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Sculptor Dana Hemenway Turns Extension Cords Into Wired Art

Dana Hemenway electrifies the art of macramé.

This was the first macrame' installation that artist Dana Hemenway completed. It took two months and used 14 extension cords.

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Hemenway experimenting with white cords in her Bayview studio.

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Hemenway creates no more than 10 of each intricately knotted design. "I like to toe the line between an artist edition and a design object," she says.

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Coiled extension cords at the base of one of Hemenway's lit macrame' lights. "I like the idea of taking a very functional think and making it beautiful," she says.

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Preliminary sketches for a large-scale macrame' light that measures 8 by 13 feet.

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It all started with a retro bikini. Between exhibitions in 2012, sculptor Dana Hemenway bought a stack of used ’60s-era craft books on knots. “They were so funky and dated,” she remembers. “One gave step-by-step instructions on how to macramé your own bathing suit.” Though Hemenway had no use for DIY beachwear, the twisted patterns intrigued her. So when she spotted four neon-green extension cords tangled in the corner of her Bayview studio, she thought, “What if I really push the boundaries of macramé?” she says.

Hemenway strung the extension cords from a dowel and began experimenting with repetitive knots, later punctuating the patterns with softball-size wooden beads. (Unlike traditional macramé, Hemenway’s cord slinging causes calluses.) “I love the idea of taking something so utilitarian and turning it into a crafted object,” she says. “Who says fine art can’t be functional?”

The largest of Hemenway’s macramé installations measures 8 by 13 feet and incorporates over two dozen extension cords. Twenty-six working lightbulbs cascade into a glowing pool at its base. The effect—on display this month at Aldea Home—stops passersby in their tracks. “Macramé blurs the line between art and design,” Hemenway says. “It’s just this glorious mess of knots.”
$300 to $8,000 at Aldea Home, 890 Valencia St. (near 20th St.), 415-865-9807


Originally published in the August issue of San Francisco

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