062017_CoastalPeople

Jessica Austin shows off one of her macrame creations.

Provided photo/Leslie Hand Photography

Jessica Austin grew up in the Golden Isles but she has also explored the world. The Brunswick native married her high school sweetheart, who served in the military. That took the couple around the country, as well as to Germany.

But after extensive travel, the Austins — now parents to two small children — have returned home.

That’s when the mother decided to try a new hobby — macrame. The fiber art technique uses knots to create intricate designs. The practice began in the 13th century in the Middle East. The word itself comes from the Arabic word “migramah,” which means fringe. The art also gained popularity in the 1960s and 1970s, serving as home decor or accent pieces.

When Austin first discovered the technique, she was simply searching for a fun activity to do with her daughter.

“I was looking around online ... that’s how I found it. I’ve always been creative and always need something to do with my hands. My daughter is like that too,” she said.

The pair took to the craft. Austin decided that she could use the art as a way to stay at home with her children while continuing to work.

She made a variety of designs and took them to various craft markets. But the reception was luke warm at best.

“When I first started, no one was interested. I would be at a show and older ladies would come by the booth and say ‘oh yeah I remember that’ but they would just keep going,” she said with a laugh.

Undeterred, Austin kept up with the craft, improving her work and trying new designs, which she sold through her company Lavender Bee. Eventually, macrame made a solid comeback and her work took off. She now sends her handmade merchandise throughout the country. She has even shipped some over seas.

“It was a lost art for a while but it started coming back,” she said. “Now the minimalist trend is really big. I sell a lot of plant hangars, which are the biggest thing right now. I also sell a lot of wall pieces. I love to do anything where I can make it funky and fresh.”

It is an idea she has been able to share and cultivate through the Golden Isles artistic community. There, she has found a strong group of supportive friends who helped her share and further her craft.

“I cannot say enough about the fiber arts community here. I really think that the creative community is the backbone of the small business community here,” Austin said. “Everyone is just so supportive and helpful. It is really all about collaboration — not competition.”

She has developed strong ties to many other makers in the community, joining them for pop-up events and shows. She is active in helping to plan the Moxie Craft Festival as well.

“Moxie is (Jenny Van’t Land’s) baby, but I love helping her out. We get together and I just bring a notepad and write down whatever I can do to help her,” she said. “I do whatever needs to be done.”

In her rare spare time, Austin enjoys making memories with her husband and children. They especially like finding time to explore the outdoors.

“Lavender Bee really takes up all of my time. But we do enjoy going outside. My husband and I like to kayak together,” she said.

Coastal People appears Tuesdays.

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