Emily Katz has been on the wide open road all summer long, traveling from coast to coast, teaching macramé workshops and promoting her new book, Modern Macramé: 33 Stylish Projects For Your Handmade Home. The origins of macramé, the art of decorative knots, dates back to 13th century Arab weavers. In the last few years, macramé has undergone a revival. This age-old artform is now highly sought after as the finishing touch to a stylish, modern home. Emily is one of the pioneers of the contemporary macramé movement, spreading the gospel of this ancient craft to modern day audiences as the founder of Modern Macramé. We caught up with Emily after her whirlwind tour ended to learn about how this all began.
Interview by Shirley Cai // Photos courtesy of Emily Katz
I read that your journey with macramé began as a happy accident involving a visit to your mom’s and Japanese magazine editors. Can you elaborate?
My mom and dad split when I was 9 years old and I was raised by my father. When I was 29, I visited her in Connecticut with my boyfriend Adam. I had barely seen her over the years, and so I was nervous about the weekend. I knew she had made macrame in the 1970’s and that she had sold her plant hangers at a salon her mom frequented to raise money to buy a guitar. I felt that is she could teach me, then it would make the time together go more smoothly.
She taught me a plant hanger in her kitchen while my half sisters baked vegan cookies and my boyfriend (now fiancé) played THE guitar that my mom bought with macrame.
We brought the plant hangers home, and over a year later, a team of Japanese magazine editors arrived at our home to do a feature on DIY interior design. They were curious about the plant hangers hanging in our guest bathroom, and they were excited that I had made them. More than my own story however, they were interested in having some of their own. Instead of offering them for sale, I invited them back over the next day, and taught my first workshop in my living room to Japanese magazine editors.
Can you walk me through what was going on in your mind when you reached that turning point and decided to pursue a career in macrame?
There was a hole in the market. No one was teaching macramé, and it came naturally to me and I really enjoyed it. So I gave it a try. I kept my job (working for my dad as an art director) for 2 years while the company took off. Eventually I had savings in the bank, and felt confident that I could hire my first assistant and I moved into a studio and started Modern Macramé LLC.
Your business isn’t just about making and selling macramé. In fact, a big part of it involves you teaching macrame workshops. Why is the teaching and workshop aspect important to you?
Actually, the largest part of our business is our line of craft materials. We sell a wide variety of cotton rope for craft and macramé in addition to beads, rings and all the other materials you might need to create your own DIY designs. But in regards to teaching, i deeply enjoy connecting with people in person and creating content online. From sharing my story, to my love of the craft, to seeing people’s faces light up with they get their first knot.
Finding a way to pursue your creative passion without taking the romance out of it is always tricky, especially when your creativity becomes the thing that pays your bills. What advice can you give to someone who wants to make that leap and find a way to turn their creative passion into their full time gig?
Be VERY sure that you want to. Read books about business. Connect with other entrepreneurs. Make sure you are ok with not having money for a long time as your business grows. And then surround yourself with experts who can support you through the parts of running a business that are not your natural inclination.
What’s the most important lesson that your journey with macramé has taught you so far?
To kill my ego. I am constantly asking myself why. Why am I making this decision instead of THAT one? Is it based on whether or not people will think I am cool? Or is is based on numbers and projections? Is is based on my gut instinct, or on what will look good to the outside world. Sometimes these answers lead me to the same places, but recently I have been looking at my business as a different kind of entity, and trying to give it all the love and care that any growing thing needs. Sometimes as the sake of my own freedom, but with the goal of more freedom soon.
Thank you Emily for sharing your story with us. Emily is wearing the Rope Dress in rust in the first photo. Visit Modern Macramé to learn more about Emily's craft. You can also find her on Instagram @emily_katz.