Interview with Resident Artist
Nathan Dube

Posted June 14, 2012 in Blog

Nathan Dube working in his studio at Houston Center for
Contemporary Craft. Photo by Kim Coffman.

This week, we continue with our series of interviews featuring current resident artists. Nathan Dube is a metalsmith whose work explores his interest in childhood and play by exploring the relationship among humor, aggression, masculinity, and how contemporary adult-male identity is constructed in American culture.

Nathan makes eccentric toys, which comment on the absurd lengths men will sometimes go in order to recapture their youth and define their identity. His current work uses characters from movies and popular culture, along with meticulously crafted spit-wad shooters, to highlight the differences between the way masculinity is and has been represented to past and current generations.

Originally from Austin, Texas, Nathan grew up mainly in Klein, outside of Houston. He holds a MFA from Kent State University and a BFA from the University of Texas at Austin. His work has been exhibited in both national and international venues, including a solo show at the National Ornamental Metal Museum in Memphis, Tennessee. He will be at HCCC through August of 2012. For more information, please visit


Nathan, how did you start working with metal?  How has your work evolved?

I actually started in high school when I was introduced to enameling.  I always had a strong understanding of the technical aspects of metalsmithing, so since high school I have worked on developing the conceptual side of my work.

Please, tell us a little bit about your exquisitely crafted and eccentric toys for adults. Where does the inspiration for these pieces come from? How did this body of work begin?

The inspiration comes mainly from my childhood; the toys I played with, or always wanted.  This body of work began in graduate school when I started to think about the ways men use humor to interact with one another.

How have people responded to these objects when visiting your studio?

There are usually laughs involved and occasionally someone gets squirted in the face with water.  They often remember playing with one of the toys when they were young.  I find the toys are a common ground and good way to start my interaction with the viewer.

Nathan Dube, S.C.R.A.T.C.H. ‐‐ Skin Crawling, Rash Activating Tool for Covert Harassment.
Silver, itching powder. 12.5cm x 7.5cm x 2.5cm, 2006. Attach the shaker to the extension arm.
Load itching powder into the shaker. Extend the arm and shake over the victim.
Photo courtesy the artist.


Nathan Dube, S.P.I.T. ‐‐ Saliva and Paper Instigating Trauma.
Silver, paper, mother of pearl. 8cm x 11cm x 6.5cm, 2005.
Assemble the shooter, and use the provided paper to make a spitwad.
Once fired return to the convenient carrying case. Photo courtesy the artist.


Nathan Dube, S.N.I.P.E.R. ‐‐ Spit wad shooter with targets.
Silver, nickel, brass, paper. 8cm x 54cm x 55cm, 2009.
S.N.I.P.E.R. allows you to take careful aim at recognizable male
gender roles. Photo courtesy the artist.

What you are working on right now?

I’m currently finishing new spit-wad shooters for a show next fall in San Antonio at the Southwest School of Art.  The exhibition is about interaction, so the viewers will be encouraged to interact with the work.  My challenge was to come up with ways the viewers can use the work while keeping things sanitary.

Is there an artist or designer who has had a large impact on your work or one whom you particularly admire?

While it doesn’t necessarily show in my work, I’ve always appreciated the work of Arthur Ganson.  Ganson creates extremely elaborate mechanisms and devices that do incredibly simple tasks.  I’ve always been fascinated with how things work and Ganson’s work gives equal focus to the mechanism or movement as he does to the end result.

Describe yourself in 5 words.

Laugh, coke zero, friendly, perfectionist, mechanically inclined

–Ashley Powell, Curatorial Assistant