Monday, October 11, 2010

Thinking about Macrame on Columbus Day...

Today during my son's music rehearsal with the Peninsula Youth Orchestra, I got a chance to walk along the Redwood Shore Bay Trail. It is part of The Bay Trail Project, a walking and biking trail that goes all around the Bay. While walking I watched the human development along the way, like the Oracle Buildings, and the wild life like the Belmont Slough, a jack rabbit, many birds and the crescent moon in the western sky.

Since today is Columbus Day, I also had a chance to ponder on the court of Isabella of Spain which sent Columbus to discover the Americas, the impact this court has had on world history and the development of the American continent, including the human development I was gazing at while walking. It reminded me also closer to home on how this court was responsible for the first 'Macrame Craze' way back in the 15th and 16th century.

Macrame work done in the 16th Century

Parts of Spain had been under Moorish rule for almost 800 years. The Moor civilization was artistic, scientific and commercial, but also incredibly tolerant of other races and cultures. During part of its rein, Muslim, Christian and Jewish culture were able to flourish together in relative peace. Ferdinand and Isabella recaptured Spain with the fall of Granada in 1492, but some Moors remained and continued to have an impact on Spain's culture. Later on Isabella also started the Spanish Inquisition after having a vision... Talk about bad juju... But back to my main topic...

Macrame is one of the cross cultural exchange from this period. The word macrame comes from Arabic and means either towel or fringe and would have then described the knotted fringes on tablecloth or shawls fashioned with knots. Macrame spread from Queen Isabella's court to the other courts of Europe, France and Italy. Macrame had a revival with Macrame Lace during the Victorian Era in England in the 19th century, along side with also the golden age of nautical knotting and fancy rope work. Sailors, mostly on whaling ships, would fashion work during quiet times to sell at port of calls for extra income.

Later in the beginning of the 20th century Cavandoli became the name for a specialty or branch of macrame started by Valentina Cavandoli, a teacher in Italy (See my earlier blog on Valentina Cavandoli).

Much of the knotting and macrame work done in the past was outstanding and is still a source of inspiration to this day.
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