Meet Your Makers: International Guild of Knot Tyers

CarolMaker Carol Wang of the International Guild of Knot Tyers – Pacific America Branch has been exhibiting at Vancouver Mini Maker Faire since its inception with her wide array of knots. As both tool and art, knot tying is one of humanity’s oldest skills, and Carol shows how it continues to feed, clothe and bind our world.

When did your love of knot tying begin?
When I was 10, I visited family in Taiwan and was given a book on Chinese knots, probably as a way to occupy my time.  This was very successful.

Knots are can be both functional and aesthetically-pleasing. Can you describe the aesthetic styles and where the inspiration for these styles originated?
The major decorative style known to the West is probably macramé which developed independently in Egypt, China and Peru.  The word “macramé” is Arabic in origin. Macramé takes a fairly small set of knots and ties them repeatedly in different patterns to give you anything from a friendship bracelet or a plant hanger to baskets or three dimensional sculptures.

The major decorative style known to the East is Chinese knotting.  Stylistically distinct variations have evolved in both Japan and Korea.  Chinese knotting in its basic form takes a single cord to tie one fairly involved knot.  The basic knots can be combined into even more complex compound knots.  Adding more decorative touches in other colours, of course, require more cords.

What are the range of uses for knots in present day?

Knots 5Knots are not currently so foundational to survival as they were to begin with.  Clothes have buttons and zippers to close them.  We have pockets and pouches to hold our things and I’ve never set a snare to catch food.  On the other hand, lots of people still fish by tying lines to hooks.  Many still tie their shoelaces or have drawstrings on their clothes.  Ikea has free twine to help you get your furniture home.  Boaters, climbers, campers, theatre riggers and rescue workers still tie knots in rope to get the job done.  So, while the universal pervasiveness of knot tying fades somewhat, there are still curious and interesting niches where knot tying thrives.  We are, many of us, grateful for the surgeon’s knot, actually used by surgeons.  A surprisingly high tech milieu that knots are used is in the space programs — NASA at the very least, one assumes Roscosmos and the others as well — where they are used in rockets, satellites, probes and rovers for cable management and other perfectly logical activities that are better off without metal clamps or plastic fixtures.

Is knotting a lost art? Or is there a thriving world for amateur knot tyers to discover if interested?
The absolute basics will never be lost.  The thrifty, whether by choice or not, can use a bit of string and skill to replace a myriad of uni-taskers.  The crafty can use knots as tools as well as part of the end products.  Outdoor enthusiasts will ever be the core of practical knot tyers.  As with so many other things, the internet allows knot tyers to virtually congregate and share new knots, variants, uses and materials.  A lot is happening with decorative Asian knots as well as paracord crafting at the moment.

Where can someone in Vancouver learn this ancient form?

Knots 3I’m sure that specialty groups exist: sailing clubs, climbing groups, fishing and whatnot.  Classes on decorative knots pop up from time to time in the various Leisure Guides as well as the Chinese Cultural Centre in Chinatown.  Also, I often teach decorative knots to the Fraser Valley Beaders, being the current organizer.  That all being said, I have been asked to organize a regional branch of the International Guild of Knot Tyers which would be centred in the GRVD.

Can you tell us about the International Guild of Knot Tyers?

knots 6The International Guild of Knot Tyers is a UK based educational non-profit organization dedicated to furthering interest in practical, recreational and theoretical aspects of knotting. Our aim is to preserve traditional knotting techniques and promote the development of new techniques for new material and applications.  Various overlapping branches exist globally, including a North American Branch as well as the Pacific Americas Branch.

What can Faire attendees expect to see at your exhibit this year?
Knots, both practical and decorative will be on display. Tied in materials ranging from natural cordage to modern paracord plus experiments with wire, fibre optics and more. Our popular hands-on learning stations will be available for participant education and entertainment.

Interested in learning knot tying? Stop by the International Guild of Knot Tyers exhibit at the Vancouver Mini Maker Faire and introduce yourself to Carol.