Jim Olarte, Not Your Grandma’s Macrame

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Jim Olarte is a macrame craftsman residing in Laguna Beach who has taken macrame to a unique level. His sculptures are not the average macrame wall or plant hanging basket you see on Instagram, but rather large sculptures with a sense of zen and masculinity about them. Using an array of different materials, scale is a huge factor in his installations which range from 8 to 45 feet.

The craftsman first learned to macrame plant hangers in the 70’s which he sold at craft fairs, and by the late 90’s/early 00’s had found himself working on photoshoots for surf brands like Roxy, Gotcha, and Quicksilver. He would make window displays and sets that resembled the beach or a surf shack -- until one day when an art director asked if he could do macrame and the rest was history.

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Today his sculptures have grown to adorn the walls of big buildings and window fronts all over town including Laguna Supply, Buy Hand, and Newport’s A’maree’s and Lido House. He has exhibited his creations at the Los Angeles Craft and Folk Art Museum and has also been commissioned by private and public collectors. 

A self proclaimed earlybird, Olarte seeks to find fun in recreating what he’s seen. He wakes up early, basing his days off the tides and combing the beach for discarded items like fishing weights or broken pieces of fiberglass from old boats which he’ll then weave into his massive sculptures. 

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“I love looking when there’s four or five different species of kelp all intertwined together. The stuff you find on the coastline is so ephemeral — the next wave and it’s gone,” explains Olarte of his process. 

With each and every geometrical craft Olarte creates one can see the intense dedication and thought required to make it turn out just right. His extra large creations match his extra large talent and his work is truly something you have to see to believe.

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Mari Verdugo is a fourth generation Laguna Beach native, photographer, and writer who dreams of one day owning a sculpture by Jim Olarte. Find her at @marielenaphoto or on her website.

Photos by: Grant Puckett.