“I like how I can do something illegal and still get away with it,” Nathan Coburn said last Friday.
The 11-year-old was talking about yarn bombing, the guerilla art of decorating city posts with knitted and crocheted creations.
Coburn, a second-time recipient of a Neighbourhood Small Grant, is running free yarn bombing workshops on four Saturdays, starting Oct. 13.
He offered origami workshops in his Kitsilano neighbourhood last year.
His Montessori teacher taught him origami when he was six and Coburn furthered his paper-folding skills with the help of books and YouTube videos. He stumbled upon yarn bombing two years ago when he found a book on the subject at the library. “And somebody just left it there and forgot it and I picked it up and I looked through it,” he said. “And I really liked it and I started making little installations.”
Coburn doesn’t fret about leading a workshop group of 30. “I do ballet in front of, like, 500 people, what’s a couple people going to do?” said Coburn, who’s also a student at Goh Ballet Academy.
Coburn has gained notoriety by selling his work through school, at his lemonade stand on West 10th Avenue at Sasamat Street and to his mother’s choir.
During an interview, he pulled out of his green basket a red Rasta hat, a royal blue English riding hat, a teal toque and the oversized green cowl he uses to mask his face when yarn bombing. “I’ve got a ton of orders,” he said.
A student in the gifted program at Queen Mary elementary in Point Grey, he started a knitting blog in August. At the Rain City Chronicles’ Extra Ordinary storytelling event last month, he charmed audiences with his repeated use of the word “wonderful.”
“I like how people admire [my work] and I like to be admired,” he said. “This is my attempt at fame.”
Coburn’s first customer was a classmate but not all of his peers are so supportive. “Kids at school say, ‘Are you a girl?’ and I hate that,” Coburn said. “I almost felt like kicking a boy downstairs for saying that once… I don’t like how people think that knitting and crocheting is just for girls, because it’s not.”
He says a schoolmate tried knitting and crocheting but gave up. “You have to knit or crochet a very long time before you finally can start having fun a lot,” Coburn said. “A lot of kids see it is a really horrible, gruelling task.”
His mother Susan, a jewelry designer, says she’s modelled patience for Nathan when preparing for craft shows. But when he asked where his creativity stems from, Coburn quipped, “My red hair.”
Coburn received his Neighbourhood Small Grant from the Vancouver Foundation through Kitsilano Neighbourhood House. His workshop will be held at Wet Coast Wools on West Fourth Avenue near Macdonald Street from 2 to 4 p.m. Participants are asked to bring 5 mm needles or hooks. Yarn and refreshments will be provided.
Creations from the workshop will either adorn the concrete “100” near West Fourth Avenue and Granville Bridge or green lampposts down West Fourth. Participants should register by Oct. 10 at knitkidrevo.gmail.com.