by Al Canner
Because so much of my life has been lived through the lens of the left brain, indulging in the right-brain creativity of macrame has been a wonderful "crossover" experience -- and no doubt one that has helped to keep me sane.
I began tying knots in the early 1970s when I was in my 20s, completely self-taught and at first focusing on the then-ubiquitous jute plant hangers. During the next several years my work evolved, incorporating increasingly sophisticated design, color, and structure.
On several lucky occasions in those early years of knotting, I came upon hobby shops holding going-out-of-business sales; at very low prices, I was able to fill a trunk with more than 100 spools of cord, offering a nuanced rainbow of colors, materials, gauges, and inspiration. A half-dozen years later, a gallery fire destroyed all my best pieces (although at the time the insurance payment was welcome). My response was a decades-long hiatus.
In my early 50s, while enjoying a two-year break between careers, I rediscovered the trunk in which I had stored my collection of cord. I began knotting again, and until I retired in 2013, averaged one work per year, each piece representing many score of contented hours of "labor." In retirement, I devote much more time to knotting and am now producing five or six works per year.
Most of my works are wall hangings, although a few are designed to sit on flat surfaces. I begin each piece with a fairly well formed idea of the final product. However, as all knotters know, the work constantly is informed by the individual character of the cord and the dynamism created by combining cords of varying gauges and textures.
Some of my works incorporate found objects, and many are inspired by nature. Color plays a central role in all my pieces, which commonly combine fiber made of cotton, hemp, jute, linen, and rattail. Rather than rely on an infrastructure for support or shape, most of my pieces depend solely on the robust strength of the knots themselves, almost always the humble double half-hitch.
I greatly enjoy the feel of the fiber passing through my hands; the "slap" of the cord on my workboard; the constant challenges that present themselves for conquering or instructing; and the satisfaction of looking critically at my finished work, occasionally feeling proud that a particular square inch or two turned out so well.
Al retired in early 2013 from the University of Colorado Law School, where he taught legal writing, appellate advocacy, and the law of K-12 public education. Al earned his law degree in 1987 from Colorado Law, with service on the editorial board of the Law Review. He was the student recipient in 1987 of the University of Colorado’s Thomas Jefferson Award and judicial clerk for then-Chief Justice Joseph Quinn of the Colorado Supreme Court.
Al represented public school districts during seven years with the law firm of Caplan and Earnest LLC in Boulder. From 1996-2003, he was executive director of the Colorado Hospice Organization, advocating quality palliative and end-of-life care.
Prior to his career in law, Al was program director for multilingual multicultural education in the Boulder Valley School District. He has chaired the City of Boulder’s Human Relations Commission and served for 15 years as president of a foundation that nurtured progressive education in the public schools.