Is your Hamptons dream home crying out for exquisitely customized designs in wood and metal? If so, you’re in luck. The East End just so happens to be home to some of the best artisans and professionals in the business. Nico Yektai is one such mid-career artisan who has turned many homeowners’ dreams into reality.
Yektai is a Sag Harbor-based furniture sculptor and object maker who has been following his passion to create functional and artistic pieces for the past 20 years. To get a taste for Yektai’s work, visit Guild Hall, where one can see YEKTAI: Manoucher Yektai, Nico Yektai, Darius Yektai, an exhibition which traces the familial artistic legacy of patriarch Manoucher Yektai and his two sons, Darius and Nico.
Nico Yektai spoke with Dan’s Papers about his process, collaborating with clients, and why he attributes much of his talent and success to his father’s parenting and the Hamptons itself.
What do you feel makes the Hamptons a great place for creative individuals?
It’s such an amazing mix of artists, galleries and supportive clientele. Having access to this mix has afforded me opportunities that I’m sure wouldn’t be available elsewhere. The Hamptons has become my creative center from which I take steps out into the larger art world, and I have greater confidence in the steps I take because I’ve gotten the feedback from the local community first.
How has your father, Manoucher Yektai, abstract expressionist painter and poet, influenced your desire to make one-of-a-kind furniture and sculptures?
I learned from my father to develop a style that was gestural and personal. I constantly try new things so that I’m not leaning on what I’ve previously done, but rather using it in a new way. It’s a constant exploration.
What are some of your favorite furniture and sculpture pieces?
I think the pieces of mine that I’m most fond of are the ones that I look at and think to myself—“how on earth did I do that?” These are usually the biggest pieces. The circle bench that I did in Bridgehampton is at the top of that list—it’s about 60 feet around.
Where do you often find the inspiration for your next project?
New pieces begin with a commitment to a function. Let’s say a bench—I will think about benches that I’ve already made and see if I can find a general direction. Once I decide, I start sketching and trying to figure out the system that’ll set the whole piece in motion. By system I simply mean a way of juxtaposing a couple different pieces of wood or materials. The big leaps often come when I’m doing something else, like driving. We have two young boys, so I do a lot of driving! Then it’s back to sketching and a quick 3-D model to verify the system, making sure that there’s ample room for spontaneity.
How do you go about achieving a client’s vision for a piece of furniture or sculpture?
The best and most successful commissions come after someone has seen my work. Assuming that we’re on the same page, I begin by getting a sense of the function that they need the piece to accomplish. I use my scale models to help further the conversation and discover exactly what they’re looking for. I’m able to put them in the client’s hand and get their gut reaction, which gets us one step closer
I get the sense that the combination of function, craftsmanship and creativity is at the core of what they’re looking for.
How many projects do you generally have in progress simultaneously?
I usually have two projects going on at once. There’s a lot of boring sanding and finishing in what I do, so I’m always happier if I have another piece that’s just beginning.
What are you working on right now?
I’m finishing a custom concrete tabletop and I’m starting a custom wall-hung console, a bench and a set of coffee tables for a client in New York.