It’s one of the first things I noticed walking in the coop the fateful afternoon I discovered it: long, colourful braided ropes cradling potted plants suspended from the ceiling.
Now, as I manned the counter taking coffee orders, women were filtering in for the macrame workshop where they were to learn the art for themselves.
Sokphea Mackay, one of the board members in charge of planning the workshop schedule, was running her very own for the first time.
“Before I had been more involved in the running of the open art space and coordination of the volunteers, but now that I am in charge of the workshops, I wanted to offer some that would fill the holes in the calendar, but also share the things I know with the community,” she told me.
That is what the workshops are for, after all, to share as a community skills we think others would find useful. Everyone is a teacher as well as a student, is the model the coop operates by.
Macrame is the art of knotting string in patterns to make decorative articles. The word itself comes from the 13th century Arabic weavers’ word “migramah” meaning “fringe”, as it is believed to have started with the Arab weavers knotting the excess thread on the edges of hand-loomed fabrics into decorative fringes.
Now, macrame is used to make jewelry, with beads, pendants and shells embedded between the knot combinations, and has spread throughout the world as a popular mode of decoration.
As for Sokphea, she learned the weaving technique during a vacation in Peru. Her boyfriend at that time had showed her the basics needed to make bracelets, necklaces and dreadlock wraps. She didn’t practice much on coming back to Quebec until she realized that the art was more versatile than she thought: she could make plant hangers with them!
Inspired by the return of spring and her love for plants, she decided to combine the two, with a touch of DIY creativity, to create a macrame plant hanging workshop to welcome in the plant-growing season!
The doors were swung wide open, the sunlight filtering in, as Sokphea demonstrated how to manipulate the yarn, pulling to form the beautiful knots.
Each woman tied her own soon-to-be plant hanger to the side of the chair, and followed the general weaving instructions, while adding their own touches with the wooden beads and glassy gems provided.
It was a beauty to watch the creativity of each woman expressed through the individuality of each hanger, and sweet Sokphea meandering around giving her help, even though she was fighting off a cold and would sometimes have to excuse herself coughing, tears welling up in her eyes.
At the end of the workshop, the ladies took home their hangers, proud of what they had created with their own hands and ready to decorate their own homes with plants.
Two of the ladies were very much surprised by the simplicity of macrame, while for some, it took longer than they expected.
“The workshop did last for longer than I had thought, but I am satisfied with my first time and I will definitely improve it for the next times!” Sokphea commented.
The next macrame workshop will be held on June 29 at the Coop from 6 - 8p.m. See the FB event for more details and register by sending an email to email@example.com.
Vivienne Tam started volunteering regularly at Le Milieu when she moved to Montreal in September 2017 for her graduate studies. She loves experimenting in the kitchen and has brought her love for cooking to the Coop through making food for its vegan cafe. In her free time, she writes at beautyinthemargins.com and plans for her next adventures travelling, cooking and cafe-exploring.