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Martin Rehák, macramé craftsmanship

Martin Rehák is a native of the now defunct Czechoslovakia and, above all, a man of rich experience as a traveller, nomad and creative talent. As a mime artist he travelled around much of Europe, as well as various parts of America and Africa, often by bicycle. From people he met along the way he learned the art of macramé: a craft “with which you can make anything”, in his own words. Today he lives in Salinas del Carmen and is passionate about his work, but also about being able to pass it on to . He began visiting the island in the winter and now he’s a majorero — like any other islander.

How did you learn macramé?

I learned the technique when I was travelling through various countries. I met people and, well, a friend taught me how to tie a knot, then another friend taught me a different knot… It just gradually happened, and that’s how it’s been every since. At first, to be honest, I started by making gifts for friends. In time I began to do as a craft, making pretty things. Who would have thought I would end up doing it as a career! Today I still do everything possible, and sometimes even impossible, to do it well and have fun.

And what was all that experience of travelling like?

I used to do mime, to be able to travel and earn some money to get around. I travelled around Europe, Africa and America. I crossed the Atlantic on a sailing boat.

And didn’t you arouse some envy among all those friends you made?

I always answer the same way: anyone can do it! It’s true that more than once people have said to me “I really envy you” but when I suggested to them that I would exchange my bike for their house and their job, they immediately lost their enthusiasm (laughs). The reality is that we can all do these things if we choose to.

What is your relationship with the Association of Creative Craftspeople of Fuerteventura?

I joined the association mainly to work in schools, with children, and with the elderly as well. It’s about teaching people certain values, as well as the trade, or what we can do. When I participate in these activities I also try to convey the fact that selling a piece for fifty euros is difficult. The public sometimes finds it hard to understand this, when we live at a time when there is such a wide range of items of every kind available on the market and you can buy things very cheaply, and also on the internet.

Do you feel that digital technology negatively affects crafts?

No, not at all. I don’t think digital technology is bad for craftsmanship; it’s a tool and anyone can use it in the best possible way. We all have the ability and the freedom to interact with everyone on the internet.

How would you define your work with macramé?

It’s all about combining, letting my imagination flow: you can make anything with macramé. Anything! Clothing, furniture, utensils …

Macramé bracelet created with waxed threads and a large grooved stone at the centre. Handmade by artisan Martin Rehák.

What are you most often asked for?

Mostly people ask me for costume jewellery: bracelets, anklets… That’s what sells best. I also tend to make a lot of flowerpot holders. Or tapestries for walls and the home.

What maintenance do these macramé items need? How perishable are they?

It depends on what material we use: cotton is extremely hard-wearing. And I use waxed beads: if they’re impregnated with wax, they don’t absorb water. I have customers who’ve had the same bracelet for 15 years – that’s quality assurance! When tourists buy one of these items I tell them it’s guaranteed for their next holiday. First they laugh and then they come back with the same bracelet three or four years later. When they see how long a ten euro bracelet lasts them, they come and buy more beads from me for a hundred euros or more. With waxed thread you can take a shower and bathe in sea water or swimming pools. No problem. There are many qualities of thread, but I prefer to pay more for it. I have to know that what I offer is of good quality. And if I try a material and I’m not convinced by the result, I won’t use it again.

I have to know that what I offer is of good quality. And if I try a material and I’m not convinced by the result, I won’t use it again. 

Have you been asked for more unusual macramé items?

Someone brought me a watch with a worn strap belonging to their grandfather, which they wanted to replace. I’ve also been asked for items as settings for some stone that people have seen around the place. I’ve had orders several times for belts, swimming costumes and bikinis. And even leashes for animals: donkeys or dogs, for example.

How did you get through the most difficult times in 2020, with the whole pandemic crisis?

I got through it at home, like a hermit, living on my savings, by the sea, going fishing. For almost a year I hardly touched a thread. Now, fortunately, with the association we’ve started again. And in the association many of us are friends as well as colleagues. Each of us was affected in a different way, to be honest.

Now, fortunately, with the association we’ve started again. And in the association many of us are friends as well as colleagues.

Are you optimistic about the future?

I hope the future will go well. I’m fully confident that this will keep going. That I can carry on with what I like doing.

Macramé bracelet created with waxed threads and a mineral stone at the centre. Handmade by artisan Martin Rehák.
Wall hanging by macramé craftsman Martin Rehák
Macramé necklace with a grooved stone, handmade by macramé artisan Martin Rehák using waxed threads. Available in different styles.

You’ve mentioned your educational or training activities. How do younger or elderly audiences see this information on craft activities?

Well, children and the elderly do have an interest in crafts. For example, we’ve been to residential care homes eight or nine times during the year, and I have to say that working with the residents was very satisfying. In these sessions we touch on other kinds of values; it’s not like going to a market to sell, and that’s that. And with the schools it’s been wonderful. They’re attentive, they applaud you, they open their mouths in amazement when you show them something. It’s very exciting. It’s incredible. It’s important that they learn all this. The idea now is to be able to continue with these activities through the Island Council and the association. To try to get back into the schools and also to do workshops with community associations. I think it’s a very nice project: to get closer to the people and vice versa.

Do you want to find out more or get in touch with Martin?

Or take a look at his display of handmade macramé products.

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