By Leonor Santos, Idealista News
Macrame is an ancient art that allows you to create unique handmade artworks. It has become a trend in the world of decoration due to its versatile features, and can be used in many different ways and combined with all decorative styles, from classic or vintage to modern and minimalist. It allows us to bring the beauty of nature into the interiors, create cosy spaces, and give an original touch to environments, enriching each place. Marta Barros, an artisan specialising in this technique and founder of TEX MB, explains in an interview with idealista/news how macrame can be integrated into a home.
After several years working as a television producer, a “happy coincidence” led Marta Barros to the world of arts. She believes in “the quality achieved through manual work and in the beauty that results through imperfection”, but also in “the importance of being surrounded by beautiful things” at home. The artist considers that, well integrated, macrame is capable of recreating a “sensation of peace and welcome” in flats, town houses, beach and even country houses.
Another advantage of decorating with macrame, she says, is that it combines with all kinds of interiors. “Its neutral tone goes well with all colours, and won’t be an obstacle in the future if we want to renew our decorative palette”, she says.
All the works she produces, which are the face of TEX MB – a Portuguese brand of handicrafts works for interior design – are totally handmade, exclusive and original, the result of her creativity, and others are the result of challenges that clients entrust her with. They can take various forms, from tapestries or wallhangings, sculptures, pot holders, lamps, installations, among others, always with the concern of giving the macrame modernity, a sense of design and functionality.
From the beginning of her adventure in the world of art, to the challenges she faces as a craftswoman, as well as various tips for transforming different types of environments with macrame, Marta Barros explains, in this interview written for idealista/news, why decorating with art can contribute to our physical and mental well-being.
You worked for nine years as a tv producer. When did you decide to leave this profession to embrace the art of macrame? How and why did you start this adventure?
It coincides with my 30th birthday in 2016, and also with some desire to see life beyond the screens. It wasn’t really a decision, but rather a happy coincidence. I didn’t know macramé; a friend who showed me at a girlfriends dinner because she knew I’ve always been interested in decoration. When I saw it, I loved it and decided to take a workshop.
How and when did you come up with the idea of creating TEX MB?
When I took the workshop, I had a great time learning the knots. There was a great syntony with the ropes and time flew every time I did macrame. TEX MB was mainly encouraged by my mother, who was the first person to believe that I should take this forward. And on the rainy day of November 2, 2016 there I went to Finance. I’m glad I took her advice…. I was happy on TV, but I’m also very happy by my strings and I love being able to create something with my own hands.
Have you always been a passionate lover of the art world? Why?
I don’t know if I have always been passionate, I haven’t really studied arts and I am not a connoisseur. I am even, for example, incapable of making a drawing – I’m not good at it at all. But the truth is that I have always been curious and, since my teens, I have been more and more interested in visiting exhibitions and cultural initiatives. I am fascinated by people who are born with artistic talents, and it is always so interesting to talk to them.
As to why, I can’t say… They say that left-handers have the right hemisphere of the brain (the arts hemisphere) more active or developed than right-handers. I’m a proud lefty, and maybe it could be related to this, but the truth is that I also know a lot of people who are clearly more science-oriented and love Art, so I would say that this theory is more of a funny curiosity than anything else. The point here is that I believe that Art is essential in our lives. In my case, it has the power to make me travel, think, inspire, dream… and provide me with happy moments.
You believe in “the quality achieved through manual work and the beauty that results from imperfection”. What are the biggest challenges you face as a craftswoman?
All of them, those of being an independent worker, with all the freedom and responsibility that implies. We have, for example, a very high VAT rate in Portugal. And we have little support, too. We already have some organisations with good initiatives, but they are still inferior to what is done abroad in the area of manual arts.
Nowadays, a craftsman is also a manager and therefore can have very different days, which is great. On a creative level, I remember for example a tailor-made macrame piece that was commissioned during the pandemic, which were panels to put on a porch. We were in confinement and so I couldn’t visit the client to exchange ideas and, above all, to check the measurements – I totally trusted the information the client had sent me. I made this piece half scared, but when I got there for installation, it fitted perfectly. I was so happy, this was a great challenge…!
Decorating with crafts has become a trend again… how can macrame be integrated into a home?
This question makes perfect sense because we often hear about macrame and automatically associate it with beach houses. In fact, home styling with macrame is often used in summer and holiday homes, but macrame is a valid and appropriate alternative for all types of interiors and styles, even the most classic. The client who chooses to include macrame in his decoration is generally looking for a neutral decor which transmits a feeling of lightness to the environment. But the truth is that, well integrated, macrame can recreate a feeling of peace and welcome in flats, town houses or even country houses.
In the case of a flat, the simple fact of including a macrame plant hanger makes it possible for nature lovers to have a bit of this element in their home, and is also a great alternative for those who do not like to see pots all over the floor.
Bedroom decor is another example where this art fits perfectly. The day-to-day stress and all the hustle and bustle of living in the city require that at bedtime we have an environment as calm and relaxed as possible, allowing us to rest and prepare for the next day. It feels good to come home and be graced with the feeling of calm and comfort. A macrame bedhead may well fullfil this purpose.
Another advantage of decorating with macrame is that it blends in with all kinds of home decor. Its neutral tone goes well with all colours, not being, in the future, an impediment if we want to make a renewal in the decorative palette. On the other hand, we should always bear in mind that macrame made with cotton rope is not the most suitable decorative element for humid environments, for example. The alternative is to make a piece with nautical rope, which is even prepared for outdoor environments. On my site, I have a page that suggests how to take care of your macrame.
You also create custom-made macrames… what kind of pieces are most requested? To decorate what kind of spaces?
Big macrame wallhangings are the most requested when it comes to commissioned bespoke artworks. I usually call them ‘wall macrames’, and they are usually for decorating private homes or holiday homes.
It is a wholly handmade work…. what is the average time to produce a piece?
It varies a lot. There are those pieces that are available for immediate delivery in the online shop of the website and that I already have a lot of practice in reproducing. The ones that take more time are the ones that are custom made to order. It involves first the work of creation (of the pattern) and then experimentation. Sometimes what I wanted to make doesn’t work, so in that case I have to find another solution that pleases me and that can take time.
The large macrame pieces can take up to one or two months to complete, and it’s never a consecutive 8h daily job. Firstly, because it would be too physically demanding, but also because you need to take breaks to rest your hands. Sometimes new ideas – and even better ones – come up in the middle of the knotting process, that’s why it’s important to be present and focused at the moment of production, respecting our working condition and mood for that day. You asked me what challenges I face as a craftswoman… a lack of mood to work, for example, can be a big challenge. There are days when the knots don’t come out and I don’t feel like making macrame. Fortunately, over time, I’ve learnt how to deal with that situation. I go for a walk and things get better.
Is the 10 meters macrame staircase in the Heden cowork one of those memorable pieces of work?
Yes, it is. That was another great challenge, besides being a work that went completely out of the usual format, it was also a good opportunity to show the potential of the macrame art. I thank Heden for the trust and creative freedom they gave me.
Do you also participate in interior design projects? What kind?
I participate not in the sense of the design of the project, but rather with the presence of my macrame tapestries and handmade home acessories. The interior decorators and designers I work with generally already have a very concrete idea of what they want or would like, and that helps me to meet their expectations, although I am often asked for my opinion in terms of dimensions and style of the macrame work.
In a market with so much on offer, how do you try to differentiate yourself?
This is a pertinent question, because some craftswomen who contact me ask me if there is still room for more people who want to start a macrame brand. I believe there’s room for everyone, but I also believe that if one limits oneself to reproducing what has already been made, one’s life will be more difficult, apart from the fact that it adds little value to what already exists. And even to you and the brand you are trying to build. As manual work is so unique – each person has their unique way of working, finishes, materials they like to explore, etc – I think this is what should be pursued.
I try to differentiate myself by creating my brand identity, that is, I try to make pieces that are similar to each other, to use a reduced palette of colours and materials, to have my own style. And it is very gratifying when the public starts to identify the author of the pieces, I mean, knowing that TEX MB made them.
And what inspires you to create?
I am very attached to the sea and I go to it often in the hope that my creative capacity will be like the waves, that is, always coming and infinite. I get a lot of inspiration from nature, life in general and my travels. Sometimes a good conversation can spark a fantastic idea to explore. Other times, an image, a sentence from a book, a situation… you have to be aware and open to the opportunities that life brings. There are also moments when there is no inspiration. Those are the hard ones!
Do you also teach workshops?
I have, but nowadays I don’t have much time. I do it more on a corporate or team building basis. However, I would like to share a free workshop I have available on my website for macrame beginners. Hope you try it and have a great time!
How has social media, namely instagram, given the business a boost?
Instagram is a great business tool that should be taken into account as it allows work/messages to be viewed all over the world, in a matter of seconds and for free. This is a fantastic thing and saves us a lot of investment in advertising. In terms of followers, TEX MB instagram grew a lot during the confinement times, because people were at home, available and with time to consume content, so the posts had huge reach. I had a lot of orders during the pandemic, it was very good.
But it is important not to neglect the other communication channels. Although smaller, I have a very loyal audience on Facebook, for example, and I also privilege those who subscribe to my newsletter on the website. In fact, these are the people who really want to be close to me and so it is very gratifying every time someone puts their email there.
Finally…how can decorating your home with art contribute to a better balance between physical and mental well-being?
I really like to surround myself with beautiful things. The furnishing of my house has many notes that make me feel even delighted when I look at them. I believe it’s a very personal thing and it’s up to each one’s preference, but I leave you the suggestion of trying it and then writing to tell me if you agree or not that Art is good for us. All messages will be very welcome!
Marta Barros thanks Idealist News for its interest in the TEX MB project.
Link to the interview on Idealist News: https://www.idealista.pt/news/imobiliario/habitacao/2023/01/20/56362-decorar-com-macrame-a-arte-milenar-que-e-moda-e-enriquece-a-casa