Tiny knot after knot, she weaves, gently melding strength with delicacy, organic encounters with premeditated elements; stories of near and far spinning out of her fingers. She chronicles her journeys and experiences through each carefully placed loop and fringe, interlacing hopes and dreams into intricate wall hangings.
“I love the juxtaposition between strength and softness,” says Hannah. “The feminine tradition of yarn and weaving combined with the toughness and time of knots and rope and wood.” It’s contrast that compels her.
Hannah Henderson is the type of artist that moves with what she is captivated by in the moment and her resources. With a degree in fine art, she has shifted back and forth from painting to fiber arts—from knitting, to weaving and sewing. She fell in love with texture and working with her hands as a young girl, and her free spirit allows her to flow just as freely between countries as she does art forms.
“Even though painting and mixed media has always been my first love, I’ve always needed some kind of side project of a different medium in order to keep my energy refreshed. Sewing and crochet were always my side love affairs.”
She fell hard and fast into a profound relationship with macramé while she was living in Mexico. There, her friend owned a boutique that sold local art along with macramé wall art that was made by traveling artists passing through. She asked Hannah if she had ever tried macramé as their artist had just left.
“I definitely didn’t know what I was getting into. She said, ‘Great!’ and sent me home with some materials. I made it my mission to teach myself how to macramé. The rest is history—I was in love.”
Behind the complex patterns in her pieces lies a minimalist at heart. Hannah makes statements through simple manipulations of her materials.
“I put a lot of time into observing my materials—the drift wood pieces I use, the kind of rope and the way it holds together or unravels. I let the materials speak to and inform the design. I’m equally drawn to simple geometric patterns as I am to flowing, soft imagery.”
An equal amount of thought is placed in selecting the materials themselves, creating each piece with specific intention. She uses only a certain type of rope—cotton twisted cord, which she says is difficult to find the perfect weight, but makes all the difference in the finished product. And, as she grew up on the beach, most of her hangings are made with found driftwood, so there are no two alike.
“Walking along the coast and finding sticks, shells etc. has been a lifelong mediation for me so it’s cool to be able to use these found items in my work.”
As with her continual push to grow and learn through traveling, she strives to continually expand in her craft. With the novelty of a newer art form like macramé, as it evolves, she is able to shift and adapt as well.
“Even though composition and design are elements that are deeply rooted in my practice across the board, working with these wall hangings and macramé is a whole new world. I started very simply, as most do, and even though I still cling to a ‘simple aesthetic,’ I’ve been introducing new elements like dyes and stains, other materials like beads and yarn in order to keep myself interested and challenged.”
More recently she has been developing larger pieces—works of art that interact with their surroundings. Rather than making a wall hanging, she plays with shapes that can fit into windows or doorways, or plant hangers that incorporate into kitchens to hold herbs. Lately, she’s been inspired to combine multiple art forms with thoughts of mixing weaving with macramé, and plants into the wall hangings.
“My painting has been calling as well so I’m just experimenting with how to balance and incorporate my many loves into a holistic collaboration.”
As a fellow plant and décor addict living in a “mini self-made indoor jungle,” she divulges that her favorite kinds of pieces to make are plant hangers.
“They are a bit more meditative than creative for me. If I’m feeling exhausted from creating wall hangings and paintings, it’s like taking a deep breath and pressing recharge to make a plant hanger and put it to use.”
Though her work ebbs and flows, her inspiration remains constant and unsurprisingly comes from her travels and new experiences, but begins with her mother, who she describes as an angel.
“She’s a healer, an artist, a teacher. She has always made space for me to create and learn and feel love.”
It’s her journeys abroad though that inspire her the most, and exploring the unfamiliar that makes her feel most alive.
“I was in Australia and Indonesia and came home with the fullest heart. I explored all of the coastline, mountains and waterfalls, and it just rejuvenated every part of me. The beautiful people and colors and foods. I look at it all as connected. Walking down streets and seeing people’s plants hanging on their porches and vibrant marketplaces with beads and textures. It all just excites me and makes me want to create. That’s what is key for me. Staying inspired in general, not just about or by ‘art.’ The smells and sounds all give me fuel to want to add my own touch or mark to this world.”
In addition to staying inspired, there are a great many challenges as artists. We create to express ourselves, and not necessarily because we even want to, but because we need to. It is a direct representation of our thoughts and feelings, and an issue that comes up often is self-promotion and critique.
“The minute any art is put into the public it is subject to critique. Learning to take the critique, whether positive or negative, and digest it into future art is somehow harnessing the strength of your vulnerability.”
Creativity is a sensitive space and promotion is an aspect of being a professional artist that many struggle with, including Hannah; though she says she’s getting better at it.
“I love creating and making art but it’s always been uncomfortable for me to self promote. It’s a really important aspect of being an artist, especially if you’re trying to make some kind of living out of it, but I don’t think that side comes naturally to a lot of artists. It always feels great to be recognized and appreciated, but building a platform for that to happen feels very unnatural to me.”
With learning how to turn a passion into a business is also a desire for some steadiness. In that sense, her reasoning for bouncing around is twofold: she strives to never be stagnant in work or life and moves to feel continually inspired and productive so she is contributing constantly; but also to find the right place to settle down for a bit, and focus on her craft.
“I want to live in a lot of different places and experience more new cultures and see what doors open and what I can learn. I feel like I’m navigating through a time full of a lot of change and growth personally, and I always want some of that movement in my life, but I am starting to crave some more stability and rooting than I have had in the past few years.”
A modern nomad in so many ways, it seems likely that Hannah will continue to roam from place to place absorbing fragments of each place she goes. There’s always a push and pull between a sense of feeling at home and acquainted—when you meet someone and have an immediate connection, when you smell something that takes you back to certain period in your life; and experiencing something completely outside of yourself that is entirely novel.
“I’m moved by the senses that evoke that intangible feeling of familiarity or nostalgia in some way. Smells and sounds that transport you to a different time or feeling. Its kind of uncomfortable but I’m so fascinated by that feeling.”
Despite her desire to find a long-standing home for now, her vision is to continue to travel anywhere in the world, and live in different countries and cities. Her wildest dream includes having a successful boutique on the beach and to be able to buy members of her family “cozy” homes.
“Doesn’t seem too wild when I put it into words. I think it’s doable.”
Something interesting about her that no one else knows:
“I’m totally OCD about numbers. Odd numbers make me cringe unless they are symmetrical like 11 or 33. Even numbers are like a breath of fresh air to me. It’s so weird. It used to be so bad I would hardly consider traveling on odd numbered dates. I’m getting better though. I know, its crazy.”
The last thing she learned:
“I think maybe that it’s ok to be a little bit selfish at times, especially when it means protecting yourself. It’s ok to say no. I gain a sense of purpose helping people in need or taking care of loved ones but sometimes almost to a fault. I tend to spread myself thin sometimes and I’m learning how to set boundaries.”