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Craft With Conscience

'Craft With Conscience' began in early 2016 as a weekly Instagram series dedicated to sharing the work of other creatives and as a platform to openly discuss certain aspects of ethical art-making and consuming in the age of the internet and social media.  

This series arose out of my own frustrations related to seeing my work constantly copied stitch-for-stitch, sold without permission, and credited to other people.  Rather than wallowing in unproductive negative emotions, I wanted to find a way to bring this common issue to light in a positive way.  My solution was to share the work of artists, crafters, designers, and makers who I greatly admire for their originality and dedication. Initially, I shared work similar in materials or subject matter to my own, having heard the argument, "There are only so many ways to stitch plants, I'm not copying you..." one too many times.  The truth is, no matter what the medium or subject, every artist from hobby crafter to professional painter has their own perspective and voice. It takes effort to develop one's visual vocabulary and it can be disheartening when your's is taken and misused by other individuals and sometimes larger companies.

All that being said, now is an incredible time for working artists because of the vast resources of the internet including sources of inspiration, the ability to reach a large and global audience, and as a community building tool. As you may know, I love sharing my work on Instagram and following other makers. It's a wonderful way to connect with other artists, be inspired, and feel supported, but we all need to be aware of how we use these resources and what effect it may have on others.

Since the start of 2016, 'Craft With Conscience' has grown and evolved just like any other creative pursuit and has recently expanded to include short interviews with featured artists. I've asked participating artists a series of questions about their studio process, sources of inspiration, and how image-sharing sites like Instagram and Pinterest influence and affect them. I hope you read on to see what they have to say!

DIY Embellish Your Clothes Tutorial!

Sarah Benning

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At the start of 2019 Davey and I committed to #ayearofnothingnew, which isn’t to say that we haven’t consumed—we have—but that we are limiting ourselves to shopping only secondhand (or artist made when we can!) for our clothes and home goods. And we have stuck to it pretty well! (Though I won’t lie, there have been a few cheats. Like when we found an amazing and clean king-size down comforter at the thrift store, but despite searching so hard for months never came across a king-sized duvet. I finally broke down and picked up an organic cotton one from Target.)

One of the wonderful and unexpected creative challenges to this commitment has been a desire to make-do and repair the things we already have! I’ve been so inspired recently by the likes of Jessica Marquez and Zero Waste Daniel to reimagine how I consume, use, and repurpose clothing. And so, here is a teeny tiny tutorial for how I have been adding a little flair to some of my long-time favorite staples of my wardrobe and maybe you can use it to spice up a piece of your own rather than tossing it out!

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A Note on Clothing Selection: Really stretchy fabric can be tricky to stitch on, but it is not impossible with a little patience! If you are a beginner still finding your embroidery legs, you might want to stay away from things like t-shirts and stick with more stable fabrics like denim!

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Begin by laying out your design. I used approximately 5 packs of my Daisy Peel + Stick Transfers to create these densely packed daisies on each sleeve. I know that is a lot, both in terms of cost and material and time, so of course feel free to simplify and keep things manageable for yourself!

Peel + stick each design directly onto the front side of your fabric.

Peel + stick each design directly onto the front side of your fabric.

Peel the backing off of the transfer and place sticky-side down on the front of your fabric. Trim the transfers to fit together creating the appearance of an overlapping design without actually overlapping the paper and adding extra layers to stitch through.

For me, it works best if I trim the design before I peel + stick, but I encourage you to work however feels the most comfortable for you!

And remember, your placement is not permanent! You can always change your mind and move things around!

Trim the peel + stick design transfers to fit together without actually overlapping.

Trim the peel + stick design transfers to fit together without actually overlapping.

Follow the printed pattern lines with backstitch.

Follow the printed pattern lines with backstitch.

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Use black pearl cotton (I prefer size 8) and backstitch to complete the project following along the printed lines of the design. Use the embroidery hoop to stabilize the area you are working on.

I threaded my needle and tied a knot at one end, leaving the other end loose. Some folks will tell you not to use knots—that it isn’t the proper, correct way to stitch, and while that may be true, I don’t adhere to that way of thinking. Likewise, when I have just a couple inches of thread left, I tie another knot on the back side of the fabric to keep the stitching in place. It makes the inside of the sleeve look a little chaotic, but that doesn’t bother me!

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You may notice that the yet unstitched transfers move around a little when you put your fabric in the embroidery hoop.

Don’t fret! Just re-stick the design where it belongs and stitch it down! For this reason I found it easiest to place only a few flowers at a time, rather than laying out the entire sleeve all at once.

Notice that the small flower on the right has shifted away from its neighbor.

Notice that the small flower on the right has shifted away from its neighbor.

I peeled that drifting flower off and re-stuck it where it belongs.

I peeled that drifting flower off and re-stuck it where it belongs.

I’ve partially stitched down the first few flowers, now I am laying out the next batch!

I’ve partially stitched down the first few flowers, now I am laying out the next batch!

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Once your stitching is complete, wash away the peel + stick transfer paper under hot water. If you need to, you can use your finger/finger nail to help scrape away any little bits of paper stuck right around your stitches, but it should totally dissolve with the water!

Next, let your piece dry!

I completely finished the stitching on this sleeve and washed away the transfer paper.

I completely finished the stitching on this sleeve and washed away the transfer paper.

You may notice that the fabric and stitching are a little stiff once they have completely dried. This stiffness will lessen with time and use. I run my hand-stitched clothing through the washing machine—sometimes on gentle, but mostly on ‘normal’ in with the rest of my laundry. So far, I haven’t noticed any kind of damage caused from washing. Embroidered elements on clothing and home textiles have been around for as long as needles have existed (literally thousands of years), so don’t be afraid to wear and use your stitched goods!

One sleeve down with the second in progress!

One sleeve down with the second in progress!

*If you already have designs that you want to use (some of my digital patterns for example) and are looking for blank peel + stick stabilizer, I like the 8.5 x 11 sheets of water soluble stabilizer by Pellon. That is not the only brand or option out there, but it is what I use.

**You can, of course, use any color/type of thread that you want! And if you are in the USA, you can use coupon code SKBXDMC at dmc.com for 15% off your purchase!

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Beating Burnout

Sarah Benning

I feel good in the studio these days. My brain is buzzing with ideas and plans and experiments to the point that my hands can’t quite keep up. Thank goodness for sketchbooks + notepads + getting into the habit of writing down my ideas when I have them rather than trusting myself to remember—I never do!

But I digress, things aren’t always flowing this way in the studio. I am coming out of a 6-month slump. The deepest, most intense slump I have ever experienced in the past six years of creative business ownership/full-grown artist-hood (I started this whole thing right out of art school). It was six months of feeling discouraged, and burned out, and overwhelmed, and STRESSED. My creative output is very, very directly tied to not only my livelihood, but my entire household’s livelihood. And when things aren’t gelling, it is hard.

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Success + Struggle

Sarah Benning

Most of the time I absolutely love what I do and I am definitely always grateful that it supports me (aka YOU support me and make it all possible). There are also other times when everything feels like a struggle and I feel uninspired or completely overwhelmed and lost about what's next. How will things change and grow--or shrink--in the next six years? I have no idea!

I have started the practice of identifying individual moments of success and moments of struggle in order to keep a handle on feeling and celebrating the progress and to try and analyze and move past the challenges.

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Five Ways to Prepare for a Craft Fair

Sarah Benning

Whether you are entering into your first market season as a budding creative business person or you are a seasoned craft fair pro, I want to share some of my personal strategies to staying sane while I prep for an event. I am currently in full swing getting ready for two upcoming markets just around the corner in June (The Broke Arts Fair, June 8th, Peterborough NH; and Renegade Craft Fair, June 22nd + 23rd, Brooklyn NY) and I thought there was no better time to share these tips with you than when I am in the midst of it.

This guide kicks in once you have been accepted to an event, though if you haven’t yet applied these things might still be worth thinking about ahead of time too! So here we go!

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Craft With Conscience: Lise Silva

Sarah Benning

Lise Silva is an artist living in Oakland, CA, working from her studio in Berkeley. Strongly influenced by meditation, mysticism, classic film, psychedelic illustration, surrealism, and art deco design, her obsessions include:  dream sequences, secrets, waking, sleeping, dreaming, and the fourth state. She explores the power of symbols through her work with Sacred Knots creating fiber jewelry and wallhangings with handmade cord entwined in knot designs that serve as a metaphor for life experiences, dreams, and deep desires. Through her artwear she loves creating custom pieces for weddings and other ceremonial events. She has taught traditional knotting techniques through in-person workshops and created an instructional booklet on knotting called Knot: A Book.  As an extension of Lise's exploration in symbology, meditation and visualization are a tool in her creative process. She leads guided meditations as a tool for manifestation, lucid dreaming, mental/emotional balance, creativity and relaxation.

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Craft With Conscience: Raven K. Dock

Sarah Benning

Raven K. Dock is a self-taught fiber artist based in the finicky weathered state of Florida who experiments with traditional stitches and cross stitch to transform her photographed subjects into texturized portraitures ranging for a multitude of sizes; from miniature to palm size with many possibilities in between. With hopes of exhibiting and selling her portraits, and soon to be prints, Raven continues to express ambiguity of emotion, one eye-less portrait at a time.

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Craft With Conscience: Shyama Golden

Sarah Benning

Shyama Golden’s paintings lie strategically between the cute and uncanny, inviting the viewer to discover new details through multiple viewings. They are influenced by her scientist parents and childhood exposure to Buddhist philosophy. Her work has been published by The New York Times, The Atlantic, Wired, Washington Post, Chronicle Books, and Penguin Random House. She has a BFA from Texas Tech University and is based in Brooklyn, NY. She has an upcoming duo show with artist Mimi O Chun on Friday Nov. 30th, 6pm, at 198 Allen St. NY, NY.

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Craft With Conscience: Mijo Studio

Sarah Benning

Mijo Studio is a forward thinking Danish-Norwegian design duo formed by Miranda Tengs Brun and Josefine Gilbert. Specializing in prints, patterns and textiles they experiment with colours and textures. Their work always starts by hand and is characterised by their curious and playful approach to the creative process. The scandinavian duo design dynamic prints, patterns and creative solutions for experimental projects and exhibitions as well as commercial collaborations.

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Craft With Conscience: Kate Tume of Mother Eagle

Sarah Benning

Kate Tume aka Mother Eagle is an embroidery artist from Brighton, UK. Self taught, she'd been practising embroidery almost her whole life before turning professional artist 10 years ago. Kate combines a variety of techniques in her work, often 3-dimensional, embellishments and goldwork feature heavily. Her work is influenced by folklore, mythology and burial customs, and she is currently working on projects around our disappearing world, and lost species. Kate also teaches textile arts privately, and has just launched the first design in a series of embroidery kits called 'Mother Eagle Textile Art Boxes'.

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Craft With Conscience: Gracie Ellison-Shortbridge

Sarah Benning

Gracie Ellison, born and raised in Portland, Oregon, has been illustrating faces her whole life; painting portraits on canvas for only a few years. She has no formal training or education, her art has always been instinctual for her and learned through years of studying the art surrounding her. Gracie almost exclusively paints busts of surly faced women; within that realm she likes to explore with color, patterns, texture, and imperfections. While her creative process is somewhat whimsical, Gracie strives for her subjects to be commanding and impactful.

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Craft With Conscience: Gabriela Martínez Ortiz of Ofelia & Antelmo

Sarah Benning

CONTACT

CRAFT WITH CONSCIENCE: GABRIELA MARTÍNEZ ORTIZ OF OFELIA & ANTELMO

October 24, 2018

GABRIELA MARTÍNEZ ORTIZ // FIBER ARTIST // MEXICO CITY

Named after her maternal grandparents, Gabriela is the textile artist behind Ofelia & Antelmo, a proposal based on two joint formats: Textile art and Wearable Art. Its visual approach is the result of the exploration of organic textures by the repetition of patterns that invites the viewer to stop, slow down and contemplate. She applies traditional textile techniques – especially hand embroidery– and transforms it into contemporary pieces. Her work pays special attention in the manufacturing times to rethink the way we consume as a protest to the speed of the XXI century. Ofelia & Antelmo embraces the fair time that the artisanal processes demand.

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Craft With Conscience: Yiyi Mendoza

Sarah Benning

Yiyi Mendoza is a ceramic artist raised in California and currently working in Upstate New York. Interested in the connections that objects can provide for us, Yiyi makes functional and decorative ceramic objects that elevate spaces and rituals. Her work is a reminder that objects hold life, beauty and purpose. Inspired by ancient cultures, architecture and the cosmos, her forms are intended to endure as relics of this time.

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Craft With Conscience: Mariana Baertl of Living Fibers

Sarah Benning

Hi! My name is Mariana Baertl and I'm the creator and artist behind Living Fibers. I was born and raised in Lima, Peru’s capital, surrounded by the countries’ traditional handmade trades, specially textile work.

I studied Fashion Design in Peru and later moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina to focus on Coolhunting, the study of “trends” and how it relates specifically to the fashion industry. I then moved to Barcelona, Spain to begin my work in Haute Couture and pattern making. My Haute Couture education taught me the level of patience and precision needed in creating handmade designs. Thereafter I got a post graduate degree in Fashion Business management from Pompeu Fabra University, in Barcelona. As soon as I graduated, I moved back to Lima, Peru to work as a fashion designer for a large retailer in Lima. It was at this company where I started experimenting with textures and textiles. I was soon in love with the art and began making fiber art pieces whenever I could find the time. After several years as a fashion designer, I decided to make a change and immerse myself into the fiber world.

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Craft With Conscience: Corrie Beth Hogg + Tutorial!

Sarah Benning

Corrie Beth Hogg is a lifelong maker. She is currently crafting realistic plants out of paper, and has recently published a book on the subject entitled ‘Handmade Houseplants: Remarkably Realistic Plants You Can Make with Paper’ . Corrie has long been inspired by nature, from growing up near a national park to a season spent working the fields at an organic farm, she has always strived to integrate the natural world into her creative process. She studies plants, interpreting their visual signatures and details into digestible, clear steps, showing those with even the blackest of thumbs how to recreate them with paper.

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Craft With Conscience: Adipocere

Sarah Benning

Adipocere, a self-taught hand embroidery artist, primarily creates their imagery for the therapeutic catharsis evoked through the medium. Their work focuses on displaying what they refer to as emotional self-portraiture while operating within the confines of a constantly developing, overarching fiction, one with small roots in reality but using motifs and symbolism to delineate concepts such as martyrdom, asceticism, existentialism, and the eventuality of death. Adipocere is inspired by their environmental science studies, focusing on misrepresented fauna and the point at which humanity intersects.

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Craft With Conscience: Vanessa Barragão

Sarah Benning

The textile industry is one of the most polluting in the world. In almost every process chemicals are used, especially when it comes to the fibers treatment and dyeing. All the machinery used requires tons of energy while producing a lot of waste and disposable trash. It is extremely harmful for our world and it affects all of its different natural environments, particularly the ocean which absorbs 90% of the atmospheric pollution, warming itself up to the point that so many species get threatened.  Coral reefs, which sustain so many other creatures, is one of the most endangered.

Vanessa believes in an upcycling effort towards the right way to fight against the kind of negative mindset described above. All of the materials used come from the dead-stock from several local factories which is first cleaned and then selected to recycle and reuse in her projects. Her production is completely artisanal and handmade by using ancestral techniques, like latch hook, felt, knitting, macrame and crochet, to create her artworks inspired by the coral reefs.

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Craft With Conscience: Carmen Mardónez

Sarah Benning

Carmen Mardónez is a Chilean artist currently living in Los Angeles, California. Her work is focused on exploring how to convey movement, color, and lights through hand embroidery, finding inspiration in Northern Lights, and Telescope captures. In Chile, she worked as volunteer and professional in prisons and local governments, whereas her artwork was a personal search. Since arriving in Los Angeles, she is completely dedicated to embroidery.

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Craft With Conscience: Justyna Wołodkiewicz

Sarah Benning

Justyna Wołodkiewicz is a Polish artist specializing in 3 dimensional embroidery. Taking inspiration from her surroundings as well as a strong awareness of her own creative process, she uses vibrant colors and breadth of contrasting textures and shapes to create a finished piece that is both technically complicated and incredibly whimsical. 

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