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My passion for arts and crafts started in childhood. My mother was an artist and I remember being fascinated by her cluttered crafts "shack", tucked away in the basement and overflowing with raffia, bright paper flowers, and every kind of art supply imaginable. She instilled in me the idea that creating was an enjoyable and worthwhile way to spend your time. I liked making clothes for my troll dolls, drawing and painting.
During my teens I took an interest in fiber arts, especially macrame, which was popular at the time. I taught myself the basic knots from a Ladies Home Journal article. One of my earliest projects was a handbag that I entered in my high school art competition. I won second place in the macrame category, losing out to a wall hanging of Jimi Hendrix.
My first attempts at jewelry were necklaces of thick waxed cord and seashells, and for a time I sold watchbands to a hippie shop on Miami Beach. I must confess, I also did my share of plant hangers and owls, some of which still hang in my garage. But, inspired to take it a step further, I went on to create large sculptural wall pieces which usually involved more jute, shells and driftwood.
In 1989, after relocating to Santa Fe and being enchanted with the beauty and art of the area, I walked into a weaving shop near the plaza and saw the bead and macrame jewelry of the late artist Tina Johnson Depuy. It was her work that inspired me to try my hand again at jewelry design. I used the same macrame techniques of the 1960s but in a different way. I downsized my materials to a scale appropriate for jewelry, using 18 gauge nylon cord instead of jute and adding delicate beads and findings.
For many years I sold my jewelry at craft fairs around the country, but I only do a few local shows now. I still sell my work in galleries and on my website, but have switched my focus to teaching in the last few years. I've written two books, "Micro-Macrame Jewelry, Tips & Techniques for Knotting with Beads" and "Wired Micro-Macrame Jewelry". I also have a DVD called "Micro-Macrame & Cavandoli Knotting". I teach at Bead Fest and Bead & Button and for bead shops and bead societies around the country.
My favorite creative format is the one of a kind necklace. I often use the technique of "Cavandoli" or tapestry knotting, a more condensed and detailed form of knotting than traditional macrame, which is generally looser and lacier. One square inch can take more than an hour and contain over 250 knots. It's a technique that lends itself well to geometrical patterns (similar to weaving) but I also like to "paint" with colored nylon and waxed linen in an impressionistic abstract style. Although I'm known for my macrame work, I also like to use other techniques like metalwork, wirework, and bead mosaics.
An intuitive sense of color is important to me and I often dye my own cord to get the shades I desire. Sometimes I make a knotted piece in a light color and paint it with dye like watercolor. In recent years, nylon cord has become available in a broad range of colors, which I'm very thankful for. When I was a teen, the color choices for cord were, beige, brown, black and tan!
Being in the Southwest has given me an appreciation of bold colors, like the clear blue sky, purple and pink sunsets and the orange rock formations. I never set out to make pieces that look typically Southwestern, but the influence is always there. I'm also drawn to Asian art and when designing a piece, sometimes I think of images like the curving roof lines of pagodas, fluttering prayer flags, and temple doorways. I like to make textured metal elements to use in my designs. I prefer to use the warm tones of brass and copper because I feel it complements the fiber elements best.
In a very time-consuming medium, it seems that I am always thinking of ways to make it even more so. I have found that trying to take shortcuts and speed up the process always backfires. I try to resist the temptation to follow trends and cater to the marketplace. My best work comes when I relax and take all the time it requires. From time to time I detour into other artforms, but I always come back to fiber art. There is a part of me that wants to prove that macrame can be more than just plant hangers and owls, and when taken a step further, it can be beautiful.
I believe that art comes from a deep place within, it comes from the collective soul and others can recognize that - it resonates with them. I am devoted to fiber art and jewelry design and love to explore new techniques, as well as share them with others through teaching. My thoughts are brimming with new artistic ideas that want to be expressed and I am never happier than when I am in a creative zone transforming those ideas into reality.
|Joan Babcock, Santa Fe, New Mexico, USA|