Fiber Artist Feature: Denisse M Vera
Back in December of 2020, we were scrolling through the Modern Macramé Instagram feed when we saw a post by @denissemvera with the caption: "WATCH AND BE MESMERIZED."
The video that caught our eye was a collaboration between couture macramé fashion designer Denisse M Vera, professional roller skater Keon Saghari, and bag designer DeLata. With an out-of-this-world macramé dress swirling in the wind as Keon skated her way around Los Angeles, we were captivated by the whole thing and had to connect with the woman behind the gorgeous wearable macramé.
After delving into the creative world of designer Denisse M Vera, we were able to ask a few questions of the Australian born designer of Chilean heritage and Mapuche blood.
Photo by @vividity_photography
Modern Macramé (MM): Tell us more about your creative journey and path to macramé, and how it intersects with your own roots in Chile.
Denisse M Vera (DMV): From a young age I always loved to craft with my hands and was very drawn to artisan-made jewelry when I began to travel to my Motherland, Chile. In 2012, I went on a back-packing trip through South America and I began to feel very drawn to macramé jewelry sold by artisans in markets and parks. I befriended a Chilean Macramé artisan named Oliver in a desert town called San Pedro de Atacama. Oliver was excited about my interest in the technique and he offered to teach me a few knots. We sat in the park and began to create knots, soon enough I was making macramé rings, bracelets and neckpieces.
On return to Australia I began to experiment with knots directly onto the mannequin for my graduation collection and soon enough my entire collection featured macramé. Now, macramé has become such a special part of my life which will forever keep me connected to my Motherland and my heritage. I am deeply grateful to Oliver for entrusting me with his craft and to macramé itself for all the magic it has brought to my life.
The connection continued to strengthen when in 2019 I found out that through my Mum's lineage I have Native Chilean Mapuche blood. This was a very symbolic moment for me and for my art because I finally understood the energy I could feel when I was in nature and while I was creating... a strong Ancestral energy.
Read more on the inspiration and journey of the Cleo top (above) here. Photography by @brandonscottphoto
MM: That is so special. You mentioned this connection to nature on your website as well, explaining that you approach finding inspiration organically, through nature, and you let that be your guide for when to release a new collection instead of following the traditional fashion timeline. What kinds of things inspire you?
DMV: The opening up of my heart which takes place when I am amongst trees, rivers and mountainous terrain is my deepest form of inspiration. I wouldn't say that I feel inspired by the aesthetic elements of the landscapes themselves - rather, the beauty takes me to a place of wonder and awe which allows for me to design with a very open heart and to receive guidance through my heart and out via my hands.
Photography by @caramia
MM: We love the poetry of your garments’ names. How do you name your pieces? Do you have a favorite?
DMV: Thank you so much, naming the pieces has happened very organically. I name my garments in a similar way to how parents traditionally name their new born babies. I have a name in mind while I'm creating and then once I 'give birth' to the new design I step away and look to see if that name suits the final design.
The Tierra Oriana top (pictured below) was the first creation I brought to life after learning of my Mapuche heritage. It was an incredibly special experience, and the design is one I am most proud of. Oriana is the name of an elder from my Chilean community and she is a wise woman who was mistreated at a young age because of her dark skin tone. Oriana therefore built up a strong resilience. I felt very inspired by her story and harnessed an energy of resilience and strength as I was draping the cords onto the mannequin.
Photo by @fortunate_fellow
MM: Your recent collaboration with Keon Saghari was entrancing! How did the two of you connect?
DMV: I became very interested in the roller-skating culture after my friend bought a pair of skates. I quickly realized there was a big trend and as I browsed through roller skating videos on Instagram I stumbled across Keon. I was captivated by her joyful energy and I could envision her grooving in one of my creations.
I immediately reached out to introduce myself and my work and we clicked. At the time I had just received a package from DeLata which is a small business owned by Colombian born Andrea Sarmiento who designs bags made from upcycled can pulls. There was a bum bag (aka fanny pack) in the package so I thought it would be the perfect collaboration between three creative women. It was meant to be! Keon was such a pleasure to work with and the final video was one of the highlights of our year.
MM: What is it like to see your work on the body? Is seeing your work in motion, as it was on Keon, important to your process?
DMV: Seeing our creations in motion is the best part of the process!! When the pieces are on the mannequin they look sharp and you can appreciate the intricacy but when the garment is worn by the client, it comes to life... the garments energy joins forces with the wearer and the connection exerts a new and fierce energy. To see the garments in motion inspires us to continue creating with passion and intention, hence the process becomes more fulfilling when we see the garment on our clients.
Photo by @beatrice_thequirky
MM: Who is a designer you are influenced by?
DMV: My designs are very singular so I wouldn't say my designs are influenced by any designer however I'm very inspired by the way designers like Del Pozo and the late Alexander McQueen design/ed such intricate details and strong silhouettes. I am also very inspired by the embroiderers, beaders and seamstresses etc. who work behind the scenes and who bring the designs to life, their attention to detail is truly inspiring!
An image of a creation by Mayumi Sterchi of Himo Art was also a very early source of inspiration for me. The colours and lines were so powerful and striking that I placed the printed image up on a wall in my first studio. I never attempted to emulate it but every time I saw the image I was inspired to create something as impactful as that piece.
Photography by @jacob of model @aggie
MM: What does a typical day in the studio look like? Do you work alone or with a team?
DMV: The first things I do on entering the studio are I water the plants, I begin to play music and I put the kettle on. Soon after I will sit to write a to-do list for the day, I'll check my emails, upload a post or story to Instagram. Then my team members and I begin to work through the to-do list whilst sipping on tea as we warm up our hands for the day ahead.
Something I am very passionate about is movement, stretching and hydration so we pause every 20-30 minutes to stretch, boogie or drink water/tea. I have a small team so I usually work on my computer or on different elements of the business apart from creating on the days they are working in the studio. I love to knot and experiment on the days I am working alone because I can enter a state of flow... usually I feel most creative at night and around the full moon.
Photo by @fortunate_fellow
MM: Podcasts or Playlists? What do you listen to while you work?
DMV: It depends on the task at hand. When my team members and I are all knotting we like to listen to podcasts. Mum's with Hustle, Oprah's Super Soul Conversations and Expanded podcast with Lacy Phillips are our favourites. However, most of the time we like to mix it up with different Spotify playlists. I recommend my LATIN playlist to all creators because it's bound to get you moving when you're making and feeling a little bit stiff. Our favourite radio station to listen to is Koori radio which is a really great Indigenous radio station.
MM: What other methods of making inspire you? If you weren't making macrame what would you be making?
DMV: I am very inspired by painted artworks and embroidery however I think I would be a sculptor. I think I am drawn to it because there is a similar level of intimacy between the materials and the maker. There is also an element of intensity in both and that's me, I like to connect intensely with what I am creating.
Keep up with Denisse M Vera on her Instagram account or on her website.