Our monthly staff feature series highlights the diverse pursuits and hobbies of our studio members outside of the office. As an office, we believe that making time for our personal interests and activities re-energizes us, provides us with new perspectives and knowledge, and ultimately enriches our work as an architecture design studio.
Grace Jeong is a designer at MBB Architects. She joined in the firm in 2020 and has worked on a variety of projects including reporting for the firm’s 2030 Commitment as a member of the in-house energy modeling team. She recently took some time to share thoughts with us about her macrame work. Below is an edited version of the interview.
Tell me about when and why you started doing macrame.
I started last fall because I was in between teaching and searching for a job right after I graduated. Everyone’s advice was that I should just enjoy the time off while job hunting, but still, I needed some sort of hobby because it’s a lot of time not having something to do. I’ve always really liked arts and crafts related hobbies that are very hands on and I came across a YouTube tutorial of someone who does macrame for his career. I thought it was great because when it comes to arts and crafts stuff if it’s not useful, it just becomes a pretty object that you end up throwing out. I wanted to make something that I would actually use. So that’s how I got into it and I started making my first bag.
What has been the most challenging part of learning macrame?
A lot of macrame is repeating patterns. You’re just knotting patterns. It’s not like the action itself is challenging, but it’s one of those exercises that you can’t just mindlessly do. You need to focus because if you need to do a certain number of patterns and you do more than that, you have to go back or else the whole sequence gets messed up.
There’s also the challenge of finding space because you need to have a hanger. It gets quite long and heavy. For the first bag, I actually made it in my bathroom because our shower curtain has these hooks that were perfect for it. This time I used a clothing rack in my room and took hooks from the bathroom curtain. So finding space is a challenge and I just make use of whatever there is around the house to make it work.
It seems like macrame has a physical muscle memory component to the craft.
That’s why I like it a lot. If you knot it too tightly, the shape starts changes a little bit. So it’s a lot of finger muscle memory. It’s a repetition that you keep working with.
How does working on these projects affect your day to day work at the studio?
It doesn’t have a direct influence. It’s more of a mental health kind of hobby. Macrame is more of a physical labor where I don’t really need to use my brain power as much. At work, we do a Iot of thinking, so it’s the physical labor part that I enjoy. I feel like it clears out a bit of stress and allows me to focus on one thing which is quite hard to do. I need time away from architecture to actually be able to think about it and I’ve had better results doing that than when I force myself to keep trying to figure it out. I think macrame, in the big picture, helps me with my sanity, and to decompress and be able to be refreshed for the next day of work. I also end up with one-of-a-kind of bags!