WESTERLY — Michael Gabrielle has been interested in fiber arts since his he was a little boy and his grandmother taught him how to knit and sew. When he stumbled upon macramé years later, after graduating from Brown, where he studied visual arts and psychology, he found it so tedious he remembers thinking, "oh geez, I will NEVER do this again."
"I had rope burns all over my fingers and wrists," recalled the 26-year-old Westerly native in a recent email interview. "I decided to give it another go though, and I eventually found the beauty in the process; there is an amazing meditative quality to making macramé. Since that first piece, I've been working in private commissions and public installations, as well as facilitating workshops and events."
This weekend the San Francisco-based macramé and fiber artist will be April's Artisan in Residence at Ocean House where he will share his knowledge and art in a series of workshops and talks for both children and adults.
Gabrielle, who graduated from Westerly High School in 2011, is the son of David and Anne Gabrielle of Westerly, and the grandson of Mary Ann Marcotte. A middle child, he has an older brother, Mark, and a younger sister, Lia.
His three-dimensional pieces range from practical objects such as plant hangings to large scale installations and public art.
"I’d say my first large-scale installation was when I was maybe 6 or 7," Gabrielle said, "when I took a hot pink permanent marker and drew a long zig-zagging line all along the white walls of my house, starting in my bedroom and making my way through the halls, down the stairs, and circling around the living room a few times before getting caught pink-handed."
Luckily, he added, his parents and he can laugh about it today, although for a while, it was a "sore subject."
Over the years since, he said, he's explored drawing, painting, printmaking, woodworking, and most recently, macrame and fiber arts.
"For me, making art has always been a way that I take care of myself," he said. "I make art to express myself, explore my creativity, and to try to make the world a little bit more lovely."
Gabrielle has also worked at PeaceLove, an expressive arts studio that uses art and creativity to help people feel better, and has had his work on exhibit at Providence City Hall.
Gabrielle will greet guests Friday, Saturday and Sunday mornings from 9 to 11 a.m. when complimentary coffee, tea and croissants will be served. On Sunday at 2 p.m., he will discuss his art and talk about the history of macramé, his experience becoming an artist and working at an expressive arts studio. The talk will be followed by a reception.
On Friday, he'll hold an interactive workshop for adults at 2 p.m. where participants can learn the art of macramé and create hangings of their own. On Saturday at 1 p.m., he'll give a class for children, where the little ones can also learn the art of macramé and take home their own creations.
The Ocean House Artisan in Residence Program began in 2018 and, due to its success, has been renewed for the 2019-2020 season. During the residency, artisans reside in Ocean House’s School House Cottage for an extended weekend of workshops, exhibits and receptions at Ocean House.
The Artist in Residence program is part of Ocean House’s larger commitment to the community and the arts, according to Ocean House President and Group Managing Director Daniel Hostettler. Thousands of guests and community members have enjoyed art and programming over the last eight years, he said.