Mary Kate elaborated, “We lived in Czechoslovakia when I was between 1 and 2 years old, right before the Iron Curtain came down. The story I remember most that Mom used to tell me was about this old lady who fed the birds. I was intently watching her, and she offered me some of her old, stale bread to feed the birds. I didn’t understand what she wanted me to do with the bread, so I ended up eating it. The old lady kept yelling, ‘No! No! No!’ but I continued to eat the bread. My mom and this old lady ended up laughing about it. I spent a lot of time riding on my parents’ backs in a hiking carrier while they toured old castles, parks, and museums. In Schonbrunn Palace, I threw a blue bouncy ball over a barrier and into Maria Theresa’s bedroom, and my parents were horrified!”
When Mary Kate was almost 5 years old, her family settled in Evans, Ga., just outside of Augusta. She lived there until she left to attend college at Covenant College, where she graduated in 2010 with a degree in history. Mary Kate is now married to Ben Vanderhart, and they have two beautiful little girls, Persis (Persie), 6, and Holland, 4. Ben owns and works full time at a record store on Main Street called Yellow Racket Records, yellowracketcha.com. Mary Kate enjoys working at the store part time, as well.
The young family has loved Lookout since Mary Kate and Ben attended Covenant College, where they met. They began attending Lookout Mountain Presbyterian Church while in college. When Mary Kate’s parents decided to move here from Birmingham, the Vanderharts moved up to the mountain, as well. They wanted a good school for the girls and to live within their church community.
Mary Kate has many interests, including macramé. After their second daughter was born, Mary Kate transitioned from working at Unum to being a full-time stay-at-home mother.
She shared, “I was so excited to stay home, but it was a difficult transition. I went from helping Unum develop a new department to changing diapers full-time. I LOVED being home with my kids, but I quickly discovered I needed some kind of outlet to help me feel like myself again. I found macramé at the ripe old age of 29, and I knew I had found my passion. Eventually, weaving and embroidery became a part of that, too.
“I discovered macramé because I love plants. I needed to get our plants off of the ground because of our kids and my cats. Therefore, I bought a book and watched some YouTube videos and started making plant hangers for myself. I fell in love with it! Next, I started an Etsy shop. While my girls napped in the afternoon, I spent that time making things!”
Mary Kate has always loved art, starting with one grandmother teaching her how to embroider at age 8, and the other one showing her how to knit soon afterwards.
“Both of my grandmothers were very talented artists. They spent a lot of time working with me throughout my childhood. They were both very patient and encouraged me in my artistic journey. They would buy me books and supplies and encourage me to tackle various projects. I think that because of them, I have always enjoyed making things,” Mary Kate said, adding that she took as many art classes as she could in high school and college to learn about drawing, 3-D design, ceramics, and photography.
There is no doubt that Mary Kate is an accomplished artist. Her macramé creations range in size from small to HUGE! She really loves creating large, custom pieces.
“I love listening to a client’s vision and then taking that vision and making it a reality. Often, clients have an idea of what they want, but aren’t very particular on the execution, so they allow me artistic freedom to design it as I please. Large pieces are fun because they require careful planning and precise detail. A large piece is not something where I would just wing it. I usually have a concept or vision I want to move forward with and move from there. Sometimes I sit down and do a bunch of work in one sitting. Other times, I need a day or two before inspiration hits and I know how to move forward in the process.”
While she loves creating large pieces, the COVID-19 pandemic has made it more difficult to do so. The supply chain disruptions have affected her, as well, and it’s hard to find macramé string, rope and cord. “I have been ordering rope from Australia, and while it arrives quickly, it is expensive!” she said.
Mary Kate’s pieces are interesting and unique. Her work can be found at Two Ridges Pottery in St. Elmo, as well as at Yellow Racket Records on Main Street. Additionally, she has an Etsy shop called Direbloom, which can be found at www.direbloom.etsy.com. Finally, her Instagram account is @direbloomart. Mary Kate chose the name Direbloom because it has special significance to her.
“It came from that feeling, that state of being, that I felt during the first several months of transitioning to being a stay-at-home mother. I had an urgent need to flourish, to thrive, and fiber art has helped me to do just that. Life can be complex and difficult. And I imagine all of us have faced that moment, that crucial moment, where we must make a decision… will I wither or bloom?”
Thankfully, Mary Kate has bloomed, and her works continue to brighten the world around her! While working on her art, she listens to Audible. She rediscovered her love for books during the pandemic, and has read over 100 books this calendar year! She also loves to garden and take care of plants. Before moving to Lookout, she had over 50 house plants! She sold or gave away most of them during the move, so she has started to add to her collection once again. As she reads and weaves her macramé, it will be exciting to see her new creations!
by Ann Henley Perry