Macrame Magic: Becca Van K’s Handmade Technicolor Chairs

By   |     |  Makers

Inspired as much by techno music as by hiking in the Catskills, Becca Van K is a mixed-media fiber artist who makes handmade, macrame chairs. Using upcycled and new frames, Van K’s bespoke thrones are fun and funky with vibrant, intersecting patterns that nod to tradition while being completely contemporary. Van K graduated from Bard College in 2013 and now lives in Greene County.

With a sense of reverence and humor, Van K weaves her macrame into traditional Shaker style chairs, aluminum lawn chairs, sometimes adorned with fancy fur, and even designs her own frames. The results are one of a kind. “I am not necessarily trying to create something entirely new. I want to evoke that 1960s/1970s feeling and history while bringing a fresh color and pattern aesthetic,” Van K says.

Becca Van K with one of her creations

Also influenced by the graphics of the 1980s and ‘90s and the concept of comfort, Van K’s chairs hold up as craft and fine art. She uses needlepoint, latch hook rug making, and macrame to create her designs.

“I am a compulsive maker. I like to straddle the line between fine art and craft. I try to communicate that you don’t need to decide between the two. I want my work to be visually accessible, comforting, fun, and funny. I want to make art to live with, and I think that is why I have gravitated toward making work lately that is functional,” she says.

Self and mother-taught, Van K takes pride in the time-consuming nature of her work, and aims to create pieces that subvert conventional notions about handcraft. In addition to chairs, she makes needlepoint landscapes, fake plant sculptures, textile-covered furniture, handmade rugs, and upcycled textile collage. Though Van K has woven in many forms over the course of her life, she was inspired to weave macrame into chairs by working as an assistant for the ceramicist Nicole Cherubini.

“She wanted to incorporate 1960s/’70s chair-weaving techniques she remembered as a child into an exhibition, and she knew I would be able to figure out the technique, being a fiber artist person. I was handed string and PDFs of chair-weaving pamphlets from the 1970s, and taught myself to do it. Afterward, Nicole encouraged me to pursue my own chair work. I use a combination of nylon paracord and reclaimed chair frames to create an aesthetic that is uniquely my own,” Van K says.

These days she says she’s also moved by “mountain lakes, pastel colors, foraged food, house music, contemporary Navajo weaving, neon light art, mushrooms, mosaics in public spaces, and fruit trees.” Van K also creates immersive tactile installations of soft sculpture, other types of furniture, and wall works, putting the joy of her viewers at the center of her practice.

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