FEMALE Talks To: Condiment Strings On Macrame Craft And How Their Passion All Started

Art takes various forms, and the end result can be the most fulfilling and satisfying to experience. Whether it’s in music, films or artwork, U Mobile and Urbanscapes this year will have all of that happening from the 16th – 24th November at multiple venues all over KL. 

With that being said, we caught up with one such artist (although it would be more accurate to call them a team):  ‘Condiment Strings’ Hanisah and Syahmi, one of Kuala Lumpur’s finest macrame studios. Macrame, from a 13th-century Arabic word migramah meaning “fringe”, is a form of textile craft that uses a series of knots in strings to create works of art. Since 2016, Condiment Strings have showcased their love for this particular craft with others who share the same passion by organising workshops as well as taking on wedding decor assignments – how amazing is that? 

Photography: Urbanscapes

Open to the public starting this Saturday, you will be able to view their art installation called “B-Loom” in the heart of KL at Lorong Panggung inspired by Nippon Paint’s “Pop Life” trend colours. To resemble flowers blooming in the city, the team behind Condiment Strings curated an interactive experience where you can learn, enjoy the whimsical installations, and experiment with the structures made up of used construction scaffoldings.

Interested to find out more about this craft? Read below to find out more on their passion for the looming technique and the inspiration that goes behind it before meeting them and their artworks in person this weekend. 

FEMALE: How did you get yourself into weaving? Was it a hobby or something you always wanted to do?

Hanisah Johari:I still remember back when I was a kid, I used to play around with my grandmother’s wooden beaded strings curtain, just because I was so into its texture. I’ve always loved natural materials and how they can provide a  soft touch to space. So it started off when I was looking for wedding decorations for my wedding. The first strings art that I did were dreamcatchers as part of my wedding reception photo booth prop. During that time, I discovered macrame (a form of textile produced using knotting techniques) but wasn’t able to do due to the lack of resources and time. When I got married, my husband loves collecting indoor plants and that was when I discovered we could arrange the plants with macrame plant hangers, given that in a small space that we live, so we could bring in MORE plants.”

F: Can you describe the creative process behind a new piece?

HJ: “When starting a new piece, I will get really passionate about learning new techniques, which usually relates to something that I’m inspired by a piece that was made by another artist. Then, I’ll sketch and design a layout based on the main ideas that I have in mind, and as I go along with it, I will keep on improving my skills and techniques over time. It is always a learning curve for each of my macrame pieces and each piece is special in its own way.”

F: How do you find inspiration for each design?

HJ: “I always find something that is related to nature and how I want it to reflect back on my artwork. For instance, I get inspired by the morning sun shining through my studio and how it brightens up my day. Therefore, I will opt for bright colours like orange and natural yellow of turmeric strings as part of my artwork, imitating the sun shining through. Sometimes we would go to our local beach to collect driftwoods and carefully hand-pick the wood that acts as the foundation to hold up the string canvases. Each driftwood has its own unique shape which can bring identity and originality towards each of my pieces.”

F: Any difficulty/challenges working with this particular textile?

HJ: “Sticking with the initial design that I have in mind is always the hardest. The versatility of macrame always makes me want to keep on exploring new techniques and patterns. Besides that, other challenges include the availability of the resources to make macrame during the early years, finding good materials to work with and also introducing macrame to the public and explaining to them that this is what I actually do for a living.” 

F: What was your earliest memory of immersing yourrself into this form of art?

HJ: “I like to travel and when I visit certain places, I like collecting bracelets, beads and anything that is related to strings. Back in high school, I used to make friendship bracelets for my friends but at the time, I haven’t discovered macrame just yet, but somehow, I will always have fond memories revolving around strings and the urge to push my creativity towards making something with it keeps growing until now.”

F: On average, how much time goes into making each design?

HJ: “It all depends on the scale and complexity of the design. Some may take up to 2 months, some may take 2 hours. After all, it is subjected to mistakes and practice.”

F: Why did you choose this as your form of craft?

HJ: When I found out about the art of macrame, I was really fascinated by how versatile it is. After doing my research, I found out that it was famous during the ’80s and for some reason, I just had a strong passion to revive it and showcase it to our generation by infusing a modern touch to it which allows me to be free and more experimental in creating each piece.”

F: You’ve been organising workshops and even styled wedding events on the side too – how does it feel to have couples coming up to you to decorate their wedding ceremony and such?

HJ: “I’m always honoured to be part of someone’s special day. I still get anxious especially when it comes to meeting expectations, but I always find it interesting on how I can inject my designs based on the couple’s needs. So far, our clients have been the best, as they understand how my team and I work and how they put their trust in our designs and services. The plus point is, it is a very niche market and most clients already know what they want.”

Interested to find out more? Catch them from the 16 – 24th of November from 11 am – 10 pm at Kwai Chai Hong at Lorong Panggung to view what they’ve created especially for Urbanscapes!

Also check out our interview with fellow Urbanscapes performer, The Drums here!