Having left Italy determined to prove her teacher wrong and become a successful female architect, Isabella Strambio did just that. As a successful interior designer with what many would consider a wonderful life – travelling and working around the world – she settled down and had a family yet her life felt unfulfilled. A chance discovery led to her falling in love with the ancient art of macrame (decorative hand knot-tying attributed to 13th century Arabic weavers), and it transformed Isabella’s life. We caught up with her to find out how ‘getting knotted’ has given her the fulfilment she was desperately seeking and why she is so mad about spreading the macrame word.
I discovered macrame by accident about 4 years ago. Now I have a successful macrame business and I help women discover and develop their creativity by teaching macrame. I run workshops for events, privates, and corporate team building sessions. I have two popular online courses that boomed during the lockdown. People were given the gift of time and with the stress and pressure of the pandemic, they found macrame a safe place to express their creativity and relax.
The lockdown really showed me how powerful macrame and crafts are for the mind and how important it is for people to have a creative outlet to keep a healthy mind.
Macrame interest grew by 134% during the pandemic. I wasn’t always an artist and educator. In fact, at 18 I wanted to be an architect. “Have you ever seen a female architect?” this was the answer one of my teachers gave me when I challenged him about my A-level results. Two months later I left Italy for London with no English and for 18 years I worked hard to prove myself and him that I was worth it.
I learned English, got into university, wrote my thesis about the role of women in architecture, graduated as an interior architect, and build a career as an international interior designer. I travelled, lived, and worked around the world. However, there was always a little voice telling me that this wasn’t my passion. I knew I didn’t want to do this job forever, but I was a senior designer, working on some prestigious projects and even designed for a foreign royal family.
A year after my daughter was born, we moved back to London. Now I was working as a designer, simply to pay the mortgage and the nursery fee. I commuted 3 hours a day, hardly saw my daughter and I had no passion for my job.
Each day my creative soul was dying a little bit more. I had my second daughter and during the maternity leave I realised I wanted and needed a change but I didn’t know how to make it happen, so I went back to my design job, even less motivated and even more frustrated.
I didn’t know what and how I could change the situation. I felt stuck, unhappy, and worst of all I felt guilty towards my children.
Then my husband got a job outside London and for a year and a half, he was away Monday to Friday. This meant that I spend my evenings alone once the girls went to bed.
Finally, I had the time to really think about my situation and I was determined to use this time for myself, I knew I would never have this opportunity again: two hours for myself 5 days a week.
Within a month I come up with the concept of starting a blog to follow a project: learning 12 crafts in 12 months. It was an outlet to express myself and my creativity as I wanted. I always loved handmade and natural materials and the first craft I picked was macrame. A neighbour was making them and I asked her to teach me, I never heard of macrame before I had seen her work. I got hooked straight away. Six months later I was asked to teach a workshop. I never thought I was any good as teaching, and I was surprised to learn that I love it. I absolutely loved sharing my skills with others and see them falling in love for this craft too. I started running regular workshops at the weekends and every single time they were sold out. Many of my students kept coming back and some even started selling some of their macrame work online.
I had proved to myself that I could be a successful designer. Now was time to be the real me. I had finally realised that I could be the architect of my own life and build my life following my passion for macrame.
In August 2017 we relocated from London to the countryside and I took the leap to quit my job as an interior designer to work full time on my creative business. I would turn my hobby into a successful business. It wasn’t easy, the first 2 years I hardly made any money and I had really low months, but I never gave up. I did not want to go back to a 9-5 soul destroyer job. I worked incredibly hard to build a reputation and a niche for myself, any money I made I invested it into courses and training to get better at running a profitable business and grow as an entrepreneur. If I managed to build a successful career in design with half the passion and determination I had now, I was going to make my macrame business succeed too.
It feels incredible to finally say that I have a successful macrame business while still being the present mum I always wanted to be.
I have always been a strong believer in gender and race equality. When the Black Lives Matters movement brought to our attention issues that for long our society pretended were not there. Being a mix raced (White-Asian) I understood racism and being different, however, I knew it’s nothing compared to what some black people have to face every day. During the first week of #BLM I was so overwhelmed about it all. I remember talking with a friend of mine who is mixed too (white/black) trying to understand what was happening from her side too. Most of my audience is on Instagram and there was so much information out there that I took the first week to digest everything. Then it hit me that there was so much I didn’t know and I had the duty to educate myself so I could be a better person, a better parent to my children, and a better artist & educator.
It’s a journey that I decide to take and I am committed to grow and learn. However, two issues came up during the first week of #BLM:
1. Not everyone sees this movement as an opportunity to grow and is willing to make changes – I had many unfollowing my Instagram page because I was strongly supporting #BLM.
2. I didn’t know any black macrame artists. It wasn’t intentional but I simply didn’t come across any and I never looked for them. So I start researching and I finally found a few.
I started asking myself: How could I keep talking about #BLM and diversity on my social media even after the #BLM ‘trend’? I wanted to do something and continuously bringing awareness in the months to come.
This sparked an idea. Previously I had interviewed macrame artists for a series on my blog, this time I wanted to do a similar thing, but have it live on my IGTV and have artists from around the world: black, white, Asian, Arabian, Hispanic. I wanted to share their stories and passion for macrame because I believe people connect with stories. I am sure my audience will find themselves in some of their stories and connect to the passion for macrame, no matter the colour of the skin. I hope by showing diversity on my feed consistently, it will help others appreciate the beauty in being different and listen to unique stories and most of all respect people for who they are.
So I created ‘The Macrame Connection’ an IGTV series, to bring awareness of macrame artists around the world and show diversity in the macrame community as well as sharing their amazing work.
Every two weeks I interview an artist and ask them the same 8 questions including how they discovered macrame, is there enough diversity on social media and what music they listen too when they work. I love being able to interview them and my audience is really enjoying listening to them and asking questions too.
So far I have spoken with Eyiwaa in Ghana @eyiwaa_gold, Larissa in Mexico @rake.bohodecor and I have macrame makers from the USA, Bali, Philippines lined up. I am hoping to continue finding new inspiring artists and use my platform to normalise/share diversity in the macrame community.
Take a look at some of Isabella’s work – it is beautiful!