Michigan native Erin Chupinsky has been booking gigs off-Broadway, in regional theaters and on national tours since she moved to NYC after graduating from Western Michigan University in 2005. She was successfully forging her path to Broadway after a childhood filled with movement including dance, skiing and the pom team.
But when the pandemic hit last year, she found herself in Brooklyn for an extended period for the first time in many years, an especially unusual situation for a dancer used to constant travel. While much of her downtime was filled with earning a 200-hour yoga certification, she also stumbled on to what would soon become her second, surprising, super-satisfying career: creating macrame art.
Last July she made her first piece, a woven shelf she had seen and wanted for her home. While creating the piece, she instantly felt lit up with connection and couldn’t ignore that pull. Now that experience has turned into her blooming business, Fiber and Foliage (@fiber_and_foliage on IG). And after eight months, she’s bursting with orders and continuing to grow toward an online shop.
Read on to hear how her dual passions, movement and macrame, meld together, as well as her tips for a holistic approach to art and wellness.
SBS: What drew you to macrame? When did the passion turn into the work it is now?
Erin Chupinsky: I was first drawn to macrame because I like the aesthetic, and I wanted to decorate with it in my own home. I’ve always loved making things with my hands, especially when there isn’t any machinery involved. It was somewhat familiar from the start because some of the core knots used in making macrame are the same I learned to make friendship bracelets as a kid. I love the tactile nature of the craft and the infinite possibilities of design. Also, the repetitive knot tying very often feels like a moving meditation.
The passion turned into the work it is now rather quickly. I think ‘love at first knot’ is an appropriate statement. After making my first few pieces, I was so excited about it that I would lay awake in bed thinking about what I wanted to make next. The passion came easily, but the courage to take the plunge and share it and try to turn it into a business took a little more time. As I was vacillating in the late summer and early fall I made a few pieces, but once I finally made the decision to share my work, it was full speed ahead! The work it is now is still evolving, and that is part of what I love about the craft. It doesn’t have to be any one thing.
SBS: What inspires you and fulfills you about this work?
EC: I am inspired by nature. I am inspired by beautiful fibers and textures. I am inspired by shapes and light and shadow, composition, scale and details.
It is both inspiring and fulfilling to work with someone on a custom piece, taking their vision and sometimes even their raw materials and coming up with a unique piece that can capture a moment or a feeling or just make a space feel complete. It is super fulfilling to make tangible representations of my creative ideas.
I am also really inspired by so many other talented macrame and fiber artists! Discovering this whole world of awesome artists I didn’t know existed a year ago has been really fulfilling, and the community is really supportive too.
SBS: What skills or approaches have been useful to transfer over from the dance world? What have you left behind?
EC: So much has transferred over from the theatre and dance world! I have served as a dance captain and swing throughout much of my performance career, only now I’m organizing ropes instead of choreography. Having an eye for the big picture while simultaneously paying attention to the smallest details is a skill I used daily as a dance captain. It is certainly in play as I create macrame pieces, as is trying to incorporate emotion, movement and intention as I would when I’m dancing.
The first thing that came to mind just now when trying to think of what has been left behind is the sore muscles, but that’s not actually true. Making macrame is more physical than I might have expected and sometimes I do end up with sore muscles. I also have physically done macrame and dance at the same time: I’ve been doing ballet at home throughout the pandemic, and will sometimes tie a few knots while the barre exercises are being given.
SBS: What are your current offerings? What is the process like for a full creation?
EC: My current offerings range from small home decor and lifestyle items to large scale wall hangings. I offer everything from DIY kits, coasters, plant hangers, rainbows, ornaments, keychains and earrings to a wedding collection and luxury custom wall hangings.
The process varies for each piece. Some can be completed within an hour and others take days. If I’m working on a custom piece, the initial process is discovery with the client about the style, size and design. I’m very visual, so I really like working from inspiration images as well. Choosing color is always fun and super important, then budget and timeline get factored in too. Once the plan is in place and the materials are gathered, I get to knotting.
SBS: What are your tips for new business owners? What about advice for artists changing mediums?
EC: I still consider myself a new business owner, but one thing I would share is for anyone out there who is considering taking the plunge, do it!
A more practical tip: If your business involves shipping items, I have found Pirate Ship to be an awesome tool. Their rates are great and their platform is easy to use. (Shout out to my cousin for sharing this resource!) I have also found that things (more often than not) take longer than I am expecting. Keep learning, adjust as you go when necessary and give yourself grace along the way.
As far as artists changing mediums, I think that being open to where the skills you already have might take you is really valuable to keep in mind. As artists, we are in communication with our passion and what brings us bliss. Being open to new things that might speak to you can lead in a direction you might never have imagined. No way would I have guessed a year ago that I would have a fiber art business and be so passionate about tying knots. I think it is also important to remember that pursuing a new passion doesn’t mean you have to give up a previous one. If anything, I’ve found that this new one fuels and inspires the old ones as well.
SBS: What's your own wellness routine? How has it changed since Covid?
EC: I don’t necessarily have a wellness routine per se, but I have always led an active and healthy lifestyle. I move my body in some way almost every day with dance, running and yoga as my mainstays. Spending time outside, learning, resting and home cooked food are also keys to my overall wellness.
Not a ton has changed since Covid. The biggest shift (and a Covid gift) was getting to rest, re-strengthen and re-mobilize a chronic injury. Constant travel and performance didn’t allow for the space to heal, and Covid removed those obstacles. I also completed my 200-hour yoga teacher training and started teaching yoga online during Covid, as well. It is something I have wanted to do for years but wouldn’t have otherwise taken the time away from my theatre career to accomplish. Having lots of yoga in my life during this time has been really helpful.
SBS: What’s next for you?
EC: What’s next…who knows exactly?! That’s one thing from the dance/performance lifestyle that those of us who are in it get very used to. I plan to continue with and to expand Fiber and Foliage. An online web store is at the top of my goals list as is getting into the luxury and hospitality design world. I also hope that theatre work will once again be a part of my life. I’m still pursuing my life-long dream of performing on Broadway!
The best, zaniest part of being Erin: Currently, one of the best and zaniest parts of being me is being a first time puppy mom with my husband to our four-month-old bernedoodle, Mooncalf!
Erin’s SBS Mantra: Be Patient definitely resonates. I am not naturally the most patient person, and everything from our puppy to building my business to getting back into the theatre world requires patience. ‘What is meant for me won’t pass me by’ has been in my mind a lot lately. Also, ‘Be Here Now’ is a mantra I’m always working with. The meditative quality of making macrame combined with the tactile experience definitely keeps me in the present moment.
Erin’s Brooklyn Faves:
Healthy Restaurant: My kitchen
Splurge Restaurant: Covenhoven is a great beer spot in our neighborhood.
Fun Activity: Running in Prospect Park and strolling through the Brooklyn Botanical Garden
Calming Activity: Yoga and mediation
Athleticwear: Lululemon, Aerie, Old Navy, Athleta and Onzie
Athletic Shoes: I have run in Hoka One One shoes for several years and love them.
Books: Just finished Brene Brown’s The Gifts of Imperfection. Love her and her podcasts; Dare to Lead and Unlocking Us.
Other Resources: If you are interested in making macrame check out Ganxxet for the best quality and pricing on 100%-recycled cotton cord.