Mountain, Ocean, Sunset. These three words alone could lead to thoughts of nature’s beauty, holidays, and calm. (Yet again, they could also be some of the most used hashtags on social media, too.) But one thing is for sure, they made a gigantic statement earlier this year after Indonesian macramé artist Agnes Hansella created three massive installations representing them!
Agnes wasn’t always into working with fiber. In fact, when she discovered macramé in 2017, she was an audio engineer on film sets. Once she picked up the well-loved art, though, Agnes set her sights on trying to learn everything she could. She’s even written a book (in Indonesian) and taught workshops on macramé too.
From wall-hangings to furniture pieces, including playhouses, room dividers, and stools, Agnes has explored the full range of more traditional macramé applications. However, with these large installations, she is having the most fun — challenging herself and the macramé craft alike!
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.
Discovering the art of macramé
K+C — You’ve had a winding path to becoming a macramé artist! Can you tell us a little about the series of events that led you to study audio engineering in Canada to what you do now?
I was on a break from a long film shoot and noticed my ears were extremely tired from listening with my headphones all the time. Maybe I focused a lot on my ears because it dulled my other senses. I was also pregnant at that time, and I’m not the type that enjoys pregnancy. So everything just felt tiresome, and nothing seemed like fun. But on my break, I saw my mom doing macramé and eventually tried it. It looked easy because I didn’t need needles or a hook to do it.
K+C — Now you work as a macramé artist in both Jakarta and Bali. Can you tell us how these two places became part of your practice?
Jakarta is the center of business in Indonesia, while Bali is just heaven — I mean, there’s a lot of art going on there, and everything is beautiful. Many crafters live in Bali, and macramé is very common there, while in Jakarta in the year 2017, not so much.
K+C — Are there any aspects of working between the two locations that you particularly enjoy, or likewise, any challenges you need to overcome balancing the two locations?
I’m saving to move to Bali! I have always liked Bali, but I never thought of living there. I only go to Bali when I have big projects. The challenge is bringing my son with me when I have to work and he wants to go to the beach. Mostly, the problem is when my son wants to stay with me and I need to work. Balancing both is very hard. It’s tough to be an artist, but it’s harder to be an artist and a mom.
Experimenting and spreading knowledge
K+C — It’s incredibly cool to see your work in so many different forms! What macramé applications do you gravitate towards the most?
Installations! I love the process and how it makes me feel like a tiny ant building something great. There’s a satisfying feeling standing next to a big piece when it’s finished.
The more people know about the [macramé] technique, the more variations we will see. I always think of art as a relay race, where everything is moving and evolving all the time.
K+C — What influences the style of your work, whether it’s smaller or larger in scale?
I love patterns from antique textiles around the world. It’s fascinating to see similar objects or animals woven in different shapes and colors. Usually, I don’t restrict myself to a particular style, but for now, I like making color gradation on my macramé.
Mountain, Ocean, Sunset, Macramé
K+C — Now, I’d like to ask about these enormous installations you did. What was the experience like of planning and working on the three-part macramé installations: Mountain, Ocean, and Sunset? Had you ever led a team before you started this project when Flowerblooms Studio commissioned you?
No, this was my first time making something that large. The preparation took less than a month. I like the excitement and gamble of making things with a deadline. On the first day, I wasn’t even sure [the installations] could be knotted.
K+C — The physical challenges of those three installations seem enormous, but you accomplished all three within twelve days with your team! What advice would you give to someone tackling their first large-scale installation or team-based project?
I would say that with macramé, the knots are the same. The only difference is the length of rope we have to pull. Working with a team means balancing everyone’s strengths and deciding what can be and cannot be done.
I was never good with drawing pictures, so the finished design is mostly something I came up with on location. I change them a lot based on my instinct and situation.Agnes Hansella, This is Collassal.
K+C — You also teach macramé courses and have written a book on macramé (available in Indonesian). What inspired you to start teaching macramé, and what is the most rewarding aspect for you?
Spreading the macramé movement. The more people who know about the technique, the more variations we will see. I always think of art as a relay race, where everything is moving and evolving all the time.
K+C — That’s a great way to describe it, and I imagine it keeps the pressure up. You mentioned your son earlier and the difficulties of balancing work life with family life. Has your experience as a mother influenced or inspired your work in any way, too? If so, could you explain?
It has in a significant way. My son is my number one motivation to work late nights. Every time he sleeps, I feel like going on a mission to complete the task before times run out. Imagine working, breastfeeding, and going back to work again. This happened five to six times a night in his first year. There is no room for moods or slow progress. I think it shows a lot in my early work.
K+C — I bet it’s difficult to balance the time! So what do you imagine for the future? Are there materials or types of projects that you are interested in exploring?
I would like to try sculpture, but right now, I’m learning how to tuft. Most of the time, I’m not sure what to do and would just follow my instinct. Tufting looks like fun, so I decided to give it a try!
K+C — Absolutely! Thank you, Agnes!
*Following this interview, Kinship + Craft received an update from Agnes that she is pursuing her sculpture plans! Follow along for more updates on her exciting project.
If you’re interested in reading about other installation works, click here!