Most people associate macrame with kitschy 1970s decor and the kind of bohemian revival home stuff you can find at Urban Outfitters. But macrame is actually an ancient fiber art, first appearing in the carvings of Babylonians and Assyrians to depict the garb of the day. Its name derives from the Arabic word macramia, meaning “ornamental fringe,” and its usage has been documented for centuries all over the world. It can be decorative, adorning items like bedspreads and curtains, or functional, crafted by sailors to cover knife handles and parts of ships.
In Bali, Jakarta-born artist Agnes Hansella has crafted what might be three of the largest macrame works of art ever made. Her trio of woven rope installations, hanging from the ceiling of an open-air structure in the coastal town of Jimbaran, each span more than 37 feet wide and dangle almost two stories from the apex of the roof. Hansella took inspiration from the local environment for these coverings, designing each one to represent the wildlife and geographical features found nearby, like coral, birds, and ocean waves.
Respectively named “Mountain,” “Ocean,” and “Sunset,” these monumental macrame installations were woven alongside a team of artists at Locca Beach House Bali. Using 16-millimeter manila rope, which was cut with a hacksaw, the team spent 12 days on handmade bamboo scaffolding, working with Hansella’s vision but adding their own creative contributions along the way. Indeed, the longer you look at each piece, the more fun little details you can find, like the outlines of mountains and wings.
“This enormous piece is fun and challenging for me to work with,” Hansella says. “With macrame, sometimes we can’t plan the whole thing in one go. The ropes have their own nature and we are the one to follow. The design kept evolving every time a knot was made. Thankfully, I made it in time to finish all three just before the coronavirus outbreak in Indonesia. It was an up and down ride because my son was sick during the beginning of project. We were also worried about the spread, but every day we just kept on knotting and doing the best we could.”
“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. With macrame techniques, the ropes have their own will and character so as the artist I follow them and see what can and can not work,” Hansella recently told Colossal.
Hansella is a self-taught artist who only just learned how to weave macrame in 2017. Since then, she’s developed a unique style ranging from neutral but complex to strikingly colorful. Some of her previous pieces have included floor-to-ceiling curtains installed in commercial spaces, adorable macrame houses for kids, wall hangings with integrated plant holders, romantic wedding ceremony backdrops, and more.
Each one is impressively intricate, and it’s cool to see how working with smaller rope for these more conventionally-scaled pieces translated into working with much thicker rope for the multi-story installations. To see more, give Hansella a follow on Instagram @macrame_id.