Dörte Bundt is the sole proprietor of California Dreaming, and while the name may suggest otherwise, she’s (k)not just a dreamer (Ok, that was the last of the knotty jokes, promise!). Urged by her Californian boyfriend to ‘please find us some macrame,’ Dörte ended up taking matters into her own hands, and lucky for him—and all of us—she caught the bug. Thousands of knots and hundreds of projects later, Miss Bundt feels she has just barely opened the door to the world of wonderment that is macramé.
All though, when you open the door to her lovely studio and showroom on Briesestraße in Neukölln, you may think that you have traveled through space and time and ended up back in a 70s California beach shack. Working alongside vintage label Rag and Bone Man (interview with them here), flower studio Poems and Posies and creators of Berlin’s possibly best eggs Benedict, The Future Breakfast, Dörte finds herself in good company. Together the collective has created an aesthetic universe, where every part comes together in that seemingly effortless perfection—which is always everything but effortless and close to impossible to achieve.
He kept saying, ‘Dörte, we need macramé in our home’. Back then I was like, ‘we need macra-what???’.
California Dreaming has been around since 2013. Can you tell us how it all started?
It all started with my American boyfriend, Joel. Before moving to Berlin, he was living in California, and he would always have macramé in his home. It’s part of the whole West Coast aesthetic, and used to be a thing here too in the 70s, but while it totally disappeared in Europe, it stuck around in California. He kept saying, ‘Dörte, we need macramé in our home’. Back then I was like, ‘we need macra-what???’. [hahaha]. We researched and couldn’t find anything online or anywhere else, so I though ‘I’m not too bad with my hands, I’m just gonna do it myself’. So I did. At the time, I was working at DaWanda [an online shop platform], and it was clear that I needed to open my own shop. I uploaded my first ten products and immediately started selling them.
I immediately saw that there was a huge demand for macramé and started getting requests from interior designers and architects about bigger products almost right away.
What made you decide to leave your safe job and turn this into a business?
It was a very difficult decision that didn’t happen from one day to the next. I thought about it for over a year until I finally had the courage to quit my job and go for it. I realized that if I had more sales outlets and could generate more sales, I could make a living doing this, but I wouldn’t be able to get there without more time to work on it. For a while I worked one and a half jobs and was putting money aside for my new business. When January 2015 came along, I realized it was time. At that point, everyone at my job knew that I was doing this and I already had a lot of support from my colleges, so they were not totally surprised.
So, I guess it goes without saying that your boyfriend was happy with the macramé you made for your home?
Yes, and he’s still very happy! I wouldn’t have come up with this if it wasn’t for him repeatedly asking for macramé. If I hadn’t done it, I’m sure he would have done it himself—he helps me all the time, and would even complete orders for me while I was still working full time.
So, technically, you could go into business together?
[Haha] Yeah, but he’s primarily a musician and has a lot of other things going on. It has crossed my mind in the past and it sounds nice in theory, but I have some experiences with having a business with a partner, and while it can be really beautiful and motivating, it’s also really difficult. I prefer to work together on projects occasionally, but I think it’s good and healthy to keep your work and home life separate on a day to day basis. It can be challenging to work all by yourself too, but I really like the efficiency of making my own decisions.
Our products also just come together so beautifully in the shop—the combination of flowers, macrame, vintage clothes and food—they all compliment each other
Here at Rag and Boneman, you have surrounded yourself with some really inspiring, strong and creative women. What has it been like to work as part of this community? Just amazing! I had not expected anything like this when I started on my own. I already knew Maggie and Johanna through the vintage store, but didn’t get to know them closely until Maggie scouted me out at a design market I was participating in. She came over and said, ‘hey, I just started Poems & Posies, and you make macramé, we should come together’. I was invited to have a pop up store in their space and it was immediately clear that there was no reason why I should move out, and so I stayed, and here I am! All of this happened last April and it was a real turning point for me. The people I’ve met and the community that has opened up for me because of this is really crazy!
It’s easy to get the sense of community, but from looking at your activity online and visiting you in person. You seem like such a happy family that you’d want to be part of.
Yes, we are lucky and I don’t really know anyone else working exactly like this. We are all doing our own things independently, but we’re co-workers at the same time.
Our products also just come together so beautifully in the shop—the combination of flowers, macrame, vintage clothes and food—they all compliment each other and also allow us to cater event and do projects together outside of our space.
I choose to think of it as an aesthetic and a way of life. Honestly, I don’t understand why it disappeared in the first place. There are so many things you can do with it, and its applications go way beyond plant and wall hangers.
Fibre arts and macramé have become quite the trend over the last years. Do you think it’s something that’s here to stay, or do you think about how to evolve to stay relevant in case the demand decreases?
It’s an interesting questions that I have thought about many times. If you want to call it a trend, it’s probably at its peak right now. But I choose to think of it as an aesthetic and a way of life. Honestly, I don’t understand why it disappeared in the first place. There are so many things you can do with it, and its applications go way beyond plant and wall hangers. I definitely want to evolve and work with both product, fashion and accessory designers.
The idea of tying knots for a living can seem a little repetitive. Does the work ever feel redundant?No, not at all! There are so many knots you can learn, there are hundreds or even thousands, so no, I’m definitely not at a point where I’m bored—instead I find it really magical to see what comes out in the end. The opportunities are endless, both in terms of techniques and applications.
I love to challenge myself and I would love to make really big objects in the future; huge wall hangers, room dividers and backdrops, like the wedding ceremony backdrop I did earlier this year.
What’s your process like? Do you plan out your pieces before you start, or do they happen as you go?
They mostly happen as I go. With the wedding backdrop, I made drawings before and planned what knots I wanted to use, but I only stuck with the plans for the first row or two. It’s just too tempting to go with the flow and try other things.
So things become as you see them unfold?
Exactly! The type of rope or material I work with really affect what I do. It’s always beautiful to hold a new type of rope in my hands for the first time—it opens up new possibilities. Different materials give you different textures and the same knot can look completely different from one material to the next.
I love all my projects, but my favorites are the ones where I get to spend a lot of time and work on them over a longer period.
Do you have a favorite rope?
I don’t think I have a favorite, but I love my white cotton rope—it’s just so simple and elegant. I also love this old packing rope I got my hands on from the GDR [Former Republic of East Germany], I’m so happy I found it because it’s truly unique and not something that is accessible to most people. I’m always on the lookout for new rope and hope to travel to a place that produces nice rope, like Peru, India or Morocco and find a supplier that I can keep coming back to.
Material wise, I prefer natural materials like hemp, linen and cotton. When I started out, I was really into making plant hangers in a large range of colors, so I still have some polypropylene from a German manufacturer, but I’m moving away from that. Since being in the studio here, my range has gotten more and more natural.
What is the most exciting project you’ve done?
I love all my projects, but my favorites are the ones where I get to spend a lot of time and work on them over a longer period. Things with a bigger impact are always exciting. All though, I really love installing plant hangers in client’s places and seeing the end result—it always makes me so happy to see them up in their new homes. I just finished a hanging baby crib for a hair dresser who has a lot of new mothers as her clients, and that was probably my most challenging project to date. I tried for days to figure out who to make it with various knots and techniques, but without any stabilizing material or frame. Eventually, the client and I got a metal smith to make the oval ring that stabilizes the base, and it worked perfectly. I’d love to do more projects where I collaborate with metal smiths and other craftspeople to make different kinds of objects.
I feel really lucky that I keep getting commissions that challenge me, and it’s really interesting what kinds of things I get asked to do, that people just assume that I can do from looking at my work. I always figure it out as I go.
It’s amazing to see people be part of something that you do, and learn something from you.
So, I have to ask, do you dream of California and have you been there?
I went last year for the first time, but in a way it feels like I’ve been there many times, perhaps because Joel talks about it almost every day. Being there it felt like I was doing what I was supposed to do, or had been doing all along, if that makes sense…
Was it like ‘coming home?’
[Haha] YES! No, not exactly, but it is a really magical place. I used to live in Sydney for five years, so I’ve had the coastline with the wild waters crashing onto sharp cliffs, which is definitely part of California’s magic, but to me, it’s the national parks like Joshua Tree, all the small villages, and The Valley that makes California really unique—and of course the people. Joel and I have a lot of friends from LA, so in a way it would feel really natural to move there, but after living in a different country for a while, I don’t want to move away from Berlin again—I feel at home here. Being in LA last year I had moments where I was like, ‘Jesus, I could just move here,’ but then I hear our friends complain about the cost of living and the constant traffic jams and dependency on cars, and I realize how free we are living in Berlin where those are not an issue.
But it is a great connection to have and one that I would love to use more. We have many musician friends who come to Berlin once or twice a year to play, and each time I get to know them a little better, and each time it gets harder and harder to see them leave again. I would love to be able to combine the two worlds even more. One day!
You’ve done two workshops so far, how does it make you feel to teach macramé to others?
I’ve had such a beautiful time at the workshops! Originally I wanted to wait a bit longer, because I wanted to do more before I started teaching it to others, but people kept asking for it. Eventually, I got ‘tricked’ into doing a workshop for the fertility tracking app Clue, who had invited twenty YouTube celebrities from all over the world to come for three days during Berlin fashion week. One of those days, they spent with me, making macramé and eating the delicious food of Future Breakfast. It was too lovely of an offer to resist and it ended up being really, really nice. It’s amazing to see people be part of something that you do, and learn something from you. I’ve done one other workshop since that and have another one coming up on the 20th of August. [Get your tickets here].
What else are you planning and dreaming of for the future?
I really hope that everything stays the way they are right now, just growing. I’m excited to get my products into more stores, travel and do installations and workshops in different locations around the world. That would be really beautiful. And down the line, move into a bigger space—that is one of our next steps, as we’re growing too big for this tiny storefront space.