Joan Babcock

As featured in Lapidary Journal magazine, October 2006

My passion for arts and crafts started as soon as I was old enough to hold a crayon and a pair of safety scissors. My mother was an artist and I remember being fascinated with her cluttered crafts ''shack'' that was tucked away in the basement and overflowing with raffia, brightly colored paper flowers, paints, brushes and every kind of art supply imaginable. From painting to ceramics to quilting, there was always an art or craft project in process in our house.

I grew up in Miami, Florida, and during my teens I became interested in Fiber Arts, especially Macramé, which was very popular at the time. I made the usual plant hangers and owls and soon evolved to large sculptural wall pieces which usually involved jute, shells, and driftwood. I continued making wall hangings for a few more years until I ran out of wall space!

In 1989, after relocating to Santa Fe, I devoted myself full time to my craft and became a jewelry designer working with fiber and beads. I fine tuned my knotting techniques to a scale of detail and delicacy appropriate for jewelry. In recent years, I've branched out into vessel forms and sculptural fiber pieces.

My primary technique is ''Cavandoli'' or tapestry knotting. It's a very concentrated form when compared to traditional macramé which is generally looser and lacier. Just one square inch can take more than an hour and contain over 250 knots. This technique lends itself well to geometrical patterns (similar to woven rugs), but I also like to ''paint'' with colored nylon and waxed linen in an impressionistic abstract style. An intuitive sense of color is central to my work, and I frequently dye my cord to get the colors I desire. In my earlier jewelry, I focused on beads as a major design component. My recent jewelry is more architectural and less ornate, as I incorporate more fabricated metal elements into my designs. In 2005 I wrote an instructional book titled "Micro-Macrame Jewelry, Tips and Techniques for Knotting with Beads". I enjoy sharing my knowledge and teach workshops for bead societies and other venues around the country.

In a very time consuming medium, it seems that I am constantly thinking of ways to make it even more so. A big challenge is to remain true to my own artistic vision and resist the temptation to try to speed things up in an effort to make my work more saleable. There are no shortcuts, and whenever I've tried to alter my work for the marketplace, it falls flat because my heart and soul are no longer there. The piece may look nice but something essential is missing. I believe that when art comes from the heart, it comes from the collective soul and others can recognize that - it looks familiar to them. I am never happier than when I'm in that creative zone, working on a new idea.


View all of Joan's designs in the Gallery of Designs.