Nathan Plung, 32, has lived with a disability as long as he has been alive. He was born with a bleeding brain, which resulted in cerebral palsy and seizures that have plagued him his entire life. A disability such as this could have been completely debilitating had he let it beat him, but he refuses to give in to the limitations it imposes upon his life.
Everyone with a disability creates his or her own way to overcome challenges and enhance quality of life. For Nathan, it’s an art form that most people don’t believe men would find enjoyable, much less excel at the craft. Nathan is gaining fame as an ultra-skilled cross-stitch artisan.
“You’d be surprised how many people think I’m gay because I do cross-stitch,” he laughs. “But the truth is, I love doing this and it really doesn’t matter if people are wrong about that. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.”
He points out that there are many men who have taken pleasure in similar. perceived “non-masculine” pursuits, and he is correct. Former New York Giants and LA Rams lineman Rosey Grier enjoyed knitting. Legendary Pittsburgh Steelers receiver Lynn Swann took ballet lessons.
Nathan’s affinity for the craft began at the age of 9, and recently he achieved a new level of recognition for his art when his portraits were selected for display at New York’s Agora Gallery.
“I was thrilled when I found out my work was accepted for a show at the Agora,” says Nathan. “For the past several years, I’ve submitted my work to the gallery, never really believing it would get anywhere.”
Nathan’s portraits are broad in their subjects, from Frank Zappa to Mahatma Gandhi to more personal pictures of his loved ones, and even a self-portrait. The self-portrait, in fact, was one of those chosen for exhibit.
Nathan works from photos he finds on the Internet, because his cerebral palsy limits his personal creativity and imagination. He then uses Photoshop to add shadowing to the image that will allow the cross-stitch to bring it to life. He says that the art form has been a boon to keeping his limited motor skills up to snuff.
Ultimately, he wants to do commission work for people seeking an unusual form of portrait for friends and family members. The 8 x 10 portraits take up to four months to complete, as he balances his time with his part-time job working with disabled kids at the Richland School District. “I could probably finish one in a month and a half if I wasn’t working,” he says, “But I love teaching the kids, too. It’s a balancing act.”
If you think cross-stitching might be a stress-reliever for you, the video below shows the basics of cross-stitching. What’s your unusual artistic passion?