Spend an afternoon with macrame artist Emily Katz and you can’t help getting inspired to think more creatively. When she’s not traveling, making art, hosting workshops or styling photoshoots, you can find her dreaming up her next project at home in Portland, where we caught up with her for a day in the life.
Can you tell us more about your upbringing?
I was born in Tucson, AZ, and my parents pretty much made the hippy migration to Boulder, then to Portland, OR. I credit their wanderlust, paired with their style sense, and passion for life that made me much of who I am today. I was raised to believe I could pretty much create any life that I could imagine. I was a fashion designer, with my own (two, actually) clothing labels, and a musician ("Love Menu" was my band), and then an artist, making whimsical freehand embroideries.
I didn't learn macrame until 2013, when I was back east visiting my mom who I hadn't seen in years. I knew she had made plant hangers in the 1970s to sell so she could buy a guitar (a Martin 1976 acoustic beauty that she still has). She taught me in the kitchen how to make plant hangers, while my sisters baked cookies and my boyfriend sat on the floor playing that same guitar. It was a magical moment and little did I know it would propel me into this new career of macrame maker and teacher.
You dabble in a bunch of different creative projects. What’s on the front burner for you right now? What projects are you most passionate about?
Travel. Connecting with people. Designing spaces, cooking beautiful meals, supporting and promoting people whose work I love and admire. Macrame workshops around the globe, and getting momentum behind a macrame wholesale and online business, too.
Craft and a back-to-basics approach are at the heart of your work. Can you share more about your design ethos and overall working philosophy?
My business has grown organically, and I would be frightened if it happened any other way! I believe in working hard, designing well, and listening to inspiration in all forms. Oh, and delegating things that aren't your expertise: I am really good at some things, but not at everything. Luckily there are awesome people out there who are better at certain things than me. Like organizing, taxes, shipping, etc...
Can you share more about your art and macrame? We're curious about your thoughts on the role of traditional craft in the present day.
I love inspiring people to create beauty in their lives. Craft allows people to reconnect to family or tradition. When I teach macrame, I see my students take on an air of zen. It becomes meditative, and that is beautiful, they don't need to have a degree, or an understanding of the history of macrame to appreciate it.
As far a Art vs Craft, it is something I often struggled with. I dropped out of fine art school at 19, and had always been told "you can't make a living off your art," so I made clothing with art on it, and now I make functional pieces, and some just plant art pieces, but in general they have some design element that makes them more than just "ART." Though I have some really great ideas for making embroideries, and someday I will make the time to focus on them...
You’ve gathered a pretty big Instagram following — can you share more about your perspective on sharing content digitally and how you’ve used it to connect with others?
I am in love with Instagram. It began as a fun way to share my daily view, my meals shared, my spaces, and projects I was working on. And has become a vehicle for meeting amazing likeminded creatives from around the world and sharing my art with the masses. My network of friends has grown so wide! It's such a cool way to share what is going on in my creative world and to get the word out about my workshops and events. Having a lot of followers has inspired me to edit my posts more and to be more focused. Mostly the interiors shots and ones with our pets get the most likes...
Tell us something we don’t know about macrame.
In the 1940s there were a lot of men on ships during the war who had lots of time on their hands and the only material in surplus was hemp rope. Many of the really ornate vintage macrame you can find was made by men!