Written by Murie Gillett, Rochester Brainery Intern
Not your grandmother’s crafting! Local artist Kayla Carpitella had her training in painting and fine arts, but quickly expanded to machine knitting and other textile crafts, including macrame. She recently took her talents back to Rochester from Brooklyn. I sat down with her last week to learn more about what macrame is, how she uses it, and what drew her back to the Rochester art scene.
Tell me about yourself, and what you do!
Well… I am an artist, but I tend to make functional things. My background is in painting and fine arts. I still do a little bit of that but about five, six years ago, I really started getting into knitting. I was living in Brooklyn at the time, and decided that I wanted to try machine knitting. I took a couple of classes at FIT and 3rd Ward, which doesn’t exist anymore. I learned to machine knit, and I was lucky enough that my best friend from RISD was looking for an assistant, so I started working for her. She had a small knitwear company, so she taught me all about machine knitting, how to make clothes, and how to pattern: all the stuff I didn’t learn in school because I was painting and not in textiles or fashion or anything like that.
I’ve sort of worked as a freelance knitter ever since then. I obviously don’t live in Brooklyn anymore, I live in Rochester. I moved back here last year. Craft is something that I’m super interested in! I do knitting, things like macrame, beading, and stuff like that. I’m all over the place.
Maybe this is a dumb question, but what is macrame? How would you describe it?
Macrame is basically knotting. It’s a super old technique obviously, most people recognize it in netting. Fishermen used to tie knots, macrame knots, to make their nets, as well as a variety of other things. It got really popular in the 70s: people macramed everything, cool owls and stuff like that. It seems to be coming back, macrame is seeing a really big resurgence recently. It’s cool to see how people take such an old technique and do something new with it.
Why do you think it’s getting so popular again?
I have absolutely no idea. I don’t know, I am continuously miffed as to why trends come back. I think craft has come back a lot just because of the time that we’re living in, specifically as a reaction, for instance, to fast fashions. People are taking up knitting, sewing again, to make their own clothes. This is sort of a reaction to some sketchy business practices that the general fashion industry in our country perpetuates. I think that’s pretty cool, and I’m sure macrame rode on those tails. It’s super functional. I’m glad it’s here, and that people are liking it.
How did you first learn it?
I taught myself. I wanted to learn, and wanted to make some plant hangers for my house. I just looked it up. I used to work at the Textile Art Center in Brooklyn. They have a whole resource library of macrame books, everything that spans the entire textile field, so I had a lot of good resources there. I also taught macrame at TAC, the textile arts center. Mostly, I am self taught.
Do you marcrame mostly for yourself or do you have people asking for pieces?
I do it mostly for fun, if there’s a specific project that I need macrame for, that always comes in handy to know how to do a bunch of craft. For example, I wanted to do something with extension cords to make lighting. I got really into lamps. So I macramed those lights on the wall, they’re macramed extension cords. They extension cords themselves carry the electricity through the whole sculpture up to the light bulb.
What’s your favorite macrame piece?
It’s definitely the lights. They are simple, but I like them because they use extension cords in a new way. Using the extension cords takes it away from the natural twine feeling of macrame, so it gives it a more modern vibe. Those would be my favorite probably. Although, planters are great because they’re super functional. Everyone loves plants.
What are some other uses for macrame that you’ve been finding?
I have used macrame to tie back cords in my home, so there’s not a lot of like, cord tangles in the backs of my electronics. Personally I use it mainly in the lighting, or when I teach plant hangers. I’ve toyed with the idea of doing a wall hanging, but that’s not really where I want to go. For anyone, the macrame options are endless. You can macrame hammocks and chairs, jewelry. Macrame, people recognize it from the plant hangers, they say, “Oh! I did this when I was a kid!” The friendship bracelets, stuff like that, that’s all macrame knots!
What drew you back to Rochester?
I was sort of looking for a reason to leave the City. I liked that compared to the City, Rochester is really cheap! I can have a huge studio, the size of my Brooklyn apartment, for an eighth of the price, so that never hurts! Rochester also has a really great supportive art community, so that was a big factor; I didn’t want to go anywhere that was like totally culturally dead. It’s great. Except for the winter, of course, but that’s everyone’s complaint.
What do you like about the Rochester art scene?
I really like how open everyone is. It’s also small, which is a wonderful change from Brooklyn, just because that community can be, while great, also be terribly overwhelming. Every person in the city is trying to do something huge, so that can be a bit exhausting. The Rochester community has been really supportive and welcoming, and being a part of first Fridays has been really great. There are a lot of cool people, and I’m sort of now getting into a groove.
What advice do you have for aspiring artists?
That’s so hard. I guess, just try and figure out what you enjoy doing rather than what you think is going to make you money. It can be hard to detach the two. But once you do, I think your art process becomes a lot more peaceful, rather than a stressful thing. Do what feels good to you, not what you think is going to make you some cash.
Join us for Kayla’s next class, Macrame Your Own Plant Hanger. It will take place on Thursday, July 7th, from 6:30 PM - 9:30 PM.
Written by Murie Gillett, Rochester Brainery Intern