How would you go about making giant macrame chandeliers? How would you even know how much rope to get? Fiber artist and architect Natalie Miller has just completed the most amazing project: the creation of two enormous macrame chandeliers for Chinese New Year in Hong Kong. Apart from the sheer physical effort of wrangling and tying such vast lengths of rope, the planning process makes the mind boggle. And yet Natalie was able to design and plan it in such detail that from 10 kilometres of rope she had just 2 metres left over at the end!
To say Natalie’s execution of this massive project was impressive is an understatement. I followed her progress on Instagram as the chandeliers took shape and along with many others I cheered them on as Natalie and her team of helpers worked tirelessly to meet their deadline.
I chatted to Natalie about it this week and I’m thrilled to be able to share some insights into her process with you.
Tell us how the project came about
I was contacted late last year by an events agency in Hong Kong to put in a tender to create two ginormous chandeliers, that incorporated Chinese elements for the high end shopping centre, Pacific Place on Hong Kong island.
When I did the tender I was initially meant to make them in Australia and air freight to Hong Kong. I won the tender and got a quote for air freight which came in at $25,000! So within a week plans had changed and I relocated to Hong Kong to source the rope locally and make the chandeliers in there. In hindsight this was the best thing that could have happened. The sheer weight of the project, the design amendments and managing the project meant that it was much better to build it there.
Can you share some numbers with us: amount of rope used, number of knots, hours of work…
Being an architect ensured the success of the project as I was able to do detailed plans, figure out how much rope I needed, and the exact amount of knots that were required. At the end of the project I was left with 2 metres of rope from 10 km, so it was quite important that every single detail was documented and designed.
10km of 20mm cotton hand dyed rope which weighed 3 tonne.
A total of around 900 hours which included the help of 4 assistants.
I couldn’t have successfully completed the project without the help of my friend Ingrid Keneally, who lives in Hong Kong, and assisted me 110%. She was amazing. Doing similar hours to me and all night shifts.
I hear they are the largest macrame chandeliers in the world?! What are the finished dimensions?
I created 2 macramé chandeliers that measure 6m x 5m and 10m x 6m, for Pacific Place shopping centre. They hang at opposite ends of the mall. The chandeliers had to be built off site in 8 sections per chandelier.
How long will they be hanging at Pacific Place?
They were built for the 2016 Chinese (lunar) New Year campaign so they will be removed by the end of February. We are currently looking into how we can recycle the rope.
What were the best and worst parts of working on the chandeliers?
The hardest part was the sheer weight of the rope. Pulling the 46m cut length of rope through for each knot was very strenuous. The first day I thought I would have to be hospitalised as the pain was so intense, then my body adjusted and ultimately it was fine.
Also, designing something on paper then actually building it can be a tad terrifying. I was so worried that it wouldn’t work and the metal rings involved wouldn’t fit, or the panels wouldn’t fit together, the tassels wouldn’t look good, but in the end it came together.
I was working 16-18 hour days when night shifts were involved, as we had to install between midnight and 7am. It was definitely a very hard gig, when I hadn’t had a day off in a long time. I missed Christmas, New Year, summer holidays and my daughter’s first week of school (first world problems I know).
However it is without a doubt the most rewarding thing I have ever done. As an architect I have designed entire shopping centres, resorts and large homes, but to physically make something so big that hasn’t been made before, was truly incredible and brought immense satisfaction.
Would you do it all again?
Absolutely, it was the most amazing and most satisfying job I have done. The hardest but definitely the best.
What are your favourite things about Hong Kong or fave places to go?
I’m in love with Hong Kong. I love the energy and the vibe. There are so many people just walking around at all times of the day and night. It never stops. The people are polite and are stylish. The food is amazing and there is just such a vast selection of restaurants and cuisines. It also has a town that is just craft supplies. It’s heaven to me.
Do you have a dream project?
I think I just completed my dream project. But I can definitely keep on dreaming and would just love to continue with commercial installations and challenging ones. I have a couple of projects that are in the pipeline and I’m super excited to tackle those.