Knot Art – How one artist developed a daily creative practice

I love this article in today’s Co. Design, “How An Apple Alum Found Her True Calling–In Knots.”

Windy Chien, a former producer at Apple’s iTunes, is now an artist who creates hanging textile art, jewelry and lights from complex macrame knots. In addition Chien has become a historian of knots and on her Instagram blog has documented hundreds of the 4,000+ knots known in the world.

In 2012 Chien began making art, and soon she also began selling it. But she got bored and blocked as soon as she’d mastered each new artistic technique. Eventually she realized that the key to keeping her art alive and interesting was to develop a craft that required continual learning and exploration. She’d done macrame as a child in the 1970s, and once she took it up again, she quickly realized how few knots most people actually employ in macrame. To teach herself how to tie more unusual and complex designs, she bought a book on knots (The Ashley Book of Knots). And on January 4, 2016, Chien had the inspiration that set her on the path to destiny: to tie one new knot every day of that year. (She tied four on January 4th, to make up for the days she’d already missed.)

“The Year of Knots” was the result, a daily series on her Instagram account in which she made and posted a photo of the one new knot she’d learned to tie that day. Later “The Year of Knots” also became an exhibit, in which all her knots were collected and displayed on a wall as individual (and collective) works of art.

Of her daily knot-tying practice Chien says on her website:

The Year of Knots gave me many rich things.

1. A daily ritual that allowed me to quickly access the blissful state of flow that had previously been so elusive to me

2. My art school, where I learned the elemental building blocks of art: line, form, shape, space, texture, and color

3. A history lesson, where I learned knots’ context in nautical life, the material and physical properties of rope, and how for any given situation there’s a knot that is right while all the others are wrong

4. Most importantly, the knots are a new language. Every new knot is like learning another letter in the alphabet. Alphabets and letters form words, and words communicate. So the knots are a new form of communication, to make, as Rebecca Solnit puts it, “the mute material world come to life.”

Chien’s work is imaginative and beautiful, very streamlined and spare in the minimal way of Apple products. Reading the Co. Design article and the essays on her website, and especially looking at her art on Instagram, is inspiring me to try (to TRY, anyway . . .) to work a daily art practice into my own schedule.

About Katherine Wikoff

I am a college professor at Milwaukee School of Engineering, where I teach literature, film studies, political science, and communication. I also volunteer with a Milwaukee homeless sanctuary, Repairers of the Breach, as chair of the Communications and Fund Development Committee.
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2 Responses to Knot Art – How one artist developed a daily creative practice

  1. Sally Cissna says:

    Not that I am not into knots whether I need them or not, but knots would not be my first choice of flow inducers. BUT (always a big but), writing certainly fills the bill! I’m trying to get into a routine…get up write the morning away, then on to other things. I’m not there yet, but trying. A day is so much more satisfying if I can say I’ve made progress on my writing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think “trying” is the key word. It can’t be my highest priority at this point in my life, but like you I find my day is so much more satisfying if I’ve done my “work” and made at least some progress!


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