Exclusive Interview: Becca Van K

Needle-pointers are the unsung heroes of the craft world. They spend countless hours making everything from pillows to belts. Multimedia artist Becca Van K has been needle-pointing since her teenage years. Now living in Catskill Mountains, New York, she’s honed in on the craft in an ongoing series of projects. A couple of weeks ago, I spoke to her over the phone about her series “My Hands Swell When I Hike,” the future of needle-pointing, and how she’s using her art to raise money and awareness for indigenous nonprofit organizations. 

Cabin in the Catskills  (2018), Embroidery floss, needlepoint canvas, fabric glue, and nylon cord on wood.

Cabin in the Catskills (2018), Embroidery floss, needlepoint canvas, fabric glue, and nylon cord on wood.

Dish Rag Magazine: How did you start needle-pointing?  

Becca Van K: I have been needle-pointing since my teenage years. I grew up doing a lot of handwork. My mom taught me how to crochet and knit. I am very into repetitious handcraft, so needle-pointing was a natural outlet for me I find it very meditative. I like working within a grid because needlepointing has little squares that you have to wrap the string around. So, I like having some structure but it's a still a lot of freedom within that.


Dish Rag Magazine: Can you tell me about the origins of your project “My Hands Swell When I Hike”?

Becca Van K: About a year and half ago, I went on this cross-country road trip which I’ve been wanting to do for quite some time. I ended up hiking and camping my way across the country and visiting a lot of national parks. I think about that experience on a daily basis. It was really impactful on me and I wanted to manifest those very positive feelings in my artistic practice but in general I have been working completely abstract. I just really wanted to represent my love for the landscape I encountered on my trip through my craft. In the past, I have done some fundraising for some nonprofits through my artwork. I did a series of these collages where I donated all the money raised to Planned Parenthood. 20% of each of these needle-points goes towards indigenous non-profits.  I have been specifically working with one called the Utah Dine Bikeyah, it raises money for the indigenous legal defense for the Bear Ears National Monument which the Trump administration has reduced to 15% of its original size. It was the first national monument that worked in conjunction with the indigenous populations in that area. So, I wanted to support the people that are making their voice heard. Specifically, First Nation People in that area because it's really setting a terrible precedent. It’s what kickstarted my desire to start this series.

Sunset at Capitol Reef National Park  (2018). Yarn, latch hook netting, nylon cord, and fabric glue.

Sunset at Capitol Reef National Park (2018). Yarn, latch hook netting, nylon cord, and fabric glue.

Dish Rag Magazine: Who are some of your needle-pointing idols?

Becca Van K: I don’t have any. I don’t really follow that many craft makers other than a few people on Instagram. Needle-pointing is a type of craft that I think is especially associated with a more geriatric crowd so I want to subvert that notion and really bring attention to the fact that it can be useful and interesting and not just for pillow making.


Dish Rag Magazine: Any other needle-pointing plans?


Becca Van K: I am going to continue this series. I have dozens of dozens (of ideas) in my mind. I am applying to some residencies. I have applied to some. I will continue to apply to those that are in big, beautiful, natural places so I can draw inspiration from them. Anywhere where I go, I would like to be able to hike. Needle-pointing is really portable which I love for this series because I can hike to a top of a mountain and just start making a needle-pointing from there. This series is just getting started.


Check out more of Becca Van K's work


Donate to the Bear Ears National Monument fund.