Maryanne Moodie never set out to become a weaver. The global maker, who shares her time between a family home in Brunswick, Victoria and her employees and studio in Brooklyn, New York, discovered her love for the loom quite by chance.
After working as a teacher and art educator for more than a decade, while simultaneously running an online fashion business, Maryanne found herself close to burn out. Falling pregnant forced her to slow down, and it was during this calmer period that she discovered the art of weaving.
Six years on, what started out as a mode of making gifts for friends and family, has grown into an international business with online classes, her own weaving kits, looms and yarn products, a worldwide ever-expanding fan base and her first book, On the Loom.
In 2012, Maryanne relocated with her family to New York, after her husband Aaron landed a design role at Etsy. The move allowed Maryanne to find and foster a global weaving community, quickly gaining a reputation stateside as a master artist responsible for taking the craft into the art world. Positive reviews in New York Magazine, Design Sponge and O, the Oprah Magazine followed, and in 2014 and 2015 Maryanne was a finalist in the Martha Stewart American Made Awards.
The popularity and growth of Maryanne’s creations stems in part from her ability to modernise the medium. Avoiding the muted 1970s tapestries many of us recall from the homes of older relatives, Maryanne utilises a mix of colour palettes and textures that suit the individual style and aesthetic of today’s modern homes. Begging to be touched, her pieces are recognised and adored for their unique patterns, texture and intuitive use of colour.
Tell us a little about your background. What did you study and what led you to what you are doing today?
I studied teaching and history at Melbourne University. I was a teacher for 10 years, mostly in art education. At the same time, I ran a vintage fashion business called House of Maryanne. I was always trying to juggle a million things at once. I loved it until I burned out. Then I got pregnant and had to put the brakes on. I went through an identity crisis. It was really hard to slow down after being so busy for so long. It was during this down time that I started weaving.
At the beginning I made gifts for friends and family. It was lovely to be using my hands so creatively. A light switched on and I just knew I had found something special, a way to connect with my community and a new identity. It grew organically from there. The Design Files was the first blog to feature my work back in 2012, and as a result the beautiful Megan Morton helped me back into teaching in the most elegant and thoughtful way.
How would you describe your work, and what influences your aesthetic?
My work is nostalgic and textural. I like to think that I make it feel modern with unexpected colour combinations. Weaving is such an old medium and most people have some connection to it through their grandmother or older relative. It usually involved very scratchy natural materials and muted colours like brown and orange. I like to soften the skills that weavers have been using for generations, with softer materials and sparks of glitter.
I think that art should be stimulated by an emotion and therefore evoke an emotional response. I try to walk through life with my eyes and heart open. Writers are often told to write about what they know, and I think that weavers and artists need to follow suit. We are all coming from different perspectives with different identities. And so it follows that our artwork should all look very different. If we draw deeply into ourselves, we can come up with different stories to tell and different results.
What have been the biggest obstacles or challenges you have had to overcome in order to create a business out of this? What advice would you give to others?
The internet has created a revolution for creatives and women. I think that in the past I would be weaving for years and maybe taking my work along to a market and waiting for someone to connect with my art. But the internet allows me to connect with my weaving community and sell my work in Finland, Japan, Israel and New Zealand, all over the globe – all from the comfort of my studio (or let’s face it – couch).
It is a very new idea to be a creative person who can run a business and travel the world. The most difficult thing has been working through the legal and financial side of running my business around the world. I have spent a lifetime trying to move money from one country to another and paid a small fortune in transaction fees. There has to be a better way! I am currently applying for my US VIS, which is the International Entrepreneurs visa. Who knew there was such a thing? Who knew I was such a thing? I feel like I have been in the frontier land of this new way of conducting business and only now the rest of the world is slowly catching up. Hopefully laws and policies will make it easier for me to run my business without borders.
How would you describe your creative process?
When tackling product development or classes, it always begins with my community. What are people asking for? Larger looms? Let’s design one! A book? Let’s write one! An online course? Let’s film one. I am very intuitive and always listening to my followers. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have this job – and I LOVE this job. I like to feel like I am a matchmaker for my audience. I listen closely to the mumbles and shouts on social media and from emails and newsletter responses. Then I try to respond by giving people what they want.
Regarding classes, I am a teacher and so I work through the theory that you need to break things down to the simplest possible steps, and then you scaffold students out into their zone of proximal development. Each class builds on the skills of the last. Megan also taught me that when people come to your classes, they want an experience as well as the skills. Flowers, music, bubbles and treats all add to make the experience as delightful as possible. I want my students leaving feeling like they have had a mini vacation from their life – no laundry, no fussy eaters, no deadlines, just three hours with your sisterhood – feeling supported and valued.
What does a typical day at work for Maryanne Moodie involve?
Every day is different. I travel a lot so when I am on the road or in Brooklyn I usually have three things on the same day: a breakfast meeting with my business adviser, a site visit to a wholesaler and teaching an evening class back in my studio. I spend as much time in my studio as possible, having meetings with my studio team in Brooklyn. We talk a lot about small changes and small celebrations. I have an incredible support network that help everything run smoothly.
In Melbourne I spend a lot of time with my two little guys, Rudi, 1, and Murray, 4. I try to get to emails in the morning, between school runs, and then weaving like a woman possessed during naptimes. It is a real juggle trying to give the boys everything they need as well as finding time to run my business. But somehow it is working.
Who are three other Australian designers, artists or creatives that you love at the moment?
Kristy Barber, KUWAII – My lordy, Kristy is killing it. Her designs are thoughtful and delicate and made in Melbourne. She is fighting fast fashion with the most elegant weapon – her design aesthetic.
Liz Payne, fibre artist – Liz and I recently did a trade and I received two amazing necklaces that I’ve not taken off. She is creating new and inspired art that makes me feel joyous. Her relationship with colour is something to celebrate.
Genevieve Griffiths, weaver and architect – She creates beautiful and perfect worlds and moments. She is currently based in NZ with her incredibly talented husband, artist Jake Walker.
What are the resources that you turn to when you’re in a need of creative inspiration?
I don’t actually spend a lot of time online looking for inspiration. I try to put my phone and laptop down and spend my time out walking by the river or at my loom. That being said, one of my faves is The Design Files! Aaron and I are constantly emailing one another our ‘dream homes’ as they arrive in our inboxes.
What is the most surprising thing you have learned about yourself in the last 12-18 months?
I spent a lot of my time in NYC drawing on my Aussie heritage. I would say ‘G’day’ to strangers on the street. We filled our home with Aussie art. I wore a lot of Aussie designers’ clothing. We would talk about our Australian-ness at every opportunity. But now, when I come home I see how much of NYC has taken a hold of me. I am more self-assured and confident in my work and myself. I take risks and grab opportunities. New Yorkers are really good at talking about their work in a really optimistic and unruffled way. I think some of that has rubbed off on me over the years.
You’re a global resident working and living across hemispheres. How does this work?
I am now splitting my time between Brooklyn and Melbourne. We have moved the family back to Brunswick and I travel back to New York every couple of months to spend time in my studio, taking appointments, teaching classes and keeping relationships firmed up. The boys’ Nana has been coming down from Byron to help out and spend some quality time with the boys while I am in the weaving world.
It is the best of both worlds.
When I am in Melbourne I spend most of my time weaving and touring about Australia teaching classes. When I am in NY, I spend most of my time with promotional events, corporate meetings, commissioned appointments and checking in on the efficiency of the administrative side of my business. Right now, this is working for us.
You have just released your first book, On the Loom. Why did you create and what do you hope people will take from it?
The book is perfect for both new weavers and those who have been weaving for a while. There is a section at the front that talks about tools and materials, colour theory and design as well as skills. Then the rest of the book is broken up into projects to apply your weaving skills to: cushions, scarf, rugs, dream catcher, bags, a tee-pee, and camera strap. So many cute ideas!
I teach you how to make your own loom from what you have around your home, as well as how to recycle materials instead of spending a lot of money on yarn. So it has a sustainable and fiscal element to the book too.
What has been your proudest career achievement to date and why?
I am really proud of the community I have built around weaving. I am so passionate about it and I feel like this is something so many people can benefit from. It is meditation and working with your hands that so many people need this in the age of screens. When people come to my class I really try to welcome them into the weaving family, a safe place to be creative and connect back to a slower, simpler, time.
What are you most looking forward to?
Time spent in water and nature, dinners with family and old mates, getting to know all of the little lives that have been created whilst we’ve been away. Just getting to know Melbourne all over again as a family of four. So much good stuff.
What’s your favourite Melbourne neighbourhood?
Brunswick. All my mates live there. You can live a local life in Brunswick. We don’t own a car and so getting about on bikes or the tram is just ideal. I grew up around this area throughout my teens and Uni life. It has a special place in my heart, a memory on every corner. It has changed so much over time but I have really enjoyed watching it move through cycles. It has kept its heart true.
What and where was the best meal you recently had in Melbourne?
We ate some really yummy meals at Phamily Kitchen. My husband and I have known Michael [Pham] for a while and it is so lovely that we can now take our boys there and eat as a family. His elegant take on Vietnamese food takes everything we love about Victoria Street and brings it a little closer to home.
Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?
I would either be gearing up for a weaving class or spending it with my family. When I don’t have to teach, we like to go to CERES to have a bit of a play, look at the animals, eat some yummy food and pick up some produce or plants to bring home again. We recently bought a cargo bike and so we can bring the boys with us along with whatever we pick up from the market.
Melbourne’s best kept secret?
Jacky Winter Gardens! Our mates Jeremy and Lorelei set up this oasis in the trees as a refuge from the crazy stress of life; a place to go and be creative and dream big. I am desperate to get there. Now that I am home more, I plan to apply for their artist in residence program!