ABOUT OUR INSTRUCTORS
Featured Artist Interview
How would you describe yourself as a creative? What do you make?
Well growing up, I mean I’ve always been kind of into, you know, arts and crafts, and I’ve always done a variety of things, that’s kind of changed throughout the years. And, I kind of just fell into macramé. I mean I know it started as this, you know-- this whole Bohemian style and trend kind of started a few years ago. So, I was just seeing some of that, and there was actually a woman who used to live in Woodstock who had a macrame company. So, my first experience was back in 2016. I actually took a workshop myself and came home and was really into it. And I bought one of those shower curtain tension rods and hung it between my door frames in my dining room. And I just started macraméing off of that, and you know, initially just trying to teach myself the technique. So I would, you know, do where you would see something and copy it kind of just to practice, you know, for myself. And then I kind of started developing my own style and inspiration from there. And it was just something that kind of stuck. And then it just kind of organically grew into just having my own small business, because I do work on a school schedule, so I have pretty flexible hours and, you know, usually summers off. And so, I just started doing it more and more, and then people, as they saw it locally, contacted me about workshops. So I’ve just done workshops and some local markets and otherwise just selling through Instagram and Etsy and that sort of thing.
What inspired you to take that first macramé workshop?
So the first one that I took, my mom and I actually took it together. And it was at an outdoor market, like upstate-- it was kind of in the middle of nowhere. And it was just a hobby that interested me. And I know that there’s a ton of like-- you can learn to do anything on YouTube these days-- but I just like having the environment, I feel like being in-person and being able to interact, so I just thought it was a good opportunity to try something new.
Are there other macramé artists or makers of any kind that you look to for inspiration?
Yeah, so I do follow a lot of different fiber artists, some being macramé artists, some being other fiber artists that do different things. There’s actually another local fiber artist, Kat Howard-- I don’t know if you’re familiar with her at all-- she’s out of Kingston. And, she does a lot of really large-scale sculptural weavings, and I really enjoy her stuff. It’s very-- she really draws on a lot of history and a lot of issues surrounding women and, you know, suppression-- her work is very emotional. And, she uses a lot of kind of unique materials. And then, there’s another artist that I follow-- she’s from Asheville-- and she has a company where she does fiber art, but she incorporates a lot of vintage materials. So she does fiber art but inside of like vintage teak bowls and sculptural wall art and stuff. So, I do follow some macramé artists-- I try not to follow too many, because it’s like, you know, you can kind of get consumed with comparing and, you know, you want to kind of have your own vision.
Do you work with any other materials or fiber art processes?
So, when quarantine started, I did kind of start a little bit delving into weaving, and it’s very new to me and a lot of it-- it’s completely different than macramé. And so, I did start getting into that a little bit, kind of just for myself-- and at this point I’m still learning the techniques, so I haven’t really explored it from more of a creative standpoint too much. But I think macramé just kind of lends itself to weaving also, and there are a lot of artists do what they call macra-weaving, which is macramé and then incorporates weaving into the macramé piece-- which I’ve done a little bit but just naturally, on my own. So I was just interested in both and in kind of expanding a little bit and learning a little more about that. And the materials are different too-- like with macramé, I work mostly with cotton string and rope, and with weaving, there’s just a whole host of other fabrics and textures and, you know, from wool and different rovings and materials.
What is the most rewarding aspect of macramé to you?
I really love, I mean I love interacting with people-- workshops are one of my favorite things to do, because I like taking something that to some people seems foreign, seems challenging and seems inaccessible sometimes, and just making it accessible.. and kind of just the whole teaching-- I mean I guess I’m a teacher by nature, in my profession-- so, you know, and I always, I try to draw different analogies for people. Because when you’re learning something new-- it’s like learning to ride a bike or learning to braid hair-- it takes a lot of, you have to learn the different motor patterns, and then once you learn the different knots and you become more comfortable with it, it becomes more fluid. And the thing that I love about workshops too is I try to approach them where I teach you the technique, and I can come at it two different ways-- I either have a design, and for people who just want to make the design that I have, I just teach them to the design, or I’m also teaching you the different knots and then you can put it together however you want, if you want to get more creative with it. And some of the things that people, you know, my students come up with are things that I haven’t ever thought to do, and I just love being able to interact with people. And that’s the fun thing too about markets, and just at the markets-- my favorite market that I do is the Hudson Valley Hullabaloo, I don’t know if you’re familiar with it, it’s always the weekend before Thanksgiving, and it’s really well-- Danielle Bliss is the woman who organizes it-- and it’s really well curated. There are about 70 makers, everything is handmade, and she tries to have a really good variety from ceramics to jewelry to, there are people who sell mushroom logs, where you can grow your own mushrooms, and some different alcohols. And it’s just so nice to see other people, and through markets and through things like that, I’ve actually been able to have opportunities to collaborate with other people-- so there’s a woman right now who I’m going to be collaborating with, she makes pots, like ceramic pots, so she’s going to make some with holes in them for me to then macramé, so it’ll be part macramé and part her pots. So just, you know, being able to interact and collaborate with others.
What is the most challenging aspect of macramé for you?
The most challenging is, I guess sometimes-- well, where do I want to go with this? There’s so many aspects… I guess, turning anything that you do for fun into a business has challenging aspects, because, you know, when you’re doing it for yourself, you can do it as you want. And then when you turn it into a business, it’s kind of up to you to take on a workload that you’re comfortable with, and, you know, sometimes you have to do things that are more for work than for pleasure, just to get things done. And obviously the whole backend of the business type is really not my forte, you know like the financial things and, you know, just kind of handling the business end sometimes is, you know.. But, it’s all a balance.
Do you work mostly on commission then?
I do get a lot of just people who want custom work. So they see me, usually, for the most part it’s through Instagram or through word of mouth-- they see someone that I’ve made something for share something, and then other people reach out. And that’s the other thing that’s kind of hard to do-- because macramé is becoming so popular, and you know, people don’t-- if you’re not in the business of being a maker of any sort, you kind of don’t know the, I guess the ethics behind certain things. So people who see something on Pinterest, right, and they send it to you, and they say, “can you make this?” and it’s like they don’t really understand, for one, that that’s like kind of offensive to do, to say to someone who is a maker of something, like, you know, “can you recreate someone else’s art?” essentially. So I guess that is a bit of a challenge-- one, that you don’t copy, and two, if you’re going to come to me, come to me because you like the work that I already produce and you trust that I can create something that you’ll be happy with. So, I guess I just went off on a tangent there, but yeah, most of my work comes from really Instagram and just word of mouth and people saying, “oh, I really like this, can you recreate it?” And I’ll kind of get an idea of what people like, whether it’s geometric shapes or organic shapes, what colors, what price point, size, stuff like that.
For the pieces that you make for markets or to sell online, how do you decide what projects to work on and what types of pieces to make?
Yeah, that’s another thing that’s kind of-- you know, I love working on certain larger pieces, but that was kind of a learning curve as well. My first market I think I had more larger pieces, so just learning that, what people are willing to kind of spend on a whim are usually items that are smaller price points. And if somebody does want to spend more money on something, they are going to want something custom. So, that’s kind of a balance too-- I try to have mostly smaller, for the most point smaller price point things-- under 50 dollars-- and then I will bring a couple of larger-scale items, because sometimes they sell, and just for people to see, “oh, if I do want to do something custom, these are the things that are possible.” One of my favorite things that I’ve done at markets, that I’ve done really well with, and Etsy doesn’t really lend itself very well to this, is I am really into vintage and antiques and thrift shopping and that sort of thing, so I try to thrift shop for pots or planters, and then I make plant hangers that kind of correspond to specific planters. And then I also propagate plants, and my-- I kind of reeled my mom into helping me with that-- so, it’s really just kind of a circular, you know just the whole idea of reusing things, and I try to be as zero-waste as possible, so you know I just like the idea of giving something old new life and being able to sort of incorporate my macramé into that. And then it allows me to kind of get creative and make things that kind of fit that.
You mentioned trying not to follow other macramé artists too closely, but where else do you find inspiration for your work?
So, I mean I find-- I spend a lot of time outdoors, hiking and kayaking. It’s also fun, too, because for my wall hangings, most of what I work off of is driftwood, so just nature is a huge inspiration. So I’m always just taking pictures of different things and, especially here in the Northeast with the season changing so frequently, it’s kind of like you have a new color palette for every season. So yeah, I would say nature, for the most part, is usually good inspiration.
How has quarantine affected your art making?
It kind of ebbs and flows a bit at the moment. Some days I feel super, just like the repetitive nature of knotting sometimes is really therapeutic, and other days, you know, there’ve been periods where I just don’t want to do it. So, it’s really changed. It was really fun-- my niece is finally at the age where-- she’s seven, so she’s finally at the age where she can learn things like that. So, I’ve actually been able to teach her how to do macramé, which was really fun for me. In the very beginning of quarantine, I actually made up little kits, which I had never done before. I really just did it with friends, and so I left them out and had friends come pick up kits, and we would do Zoom group lessons. So, that was kind of, made it fun, and I was able to kind of do a workshop and connect with friends and so yeah. But I mean it’s kind of-- I’ve done some custom work and also spent some time, I had a lot of outstanding IOUs to family members for pieces that I hadn’t gotten to, because they kind of get put on the back burner when I’m worrying about markets and other orders, so I did some catching up on some family projects.
You mentioned starting to learn weaving at the beginning of quarantine, but if you could learn any other medium or craft, what would it be?
I guess, I don’t know if it falls in the realm of art, but one goal that I did tell my boyfriend I was trying to work on by the end of the summer is learning how to be comfortable with different tools, so I can kind of build more D.I.Y. things myself. Because that’s something I think everybody has been doing over quarantine is more D.I.Y. home projects. So, we had a handful of things that we’ve been working on. So I had an old mirror that I actually just covered with grass cloth wallpaper. And we had an old, a dry sink that belonged to my grandparents, and we completely stripped it and refinished that into like a little bar. So, just doing more, being comfortable with, you know, being able to do things independently and know that I don’t have to rely on other people to help me. Yeah, I don’t know how into woodworking I’ll get, but just being able to be self-sufficient.
How do you see your practice or business evolving in the future?
Yeah, that’s a good question. I mean I guess I plan on doing it as long as I love it. And, I mean I think I’ll always do macramé for myself, you know, for enjoyment. As far as a business, like I said, it’s kind of just a side thing that I do because I enjoy it, so I’m comfortable if, you know at some point, it dissipates. But as long as I keep loving it, I’ll keep doing it. I mean I think a lot of people respond to functional things, so you know I’ve been toying with that and trying to make some different home things. A few years ago, I made a wedding backdrop, so that’s something, I mean at some point I’d love to make you know another large-scale piece. And I just think that’s really fun. Yeah, I mean however it organically develops, I do see myself kind of incorporating weaving, whether it’s doing full weaves or you know incorporating weaving into the macramé. Yeah, the thing that I like about working with macramé is you can kind of pick up and leave off things whenever it feels good to you. And, you know, I always have a work in progress piece that’s hanging from my-- I’m looking at it right now-- hanging from my macramé rack that I just walk over to, work on for a little bit, and walk away from, and that’s the thing that’s kind of nice about it. You know, it’s not like painting or ceramics, where once you dive in, you have to do something start to finish, so it’s nice to have the flexibility.
And that’s the thing about macramé too, there’s really, you only need to learn like two or three basic knots, and then you can do a ton of things just from those basic knots. I mean there definitely are others that you can delve into, but for the most part, almost everything is made out of two or three knots that you can just work in a ton of different ways.
Do you have a favorite piece that you’ve made?
That’s hard. I’m so guilty of like, I have so much macramé around the house, because everytime I make a piece and then I just-- that’s the other thing that’s nice about like, between markets when I’m making pieces, I just hang them up around the house and, you know, then decide what is permanent, and then I can switch it out every few months when I’m tired of it. I kind of always have new artwork. I don’t know if I have a specific favorite piece...
-- Lindsay Welch speaking with Nola Kim Mayer on August 5, 2020.