Wishing everyone health and safety around the world.
While youth programs and public hours at the museum are on pause so the surrounding public health issue can be more effectively tackled, we’ve been spending a lot of time reflecting on the semester so far, and the beautiful work we’ve seen kids and teens make. It helps soothe the soul in anxious times.
Our major project in the Tinkering Afterschool programs, which is a long-running partnership between the Exploratorium and the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco, for spring has been to learn knots with rope for a variety of macrame creations. We’ve spent weeks working on these, and have started to see many of them come to fruition. Keychains, bracelets and other wearables, and hanging planter holders, not to mention some gorgeous wall decoratives. As mentioned, because we’re all on pause, we still have yet to wrap up this activity with youth, so we’ll need to do a later post with the final outcomes!
Though we’ve done weaving and even handmade looms from cardboard, wood, and recycled materials, macrame was a relatively novel practice for us. So we gathered together as a staff and team before the semester began, back in January, and did some shared making and thinking!
Having open-ended, mostly informal sessions of making like this resolves the pressure of learning something, to simply enjoying the process of flexibly, reflexively exploring. It also gave me a better grasp of the ways to talk around macrame so that others are picking up what it is all about. From this session, I was even able to concoct a plan for a tabletop rigging that allowed student projects to latch onto so tension could be more easily, crucially, provided as the knots formed amongst the strands of rope.
After a few introductory program sessions teaching some of the basic, and very versatile, knots (Lark's Head, Half Knot, Square Knot, and the Double Half-Hitch for inquiring minds) we opened things up and let everyone loose to channel these new learnings into their own personal makes. Wood branches, keychain rings, dowel rings, and carabiners were provided as the bases for the rope knotting, similar to how a loom acts with a weaving. After a few sessions, conversations started roaring about the other kinds of knots and braids we each already knew about, from those learned on the playground making friendship bracelets, to those used on shoelaces or other household things, or the kinds of braids used in each other's hair! What began with me instructing some basics became everyone taking turns sharing the knowledge and expertise they already had, and the stories of who passed it onto them. And each of these shareouts provided yet more possibilities of things to incorporate into our macrame projects, for personality and complexity.
Here is a sneak peek of some of the projects kids are working on or have finished!