String and knot tying are extremely practical skills and can be used in creative work too, thanks to their versatility and varying applications. Personally, I’ve tried my hand at string art from making friendship bracelets with schoolmates.
Hanisah Johari, the main artist behind Condimentstrings—the brand under her company, Condiment Studio—shared a similar experience during her childhood. Since then, her passion for string art has blossomed into massive macramé (the art of knotting string in patterns to make decorative articles) installations for weddings, home decor, string art workshops, and creative arts festivals.
Speaking to Vulcan Post, the former multimedia graduate revealed that this all started in the attic of her parents’ home.
Art in the attic
A few months after getting married, Hanisah and her husband, Ahmad Syahmi, started their lives together by moving into her parents’ attic. The duo would spend their time making murals and paintings, collecting houseplants, and creating different crafts together.
With an ever-growing collection of houseplants and limited space, they learnt about plant hangers that could be made to organise them indoors. Upon sharing their designs online “just for fun,” her post received an overflowing amount of support, where interested buyers were asking to have them too.
“After a few pieces, I gained confidence and joined our first local thrift market in APW Bangsar back in 2017. During the market, we completely sold out our first batch of macramé wall hangers,” Hanisah recalled.
She described that event as the defining moment that encouraged her to go further with this potential business, as she’d found her true calling.
The macramé artist soon got pregnant and realised that her new family would need a bigger space to accommodate the coming newborn. That was her tipping point to finally launch Condiment Studio in 2018.
“We wanted to have a space and a place for us to keep on creating more art together, showcasing the works, while at the same time living and raising the family in the same environment,” added Hanisah.
So when they opened the studio, the family of 3 moved out from the attic and started their creative venture in their new home that doubled as their office.
Pulling some strings
Macramé is an art form with a long history behind it. Sailors made macramé objects while not busy at sea and sold them when they landed. Thus, they spread the art to places like Asia and the Americas.
Its popularity would fade in and out over the decades, and was recently brought back as a trend by millennials, who just like Hanisah, would use it to hang up houseplants.
To the founder, her interest in creating macramé decor and furniture is sustained by the versatility in design and skill sets that seem endless. “My art is an exploration of texture, dimension, and scale, in which traditional hand techniques such as knotting, hooking, and weaving, are applied to create expressive and fluid forms,” she expressed.
Before sitting down to knot something together, Hanisah would browse through designs created by other artists, just to get some visions on how the piece could turn out. Then, she’d begin illustrating the composition of her vision for clients.
“I will usually draw towards the elements of nature, also gradients of colours that are naturally evolving around us, and express it on a canvas of natural cotton strings,” she described.
Hanisah stated that there were 2 essences that kept her going while knitting the cotton strings together: the right sense of mind, and positive thinking.
They were important, as self-doubt tends to cloud her mind the longer she spends on a design, as she confessed, “What usually runs through my mind while knotting them together is what pattern should I make afterwards? Will it turn out as I envisioned it to be? What if I make a mistake?”
“All these are mind games that usually fill up my thinking space, trying to convince me that I can’t do it. It is really challenging to be honest.”
With practice and care in creating the pieces however, Hanisah is able to push through her anxiety by accepting whatever outcomes her work may bring. “Because the main important thing is to be easy on myself, to embrace beauty in many possible ways,” she told Vulcan Post.
A team of 2
Today, the team behind Condimentstrings consists of just Hanisah and Syahmi. Depending on the size of macramés they’ve been commissioned to create, the couple would hire a few other artists and friends to help them knot the strings together.
Hanisah shared that most of her projects comprise wall decor, window displays, wedding backdrops, along with larger-scale installations. So far, she’s made macramé installations that were commissioned by Oppo Malaysia (displayed in Sunway Pyramid), Good Vibes Fest, and Urbanscapes.
Of course, all these installations happened back in 2019, before COVID-19 pushed the events industry to a halt. Hence, the team of 2 is now focusing on interior design projects for the B2C market.
Hanisah’s goal for the short term is simple too, sharing that she just hopes to keep surviving in these weird times. “On a serious note, one of my biggest goals is to be able to exhibit and work alongside international fibre artists in creating an installation or large-scale artwork,” she added.
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Featured Image Credit: Hanisah Johari and Ahmad Syahmi, co-founders of Condimentstrings