massachusetts. She gave me a job that allowed every creative part of me flow freely. For the first time in my life my creativity mattered on a level that allowed me to thrive. Before I knew it I was part of the team helping to renovate The Red Lion Inn in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, Crawling through attics and barns searching for design elements, and designing private parties to celebrate amazing artists like Don Gummer and Huang Yong Ping through The Porches Inn and MASS MoCA in North Adams Massachusetts. I will never be able to thank her enough for being such an amazing inspiration to me to make my art and keep being the creative soul that I am.
What do you think is the most difficult aspect of working in design?
Self doubt, always wondering if what you have to give is actually something that people will want, need, love, give and cherish. If I was making work that was disposable I would stop what I'm doing. Embroidered pieces last for centuries. I need to always feel confident that what I am leaving behind is actually the best work I can do.
What are you reading at the moment?
The Master and Margarita by Mikhail Bulgakov, Trying Not To Blink by Eric Nixon, and always dipping into a beautiful antique copy of the Encyclopedia of Needlework by Therese de Dillmont gifted to me by my friends Matthew Larkin and Lainie Grant.
What websites do you visit for inspiration?
That's a hard one... I love to visit so many...
What are your simplest daily pleasures?
My simplest daily pleasures? Well my days are brimming with simple pleasures... spending time with my two Welsh whippets Rio and Roscoe, responding to texts from my ten year old nieces, long walks in the forest. I like to make lists from seed catalogs that I get and make plans for future gardens, choose which types of chickens and quail I might raise. I am currently tapping some of my maple trees to boil down the sap into sweet maple syrup. I might even try my hand at moonshine this year... shhhhh... don't tell.
Where do you see yourself in ten years?
In ten years I will be happily settled here in Becket, Massachusetts. I hope to have a total of 67 forest acres and cabins scattered throughout. I want people with a focus on botanical illustration and others in foraging culture to be able to come and visit so they can immerse themselves in the place I grew up. I am also dabbling in making music at the moment so who knows... anything can happen right?