We recently caught up with Emily Katz after she held a modern macrame course at our studio. I’ve been a massive fan of her bohemian styles for years and it was such a pleasure to spend the afternoon making things with her. As she told the lovely group of women taking the workshop about her life and work we all discovered in addition to being an artist, entrepreneur and macrame teacher, (which is already pretty impressive) she also has some amazing life stories to tell. As she grows and defines her Modern Macrame business, Emily has some big plans for the future. Catch her interview with W&D here! And shop her site with code WITANDDELIGHT to receive free domestic shipping within the US!
1. First of all, tell us a little about you! If you were to describe yourself to a perfect stranger what would you say you do both for a living and in general?
E: I am an artist and designer working with macramé and interiors to connect and inspire. I love bringing the handmade into interiors, and macramé is a wonderful way to add something unique and textural to any home.
2. Tell us more about your personal story and how you got to where you are now?
E: I dropped out of art school and became a fashion designer with my own clothing line. I ran two lines until 2009 when I went bankrupt and decided to start over from scratch. Portland was a pretty easy place to do that in my late 20’s, and I had a lot of community support. I eventually became a Creative Director, and was working on big photo projects, but wasn’t totally satisfied.
3. When did you become interested in macramé and how did you get into this wonderful hobby?
E: It was all by accident. I was visiting my mom in Connecticut in 2012, after not seeing each other for many years, I asked her if she would teach me how to make a macramé plant hanger. She had made them in the 1970s, and I hoped that if we could craft together then we should be able to get along during my trip. A few months after I brought the plant hangers home, a Japanese lifestyle magazine came to interview us about our home DIY projects, and they were interested in the macramé. I ended up teaching my very first macramé workshop in my living room to Japanese magazine editors.
4. You have a beautiful home, how would you describe your design style and what inspires you?
E: Nordic Bohemian Modern. I love natural materials. Wool, linen, ceramic, wood. I am inspired by artists, sculptors, and designers creating new shapes and thinking about how people will interact with their objects.
5. Where online do you pull design or artistic inspiration from?
E: I look at Pinterest, and love Instagram for inspiration.
6. What are the biggest challenges to running your own business?
E: Knowing that I am responsible for paying people’s wages, and staying inspired. So much of my work is on the computer these days, and I need to make more time to get weird and just have CREATE DAYS, where I don’t connect to the outside world and only MAKE…
7. How do you define success?
E: A safety net, enough money in the bank to travel, taking time to celebrate each little “win”.
8. You describe yourself as “hippie” capitalist.” Have you found yourself conflicted in business? What advice do you have for entrepreneurs who are balancing their values with their ambitions?
E: My goal is to sell the best rope and DIY materials to the most people, and so I have begun importing rope and materials from China and Turkey. It has been challenging to find factories that I believe are doing a good job and running their businesses in ethical ways. I am glad to support the global economy, and in turn, it creates more jobs here and more work for my team. So I don’t feel bad about it. I do want to grow faster than we can afford sometimes. I think about searching out an investor, I would love to be able to produce ORGANIC materials, but it isn’t cost effective. Few people would buy it, though it is still a goal in the future.
9. What is a day in the life of Emily like these days?
E: Well, I wake up in the morning and snooze for an hour, cuddle with the animals, and then head off to work. If I am ambitious, or awake early, I go to Aerial Yoga! Otherwise, I go to the studio and eat oatmeal, drink green tea and answer emails. Then folks arrive around 10, and I write or make pieces depending on what is going on at the studio. I usually head home around 6 or 7pm, make dinner and relax. I try to meet up with friends a few days a week and lately I have been checking out local performance art, or trying to go see readings. I also travel a ton, so it varies when I am on the road!
10. Do you have any fun or exciting plans for 2017 that you are looking forward to?
E: SO MANY. I am traveling to Copenhagen in May to shoot part of my book, and bought a one way ticket. So I will spend a bunch of time teaching in a few different places, and then visiting Croatia to spend a week with some musician friends of mine. I also hope to do an artist residency in LA in the Fall, to make new work.
11. For our readers that have never been, tell us more about your macramé workshops and what those entail?
E: We gather a wonderful group together in inspiring spaces, there is always a lovely spread of snacks. We gather together at the beginning and I share my story, and then we all get to know each other better. Then I teach basic knots, and everyone gets to design their own Macramé piece to take home with them.
12. How many workshops do you plan to do in the upcoming year?
E: I hope to teach north of 40 workshops this year around the world.
13. What are your future plans and dreams with Modern Macramé?
E: I dream of MODERN MACRAMÉ being THE PLACE people think of for rope and DIY materials. We are diversifying our offerings, and I am excited about also offering other workshops, and creating a home goods line. I am also coming out with A BOOK! It will be published by Ten Speed Press sometime next Spring. So stay tuned for that.
14. Where do you see yourself 5 years from now?
E: Working with artisans in Bali to build a holistic retreat center and hotel. And running my business from around the world.
15. What has teaching macramé taught you about people?
E: That everyone is looking for connection. We are all hurting, longing, loving, and searching for happiness in our lives. Macramé is just one small way to connect and delve into that space, and hopefully satisfy it for a while.
Photography: 2nd Truth and Emily Katz
BY Kate Arends - February 21, 2017
Thank you for being here. For being open to enjoying life’s simple pleasures and looking inward to understand yourself, your neighbors, and your fellow humans! I’m looking forward to chatting with you.