Andy has been behind so many of our most charming posts here at Think.Make.Share. The talented photo stylist has taught us how to make affordable floral arrangements and have let us into his gorgeous home. Today, he’s talking about the (currently very hip) art of macramé.
I was a really weird kid for a lot of reasons, but perhaps my strangest attribute was I loved macramé. Not with a love like you might love rainbows and kitten, but with a passionate, all-consuming, crazy love for the ancient knot-tying art form favored by art-student stoners, Birkenstock and flannel clad sisters, and decoupage drop outs who wanted to find another way to express their wild side.
This love affair began when I was in the sixth grade. The year was 1970. My parents were good friends with a woman who was the head of the textiles department at the Kansas City Art Institute; her name was Joy. One day Joy came over to our house to watch a football game with my parents, and she brought some jute with her. I sat by Joy on our black naugahyde and chrome couch during the game, and she patiently showed me how to tie a half-hitch and a square knot and how to create variations of those basic macramé knots.
That night after Joy left, after the crock-pot with Velveta-Rotel dip had been cleaned up, and after my parents turned off the television, I carefully took my macramé sampler to my room and hung my masterpiece on my bulletin board. I laid in my bottom bunk twin bed that night and sleep would not come; I was filled with a passion. I had fallen in love with the craft that dare not speak its name…
Months later, to fine-tune my knotting skills, I enrolled in a macramé class at a local library. It was late summer, a few weeks before I was to start the 8th grade. As was usually the case, whenever I went to any macramé event it was all women. This class was no different. I spent the afternoon knotting and chatting with my newly formed adult female friends. We exchanged recipes for Jello 123 and Kraft Shake n’ Bake. We then moved to discussing the latest shenanigans of the soap opera As the World Turns. It was a grand afternoon, and I was on a macramé and lady-gossip high as I skipped out of my macramé safe haven. But as I turned the corner, I literally ran straight into the meanest bully in my junior high. What in the world was the meanest kid in school doing in a library, in the summer? Is nothing sacred?
I was about to be pummeled in the non-fiction section of the Oak Park public library.
I picked up my tangled ball of jute, beads and dowel rods, and, in the butchest way I could, ran out of the library, all the way home. (I hope I wasn’t screaming; I’ve blocked that part out.) When I got home, I slammed the front door behind me and leaned against the door trying to catch my breath… as my mom announced with great sobriety and concern that we would be moving in a few weeks and that we would have to attend new schools.
She hoped the news wouldn’t be too devastating for me. Having a flair for the dramatic, I fell to the floor, clasped my hands and yelled, “Thank you Jesus!” My brother rolled his eyes and walked away, my mom backed out of the room, slowly went back to her Tuna Helper and tried to figure out what had just happened.
From that point on, my days and evenings were filled with my chubby little fingers knotting anything I could get my hands on—even my dad’s extension cords were not safe. I started selling macramé belts to friends in my new Jr. High school, I started selling wall hangings in local shops and galleries, and I started entering juried shows. As I entered high school, I was even approached by an artist rep who wanted to take my work to galleries in other cities, and I started a relationship with a big architectural firm in Kansas City. I was on macramé fire!
You may be thinking that at this point I would get big-head from my macramé notoriety and fame. Now, mind you, I was going to a small rural school in a farming community where driving a Camaro or a Chevy pickup was about the fastest way to be cool. I rode the bus.
My creative, non-judgmental, unconditionally loving parents not only entertained this passion of mine, they celebrated it, encouraged it and made me feel like a macramé rock star. My dad made business cards for me and helped me lug these giant wall hangings from art show to art show. My mom drove me over 30 miles a week to take weaving lessons in a neighboring town. They would do anything to support this passion of mine, even though it was decidedly different than my dad’s all-American jock endeavors in high school and my mom’s studious pursuits.
Then the 1980s rolled around, and macramé died. I don’t mean a slow painful, dramatic death. I mean the clock hit midnight on New Years Eve of 1979, and macramé was dead. There was a silent agreement that everyone would put down their macramé mid-knot as the ’70s ended. Macramé was dropped like you drop a cheating boyfriend or girlfriend, never to acknowledge them again. It seemed my crafty lady friends had all moved on to hot-gluing yards of lace to straw hats that became decorative elements for suburban front doors across the country.
I only tell you all of this because there is something miraculous happening: Macramé is coming back! People are actually interested in it again…
…for real! My old flame and I are being reunited! Who says you can’t go back? The old square knot and half-hitch fly from my fingers just like they did, gulp, 40 years ago.
Every kid has natural interests and abilities, and they are all of value, even if that interest is something as seemingly goofy as macramé. Thank you to the adults who give kids freedom to find those skills, nurture them and honor them.
We are all better for it.
Several Hallmark creative folk joined me the other day for a macramé workshop. I smiled the entire day, knowing that these co-workers were interested in this ’70s art form. Justin Timberlake may have brought sexy back, but I brought macramé back (at least to a few Hallmarkers)!
The morning was spent learning the basic knots, and then after lunch, the workshop participants started working on their own macramé bracelets, plant hangers and wall hangings.
Minimal supplies are required. Scissors, rubber bands, beads, the material you choose to knot with, mounting rods and creativity are the only things you need.
Basic two macramé knots are the square knot and the half hitch. Once you have those down, you can do anything!
Lindsay, Tobe and Nicole learn how to tie the basic knots.
Betsy, who is a Hallmark photo stylist extraordinaire, gathered beautiful objects to incorporate into her two wall hangings.
Frayed and knotted ends added distinct personality to Betsy’s macramé pieces.
Something as simple as a half square knot repeated over and over can make a simple but beautiful bracelet.
Hannah was a real macramé show-off by incorporating a complete half-hitch circle and color in her wall hanging.
Nicole updated the classic ’70s plant hanger by incorporating a graphic white pot for her plant and a glass orb for decoration. Nicole also took the time to hand-paint beads so they would have a lustrous look. What a freak! (I mean that in the greatest way!)
Lindsay created a really sophisticated and beautiful macramé wall hanging that consisted entirely of the half hitch knot. Lindsay incorporated copper tubing into her piece as well. Trés elegante!
And, finally there was Jen, Trends guru at Hallmark. I now refer to her as the macramé whisperer. The baton has been passed. Watch the video in Instagram at @think.make.share, and you will see what I mean. Jen used a large-sized paper cord that is often used in upholstery work. You can order most of this type of material through Amazon.
So get your fingers limbered up and find some jute, welt cord, baling twine or any other kind of string and start knotting.
And the next time someone asks you what you’re into these days, stand tall, stand proud and say it loud…
I’m into macramé!!!
Photography by Kevin Cozad.