Monk House Design

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Smalltown

We've played host to a number of amazing installations over the years, but the shop is
looking more super special than ever thanks to Sarah Parkes of Smalltown

Sarah has been making big waves in Melbourne for a number of years now. A prolific knotter,
she works her magic with polyester rope to create some of the most amazing contemporary
macramé from her Collingwood studio. Her belief in ‘simplicity of process and purity of material’
saw her break away from the crafty kitsch associations that usually categorise the craft.

We spoke to her about her practice, new project and juggling two kids & a business...

How did Smalltown begin? Did you have a set plan or did it happen organically?

Smalltown began as a jewellery label however all this changed when I started knotting and
moved into large scale works. Macrame completely clicked with me creatively and all I wanted
to do was experiment and see where it took me. So yes, it's been a very organic, slow and
steady progression to where I am now. I always believed I could make a career from this
however it's taken me a long time to build my skills and my brand. I'm not really considered
a designer and I'm not an artist either but I enjoy the ambiguity as it means I create a whole
range of work across different fields.

Smalltown distinguishes itself as more of a design object, removed from the kitsch 
1970's world of Macrame. What would you say is the ethos behind your brand and
how imperative is the history of macrame to this?

Smalltown is about quality, timeless and beautiful design. I've never wanted to be a craft
brand and although the history of macrame is naturally a strong influence, I use it to set
myself apart from this. Macrame is so much more than the 70's kitsch that everyone associates
it with. Knotting has a strong presence in many cultures and people really respond to this. It is
an amazing way to create pattern, texture and tactility which are things I love. I only use polyester
rope which immediately has a different feel from the fibres from the 70's and I want my pieces to
be sleek and styled rather than furry and natural! I want people to see past the 'macrame' and
see that knotting has amazing scope and possibility whilst being a beautiful and practical design
element.

Macrame has experienced a resurgence and for a long time I was wondering when everyone was
going to realise how fun and awesome it is. There's now lots of people making hangings but this
just spurs me on to create new pieces and try things that haven't been done. I have never
wanted to create something that is cool or currently popular and I always try to make things that
I've never seen before. Where's the fun in doing what everyone else is doing?

Can you tell us a bit about your newest collection Square*Squared?

Square*Squared is all about simplicity of process and purity of materials. The collection of lights
and plant hangings all use rope as the sole material and are created through the repetition and
manipulation of one knot, the square knot. The density of the knotting creates the surface and
the addition and subtraction of rope creates the structure. I've also experimented with paint to
add colour and rigidity to the rope.

What is next for Smalltown? Do you have any exciting projects on the horizon?

I'm doing the baby, toddler and work juggle so currently I'm just trying to keep it together!

The thing I love about my work is that I never know what's around the corner and who will
approach me with an exciting possibility. I have a couple of large scale jobs in the pipeline,
one 11m hanging which will be the largest I've worked on. But really if I can keep working
and having fun doing this, that's pretty exciting for me!