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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!

Craft With Conscience: Dee Monti of MONTI

Sarah Benning

Dee Monti // Designer // London, UK


Dee Monti is the founder and designer of the geometric glassware brand MONTI which she launched in 2015. She is a self-taught glass artist who designs and makes all pieces by hand in her London home studio using glass, copper and solder. Dee has been featured in various publications and often works with private clients to create bespoke pieces. Her current collection is a selection of geometric multi-functional shapes which bring simple geometric design and nature together with the encouragement to be creative with your choice of shapes and how you adapt them to your personal surroundings. 

Check out more of her amazing work at  www.montibymonti.com, her Instagram or facebook

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1. I began my #CraftWithConscience series as a way to simultaneously promote the work of other makers and to discuss the complicated issues surrounding creative inspiration and developing one’s own visual vocabulary. The internet is an ever growing fixture in many artists’ lives and businesses, could you talk about the role the internet plays in your artistic and professional life?

The internet has opened up a lot of opportunities for me. It has been undeniably essential in setting up my business. I taught myself everything I could about glass design before launching MONTI through watching YouTube videos and online tutorials so it has been important to the growth of my business since the beginning. The internet has enabled me to reach out to a wider audience and connect with people I would not have otherwise met in real life. It’s really encouraging to share ideas and receive feedback. Having said that, I don’t like to fully rely on the internet. There’s something unsettling about always turning to the internet for inspiration and answers so I like to go ‘offline’ every now and then. It feels good to process my own ideas and work my brain cells without any distractions.

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2 .Where do you find inspiration for your work?  In what ways has the internet and/or social media impacted your design process? 

I wouldn’t say my inspiration comes from one particular source, I often find ideas and inspiration comes from everyday life and when I am away from my studio. I use Pinterest a lot when researching new ideas for bespoke pieces or collections for clients and as a general source of visual inspiration. The internet is currently my only consistent marketing tool. Instagram has opened up a lot of new business, new clients, collaborations with other designers and has driven direct traffic to my website. It has also enabled me to build new relationships both online and IRL. Through Instagram I have been able to curate a visual story behind MONTI, sharing new content, designs, behind the scenes and processes. It has been a great form of personal documentation which helps me to visualise the progress of my work a lot better.

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3. How have you, as an artist, found your creative voice?

I think it can be hard to find your own voice as a creative. It can take a while to find a medium which represents your own style that is consistent and reflects who you are as a person and as a designer/artist. I think I’m still trying to find my voice! I have only been working with glass for just over 2 years now but It has enabled me to create a collection of work and build a brand which reflects my current creative voice and style. I often think about incorporating new materials and somehow merging them into a bigger creative practice as I still believe there is so much more to explore.

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4. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram are popular places for artists’ to share their own work. They also act as public visual archives, often leading to creative work by others that walks the line between ‘inspiration’ and ‘infringement.’ Have you encountered copies of your work online and how does it affect you? What are your strategies for dealing with it?

Unfortunately, I have encountered a lot of copies of my work. I haven’t actively looked for copies, I have mostly been sent images by other designers via Instagram which is nice to know we’ve all got each other’s backs! I have had direct copies of my entire collection, product photos, branding and even the product names. When I launched MONTI, there was a niche for glass design, geometric glass ware was just starting to re-emerge. I spent a lot of time researching current glass designs and trends so not to infringe upon anyone else’s work. I designed a collection that reflected my own style that was completely different, so when people would see one of my pieces they would say ‘oh that’s a MONTI! I do often hold back on sharing design ideas or processes which is a shame because we should be able to feel comfortable in sharing ideas with each other but I do often keep a lot of work to myself in fear of oversharing. I want to inspire and be inspired by other creative people but there’s a huge difference between taking inspiration and just making direct copies through lack of their own creativity. But don’t let it get you down! It’s almost a compliment, your work must be good if people are copying it!

I did reach out to a few people via email with an open mind, some responded with understanding and some with slight ignorance and sass which is always disappointing.  I now don’t spend much time thinking or worrying about it and instead put that energy into my own work. More often than not if you have built a strong following and have a consistent style and branding, people will recognise your products or artwork and they will always follow you.

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5. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or creative business people?

Research! Don’t just dive into something without knowing anything about the medium you are working with or the market audience. 

Spend time to get to know your creative abilities and find your own style, be as much as yourself as you can be. Be honest with yourself about your capabilities, what you are good at, what are not good at and what can you see yourself doing in the long term. Finding your own voice is important, you will find yourself stuck if you are copying the style of another artist or designer as it wont’ come naturally to you. 

Be open to new opportunities and collaborations, I have found it really important to work with other brands and designers. It’s good to build relationships with other like minded that could lead to IRL friendships! It’s essential to surround yourself with people that inspire and support you. It’s a tough life for self employed creatives so support is important!

6. Do you have any favorite blogs, artists, or Instagram accounts that you’d like to share?

@Watts.on @watts.place @camillewalala @lauraberger @atelierbingo @gurlstalk @decorhardcore  @designmilk

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All images provided by the artist.

Craft With Conscience: Alexandra Knie

Sarah Benning

Alexandra Knie // multidisciplinary Artist // Valencia, Spain


Alexandra Knie is a German multidisciplinary artist and university lecturer with a degree in
Fine Arts, currently living and working in Valencia (Spain) where she most recently has
been awarded an Artistic Research Fellowship from the Consorci de Museus de la
Comunitat Valenciana. Her special interest is the artistic investigation of the intersection of
art and science.

She focuses on the transfer of microscopic and macroscopic visualized images into hand
or machine embroidery, which links two complementary areas: modern science and a
historical textile technique.

In addition to some important solo exhibitions, Alexandra Knie has participated in several group
exhibitions in Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the USA, among others.

Check out more of her amazing work on her website or Instagram

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1. I began my #CraftWithConscience series as a way to simultaneously promote
the work of other makers and to discuss the complicated issues surrounding creative
inspiration and developing one’s own visual vocabulary. The internet is an ever growing
fixture in many artists’ lives and businesses, could you talk about the role the internet plays
in your artistic and professional life?

Mainly I use the internet to look for suitable calls for exhibitions worldwide. This takes
much time, because I try to promote my artwork through displaying in interesting places.
Not every call for art is serious. You have to read carefully all terms and conditions and to
check out the institutions’ review. And of course, you have to be aware that not every
application will be accepted in the end. Social media like Instagram is a new chapter for
me right now. I see it as an interesting platform to establish contact with creative makers
and artists and I am positively surprised by the sometimes unexpected feedback.

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2. Where do you find inspiration for your work?  In what ways has the internet and/or social
media impacted your design process?

Besides drawing, silkscreening and painting, I use hand and machine embroidery as an
emphasizing stylistic device in my artwork. In the long history of embroidery, it was always
used as a form of decoration and narration to valorize religious or profane clothes and
home textiles. I try to use this potential of collective memory to subvert the outwardly
visible aesthetic surface of embroidery by illustrating dangerous viruses that are not visible
to the naked eye. Therefore, I use scientific microscopic illustrations and background
information offered by the internet or other media to create a metaphoric image of
embroidery put into multiple layers beyond an empirical logic. So I understand the internet
as one of the main instruments for my artistic research, besides books, exhibitions and
daily life.

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3. How have you, as an artist, found your creative voice?

Before I started with my scientifically influenced art, I did a wide range of figurative and
abstract paintings. It was a challenging process to find out my artistic intention and to be
satisfied with my work. Just at the age of five I knew that I wanted to become an artist.
Besides drawing nearly every day, I was doing also silkscreening with the help of my
father, and I loved it. Twenty years and a diploma in Fine Arts later, I was teaching
silkscreening at the University of Applied Science in Aachen at the department of design.
At that time, I noticed that the cooperation with the students positively influenced my
artistic process to change my point of view and to find a new topic to work with. Finally, I
started to investigate in the field of microcosm because of an interesting phrase a friend
once told me when she was writing her doctoral thesis in medicine. She explained that she
had to “design a virus“ to find out its effect against a special type of cancer. This sounded
like science fiction and grabbed me until today. I consequently became a designer of “art
viruses“.

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4. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram are popular places for artists’ to share their own work.
They also act as public visual archives, often leading to creative work by others that walks
the line between ‘inspiration’ and ‘infringement.’ Have you encountered copies of your
work online and how does it affect you? What are your strategies for dealing with it?

Up until now I have not found direct copies of my art. I think you have to be aware that a person
at the other end of the world or even your neighbour could have ideas similar to yours
but with different focuses and personal background. Someone who deals with copies is
annoying, but I think it will also be of short duration because in my opinion, ideas adopted
from others cannot be developed further with the same creativity and quality as by its
original creator.

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5. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or creative business people?

To reflect critically someone’s art process and development in order to avoid exogenous
influence by unprofessional or non constructive advice. Trust and make it clear to yourself
that you are the only expert in doing your art or running your creative business in order to not lose sight of what you want to transmit or reach with your work.

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6. Do you have any favorite blogs, artists, or Instagram accounts that you’d like to share?

There are a lot of famous artists I admire and I can learn from, like Nancy Graves, Anni
Albers, Sheila Hicks, Agnes Martin, Noa Eshkol and Ernesto Neto, to point out some of my
favourite ones. But I also follow the creative and inspiring people on Instagram as your
account, Sarah and let me point out others:

@soniceto.art

@gisoo2024

@anonimabycm

@carolinecorbasson

@amandainebouet

@danielbergshneider

@tmbrozynar

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Craft With Conscience: Trini Guzmán

Sarah Benning

 

Trini Guzmán // Fiber Artist // Santiago Chile


 Trini is a multidisciplinary artist from Chile. From large scale murals to embroidery, her work is a continuous exploration that seeks to push the limits of her own possibilities and interests, using bold colors and intricate textures. Over the last years she has been focusing on fiber art, something that has always called her attention and that she now shares through her project Cosío, Bordao, Tejío (that means sewn, embroidered and knitted in Chilean). She also shares her personal experience about creativity through  teaching embroidery classes and in her book The Embroidery Revolution.

Check out more of her amazing work on her website, her Instagram, or @casiobordaotejio.

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1. I began my #CraftWithConscience series as a way to simultaneously promote the work of other makers and to discuss the complicated issues surrounding creative inspiration and developing one’s own visual vocabulary. The internet is an ever growing fixture in many artists’ lives and businesses, could you talk about the role the internet plays in your artistic and professional life?

 For me it's a wonderful way to share my creative process, to look at my artwork from a different perspective and to give my pieces a parallel life, since they not only live between the walls of my studio, but also start having a digital life, where they travel and connect with people and opportunities, multiplying their possibilities. The visibility the internet gives is amazing, and I love how it can bring people, art and projects closer when used in a positive way. It also has given me the opportunity to work from home, to promote my classes and to dedicate full time to one of the things I love the most, that is embroidery. I also enjoy the possibility of following artists I admire, and watch the process they share and to see how we all share similar things with art, whether it's bliss or difficulties.

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2. Where do you find inspiration for your work?  In what ways has the internet and/or social media impacted your design process?

 I enjoy improvising, not having everything figured out is an absolute part of my design process and nature has always been a starting point for me when looking for inspiration. Also traveling, since it has given me the opportunity to experience different cultures, landscapes and even color palettes that shake me out of what I am used to on a daily basis, that is truly inspiring. The internet also gets me closer to those different places and people, offering a wide range of inspiration and where I also learn continuously from others. It can also be a huge distraction that I try to avoid in order to optimize my focus, even though that is not easy at all because I get distracted doing several things at the same time.

I must say that the impact of the internet and social media has been positive and I'm really grateful for the ways it has boosted the scope of my work.

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3. How have you, as an artist, found your creative voice?

Learning to recognize my fears, frustrations and insecurities has been key.  Realizing them has helped me, not to get rid of them, but to be aware of my own limitations in order to take action and not to get paralysed by them. This has made me feel more empowered, even though it's from one of my most vulnerable places. I think our creative voice is in constant change and evolution, and its not only built from our bright sides but also from our shadows.

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4. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram are popular places for artists’ to share their own work. They also act as public visual archives, often leading to creative work by others that walks the line between ‘inspiration’ and ‘infringement.’ Have you encountered copies of your work online and how does it affect you? What are your strategies for dealing with it?

I have stumbled upon situations like this, and at first it was really shocking to see there was not even a mention of the origin of the image, and I felt my work and authorship was being completely disrespected. Then I realized there is absolutely no control over the destiny the image of our artworks may have: they can reach marvellous opportunities and they also risk to be disrespected and copied. I love sharing what I do and what I know, and I prefer to be trusting than fearful that I might get copied and not share anything at all. I think social media also has the power to create awareness that behind an image there is a person working hard that deserves respect. I focus my energy on creativity and the people that genuinely celebrate it.

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5. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or creative business people?

I remember a moment when I was younger, after completing art school, working in many diverse activities, like selling cupcakes I made or working at some random store to earn money, while simultaneously trying to develop my artwork in my spare time. I asked myself constantly how to really dedicate to arts and live from it, fearing that it was so hard and impossible and something only a few could enjoy.

I realized then that I have studied arts to work full time at it, not at something else. Creativity was my passion and I saw very clearly that that was the road I wanted to build for myself. So I decided to drop all the other random activities that I was doing to dedicate full time to arts, and I declared to myself that I would fully try that year. If it didn't work, if I got disappointed, only then I would let myself work in whatever any other random thing, but first I had to try putting all my energy and focus on arts, putting fear aside. Its been 7 years since that conversation with myself, and since then I have worked and lived doing different projects I love, all related to arts and creativity. It hasn't been easy all the time, but I have enjoyed it! So my advice would be before giving up on what you love and what you dream, give it a full year, putting all your focus and energy on that, and only then decide whether it is you want to keep trying or abandon at all. It's a road built on perseverance and on self discovery. It will put you to test plenty of times, constantly asking if you are truly willing to insist. So its important to align the heart, thoughts and guts of ourselves and insist!

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6. Do you have any favorite blogs, artists, or Instagram accounts that you’d like to share?

Oh there are so many artists I follow now that I admire in the most diverse areas. Plenty of them have been featured in the Craft with Conscience series, Also I can think of the following:

@roeqie

@laluisarivera

@missannavaldez

@thejealouscurator

@elenastonaker

@liza_smirnova

@lucykirk

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Craft With Conscience: Lauren Singleton of Yes Stitch Yes

Sarah Benning

Lauren Singleton of Yes Stitch Yes // Embroidery artist // Brooklyn, ny


Lauren Singleton is an embroidery artist living and stitching in Brooklyn, New York.  Lauren’s venture into embroidery initially started as an act of self-care with one solid rule “don’t make anything you wouldn’t hang in your own home” and turned into the business Yes Stitch Yes. Lauren currently focuses on floral work and whatever phrase is running through her mind.

Check out more of her amazing work on her Instagram and Etsy Shop

 Photo Credit: Caitlin Reilly

Photo Credit: Caitlin Reilly

 Photo Credit: Caitlin Reilly

Photo Credit: Caitlin Reilly

1. I began my #CraftWithConscience series as a way to simultaneously promote the work of other makers and to discuss the complicated issues surrounding creative inspiration and developing ones’ own visual vocabulary. The internet is an ever growing fixture in many artist’s lives and businesses, could you talk about the role the internet plays in your artistic and professional life?

I’m a child of dial up AOL and I’ve always loved the internet.  I remember coming across the work of Alaina Varrone and Jenny Hart on Tumblr in 2008 and being completely blown away. Although my mother taught me how to cross stitch at a young age, I don’t think I would have started embroidery without seeing how other people were able to reinterpret the medium. I wouldn’t have been exposed to the changing look of embroidery without the internet.

The internet, specifically social media apps like Instagram, have helped me gain new customers and helped expose my work to different people which lead me to new opportunities.  Being visible has also helped me find my footing as an artist. I don’t come from a traditional art background and in the beginning,I always felt like an imposter saying “I am an artist” but the ability to see other artists working in all mediums gave me the ballsy courage to go ahead and call myself an artist and take ownership over what I am doing.

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2. Where do you find inspiration for your work?  In what ways has the internet and/or social media impacted your design process?

A lot of my work is florals so I tend to look at florist Instagram accounts, vintage botanical books, and pictures of flowers. For color inspiration, I look at everything: retro interior design blogs, abstract art, fashion. This is cliché but true I find inspiration in everyday life. I take a lot of photos of color combos I wouldn’t have considered before. Yellow tile in a subway station that someone scrawled "homer" over in a neon pink? Okay that could be interesting. Newly painted mint green bike line with orange construction cone? That might make a cool piece.

I started stitching because I felt like all I did online was consume other people’s content but never create anything myself. I’m wary of falling back into those same patterns of nonstop consumption. So, while the internet rules I try to step back and continue to ask myself “what is the true goal here/ what am I trying to do with this piece”.  Embroidery can be self-isolating and social media is great because it can give me validation for doing the work but the problem becomes how much of my self-worth or the worth I place on the work is wrapped up in how someone else feels about it? It takes time and energy to make things, is that time and energy wasted because the post didn’t get the “appropriate” number of likes? I wish I could say “I’m an independent woman I don’t need your validation” but I’m still working on that. I will say that after I stopped worrying SO MUCH about how the work would be received and just got back to my roots of making whatever moved me, my feelings toward my embroidery practice and business changed for the better.

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3. How have you, as an artist, found your creative voice?

I don’t know if I’ve totally found it yet. I still have dream projects and ideas I want to explore. I have a bigger vision that I want to express with embroidery that I haven’t achieved yet.  When I first started Yes Stitch Yes I wanted to make pretty things that said ugly things because I was having a rough go and wanted to dress up the hurt. As the *gestures around* world gets uglier and my time on the internet shows me more and more of the expansive depth of human suffering I still want to make pretty things but now I want to make things that are more honest. At least honest to me. My goal is as I do more work on myself, the more I can be honest with the work I present to the world.

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4. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram are popular places for artists’ to share their own work. They also act as public visual archives, often leading to creative work by others that walks the line between ‘inspiration’ and ‘infringement.’ Have you encountered copies of your work online and how does it affect you? What are your strategies for dealing with it?

My work being blatantly copied is a relatively new thing for me. When it first happened I was really angry! I felt like “everything isn’t a DIY project; how DARE they copy something I made!!!” A common response is “imitation is sincerest form of flattery” but we all know that’s bullshit right? The sincerest form of flattery is paying me for my work.  Another response is “community over competition” which is sometimes being used as a blanket statement in response to call outs about imitation. That’s also bullshit because that’s not true community. Embroidery Instagram (as I tend to call it) has brought some amazing people into my life, people who have given me advice, cheered on my successes, and helped me deal with failures.  THAT is true community.

Recently I’ve circled around to this: very few people walk into embroidery with a fully formed vision of the new thing they want to create. They are going to find “inspiration” from other artists.  I hope that they take the time to build a look and a style and discover what they want to do. I don’t want to sound soft of imitation, I’m not, I just can’t put the same energy into being enraged at someone trying to build a business off my back that I used to. I used to call people out. I used to reply to comments of people planning craft nights based on my work asking them not to. I used to expend a lot of energy dealing with that and now I don’t. I just block them and move on. I can’t control what happens to my work after I post it, but I can control my experience on the internet to see less things that send me into a rage.

I will say, every time I’ve been copied it’s forced me to zag on ‘em and move into something different.

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5. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or creative business people?

Trust your own weird vision!  It’s so easy and frankly lucrative to think “I see this is popular I want to make it” instead of thinking “this is something I would like to see in the world so I’m going to make it”.  Say “no” loudly and often. Don’t do anything for exposure. If you’re making something and hating it the entire time you should probably raise your prices. Find good support and make sure they’re truly on your team.  

Instagram (a big company) is owned by Facebook (a v big company) and they don’t give a damn how you feel about the algorithm.

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6. Do you have any favorite blogs, artists, or Instagram accounts that you’d like to share?

Brown Paper Bag Blog

@adamJK

@kliuwong

@dai.ruiz

@Metafloranyc

@flowersandweeds

@embroidery

@crayolamode

@linacaro

@asraigarden

@annstreetstudio

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Craft With Conscience: Pauline Hagan of Benu made

Sarah Benning

 

Pauline Hagan of Benu Made // Jewellery Designer // Prague, Czech Republic


Benu Made is a jewellery brand combining bold shapes and beautiful leather textures. All jewellery pieces are drawn, designed and skilfully created by Pauline Hagan in her studio in Prague, in the Czech Republic. She's self-taught, and her vision is to create bold, eye-catching conversation pieces that bring personality and twist to the simplest of outfits.

Check out more of Pauline's amazing work on Instagram and Facebook.

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1. I began my #CraftWithConscience series as a way to simultaneously promote the work of other makers and to discuss the complicated issues surrounding creative inspiration and developing one’s own visual vocabulary. The internet is an ever growing fixture in many artists’ lives and businesses, could you talk about the role the internet plays in your artistic and professional life?

The internet has been very instrumental for me. I grew up watching my mum cross-stitch and doing her best to sell her creations at markets on Saturday mornings, which would be her only outlet or sales channel. When I think about how much has changed, I question whether I would have been able to get to where I am now without the internet. Social media gives us designers and artists power - to talk about our work, to build a brand, to share ideas, to communicate with and sell directly to our customers. It enables us to be fully independent, brings us really close to our audience and encourages dialogue and community. Everyday, women from around the world tag me in photos of them wearing my jewellery, and as a designer there isn't anything more rewarding than that. However, competition is so strong and the market so saturated that it takes a really special story and product to stand out, and that's a constant challenge - though admittedly, one I enjoy!

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2. Where do you find inspiration for your work?  In what ways has the internet and/or social media impacted your design process?

I find inspiration everywhere, by being outside, observing the shapes and details of buildings (there's an abundance of inspiration here in Prague), travelling, being in nature or during conversations with friends who’ll say 'I'd love to see this on a pair of earrings' - which might spark an idea. I also use Pinterest and follow Fashion Week shows to ensure I'm not too far off the mark and still feeding into current trends.

I usually design a new collection once a year, so over the course of the remaining 11 months, I gather ideas, cut outs, Pins, and notebooks full of sketches - without developing them into final products. When I revisit the ideas at the time of delving into new designs, I forbid myself from touching a computer or Pinterest for a part of the creative process. I'll take a stack of paper and explore as many avenues as I can based on those ideas - some of them may have evolved in my mind, some I'll interpret differently and might take on a new angle. Somehow, something special filters out of this process and these slowly baked ideas.

The internet has impacted my design process in the sense that the overload of visual information we receive from it is overwhelming and sometimes takes precedence over real-life inspiration. This is why I try to use this 'filter' of passing time and evolved ideas to simplify things and bring them as far away from the virtual world as possible.

 Photo credit:  @igorzacharov

Photo credit: @igorzacharov

3. How have you, as an artist, found your creative voice?

It's been a slow process, and I've only recently felt like I've arrived at a place where I've found my creative voice and am proud of what I do. It's taken years of attempting a myriad of avenues and possibilities, materials, designs, tweaking my brand and the way I communicate - but I finally feel I've reached a certain balance and sense of harmony. The benchmark I've set myself is an eternally moving post though, so I'll have to keep up!

Another aspect that helped me to find my place and voice was moving from my home studio into a shared studio over a year ago – a really cosy, creative space I’m always very happy to spend long hours working in. This move really transformed my motivation - being surrounded by successful, creative people all running their own businesses is really inspiring, as well as making a distinct separation between work and private life.

  Photo credit:  @eliskakyselkova

 Photo credit: @eliskakyselkova

  Photo credit:  @eliskakyselkova

 Photo credit: @eliskakyselkova

 Photo credit:  @janovajohana

Photo credit: @janovajohana

 Photo credit:  @janovajohana

Photo credit: @janovajohana

4. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram are popular places for artists’ to share their own work. They also act as public visual archives, often leading to creative work by others that walks the line between ‘inspiration’ and ‘infringement.’ Have you encountered copies of your work online and how does it affect you? What are your strategies for dealing with it?

I'm more than happy for others to be inspired by my work - that's a wonderful thing actually! Last year however, for the first time, I encountered blatant copies of my hand earrings - and little metal, mass-produced earrings started popping up everywhere, from boutiques in NYC to markets in Europe, Instagram posts and large high-street stores.

Here in the Czech Republic, a non-profit organisation helps local designers navigate issues like intellectual property. Their lawyers offer partly pro-bono work tackling plagiarism and are currently helping me counter some of the bigger players selling my stolen designs. Often, I’ll receive messages from my lovely, helpful customers or followers, who let me know of a shop or Instagram account they've come across selling the copies. When that happens, I politely write to the shop and let them know the design is stolen - sometimes, they'll be unaware of it, be understanding and take the product down. At other times, the conversation is more complicated.

  Photo credit:  @eliskakyselkova

 Photo credit: @eliskakyselkova

  Photo credit:  @eliskakyselkova

 Photo credit: @eliskakyselkova


5. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or creative business people?

One of my favourite quotes is 'You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with'. I’m a big believer in surrounding yourself with good, positive, driven people. Six years ago, when I started my business, I was inspired by a new group of friends of mine who were self-employed or didn't have 'conventional' jobs. They showed me that it was possible to succeed from creativity - it’s contagious! - and I decided to follow in their footsteps.

 Photo credit:   @mariekebosma

Photo credit:  @mariekebosma


6. Do you have any favorite blogs, artists, or Instagram accounts that you’d like to share?

All of the following women are talented, driven artists and dear friends who work really hard and have made their crafts their full time jobs: @andsmilestudio (an illustrator), @karolinastrykova (a hand lettering artist and designer), @annanemone__ (an illustrator and textile designer) and @alishu.co (an artist and graphic designer).

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 Photo credit:  @janovajohana

Photo credit: @janovajohana

Craft With Conscience: Irem Yazici

Sarah Benning

Irem Yazici of Baobab Handmade // Embroidery Artist // Eskisehir Turkey


Irem Yazici is a self taught fiber artist based in Eskisehir Turkey. Her artistic journey began in 2014 with her interest in craft and she has kept exploring her artistic-self through the medium of embroidery.

Her studio practice is divided into two parts: Making embroidered accessories such as pins and creating personal artworks. Her work is a combination of her illustration and embroidery practices, where she explores through color and texture. She creates worlds out of her surreal visions where magical things happen. 

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1. I began my #CraftWithConscience series as a way to simultaneously promote the work of other makers and to discuss the complicated issues surrounding creative inspiration and developing one’s own visual vocabulary. The internet is an ever growing fixture in many artists’ lives and businesses, could you talk about the role the internet plays in your artistic and professional life?

 The internet is the reason I'm able to do what I do. If i wouldn't have it, I don't think I could have made a living from embroidery. To be able to share my works through social media gave me some amazing opportunities which I couldn't imagine; such as working with global brands and galleries. Back in the old days, to be known as an artist/ maker was up to appreciation of some authorities of the art/design community which was discouraging to become an artist. Since the chance of exposure were low and you know you need to make a living as an artist to be able to keep create non stop. I know so many people who has chosen another path rather than focusing to practise their art because of these reasons. There are many specific audiences and everything has a buyer in this world and now by the help of social media everyone has the opportunity to meet their specific audience.

I also think internet is the reason that embroidery has finally got to be recognized as an art branch and find the value it deserves. Now we are able to access so many artists' works and the community has realized there's something more in this medium.

Irem Yazici, Magic  Carpet Ride on a Pink Night, 2017, 5''x5'' , Hand stitch.JPG
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2. Where do you find inspiration for your work?  In what ways has the internet and/or social media impacted your design process?

In the process of designing accessories such as pins, I do make a research on the internet.  When I'm preparing a specific collection of pins it helps me a lot by giving me ideas to stitch something that I've never seen in my life such as a kind of frog that lives in the rainforest. For my one of a kind artworks, I can say they are more related to my real life. It all starts with a vision appear in my head in random moments but also anything can stimulate my mind such as a music, my spiritual journey, or a specific plant and sometimes some materials can flash ideas into my mind. Most of my works are telling a story since they can also be visions of the tales I made up. When I get stuck on imagining the surroundings around the basic idea I get help from the internet where I have pinterest boards called things like gardens, places, trees, birds where I gathered my favourites.

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3. How have you, as an artist, found your creative voice?

 I feel like finding your creative voice is like finding your home in a labyrinth. It can be tricky and a hard way to find. You sometimes follow a path but you realise that it's not taking you to your home. Actually everytime you try, you get closer to your home. I can say it's just a result of hardwork and non stop effort. Stitch by stitch, piece by piece it starts to have a characteristic face.

Irem Yazici, A Night in the Haunted Forest, 2016, 4''x4'', Hand stitch.JPG

4. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram are popular places for artists’ to share their own work. They also act as public visual archives, often leading to creative work by others that walks the line between ‘inspiration’ and ‘infringement.’ Have you encountered copies of your work online and how does it affect you? What are your strategies for dealing with it?

 I saw  some copycats of mine. Some were selling those works and some were not but I think both of them are frustrating. When I saw them I felt like someone was wearing a mask of my face and pretending to be like me which gave me a creepy feeling. Dealing with them can be exhausting but when I come across them it charges me to do better and level up. 

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5. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or creative business people?

The best thing I learned so far is to trust my own vision. We may sometimes feel influenced so much by others and feel like we are lost. Try to give an ear to your inner voice because it's actually always there and you know you hear it, don't ignore it. It's the thing that enlightens your very own path that takes you to your 'home'. 

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6. Do you have any favorite blogs, artists, or Instagram accounts that you’d like to share?

At the moment I enjoy these artists' works:

@sophianarett

@ninniluhtasarri

@kjcardigan

@damselfrau

@kimikahara

@aronwiesenfeld

@davorgromilovic

@pauladuro

@staceyrozich

@adriancoxart

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All Images provided by the artist

Craft With Conscience: Britt Hutchinson of Tinycup Needleworks

Sarah Benning

Britt Hutchinson of Tinycup Needleworks // Embroidery Artist // Cleveland, OH


 Tinycup is the moniker of Britt Hutchinson (a person not a brand) who creates one of a kind, free hand embroidery pieces meant to reflect the myriad of feels connected to one's humanness.

Check out more of her amazing work on her website or her Instagram

 Photo credit : Chris Dilts

Photo credit : Chris Dilts

 Photo credit : Chris Dilts

Photo credit : Chris Dilts

1. I began my #CraftWithConscience series as a way to simultaneously promote the work of other makers and to discuss the complicated issues surrounding creative inspiration and developing one’s own visual vocabulary. The internet is an ever growing fixture in many artists’ lives and businesses, could you talk about the role the internet plays in your artistic and professional life?

Tinycup wouldn’t exist as it does if it weren’t for the internet. Everything I know now came to fruition due to posting things I made to Instagram while learning to embroider via the ever patient and wonderful people of the fiber community on YouTube. As time went on things snowballed and the feedback I received encouraged me to further explore and expand my skillset inside of the practice. It seemed that the more I shared, the more opportunity to correspond and grow with other similarly minded creators and small business folks seemed to appear.

I am a relatively introverted person by nature, so having a platform that allowed me to socialize and share my work with the world without having to be in a crowded space really helped/continues to help me develop my network and practice. Furthermore the following I have been fortunate enough to accrue has served as a continual reminder to try and lead by example and periodically give back to my community. While I am endlessly grateful for the opportunity and information the internet has provided me, I do find myself at odds with it pretty regularly. I am an analog gal at heart, so when things like algorithms change and/or the need for further social media engagement increases I can oft be found thoroughly confused and fighting back the urge to throw my computer out of the window. Full transparency, I prefer pencils, miss the sound of dial tone and I still have no idea how to use photoshop. Gratefullness and appreciation aside, I really do like to keep a healthy distance from unnecessary internet engagement. It helps keep irrational feelings away.

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2. Where do you find inspiration for your work?  In what ways has the internet and/or social media impacted your design process?

My work is intensely motivated by my emotionality and mental state. As someone who struggles with mental illness, having a creative outlet that provides much in the way of structure, repetition and concentration really aids in maintaining positive mental health. All of that being said, my personal work is inspired by my emotional response to any given situation I am experiencing/witnessing. Needless to say, being a deep feeler in a world full of endless turbulence and an avenue to expose myself to it (the web,) my cup runneth over with the need for catharsis. When it comes to commission work, I simply try to tap into the hearts and minds of clients with a series of questions pertaining to their requests in order to best reflect their desired imagery. When it comes to the internet and social media impacting my inspiration, I find the breadth of readily available knowledge to be an absolute honey pot. I love to learn and when I learn, I feel. I read a lot about historical events and the thoughts and feelings of those involved. I also really like literature and bookplates, and the public domain is full of mind-blowing old work I’ve never before seen or heard of.

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 3. How have you, as an artist, found your creative voice?

I continue to discover my creative voice by seeking management and understanding of my myself, my depression and the world around me. I also try to make sure to put myself in a position of growth by doing something new/uncomfortable at least twice a year. In my opinion, striving for and fostering your best version of humanness ultimately makes you a better creator.

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 4. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram are popular places for artists’ to share their own work. They also act as public visual archives, often leading to creative work by others that walks the line between ‘inspiration’ and ‘infringement.’ Have you encountered copies of your work online and how does it affect you? What are your strategies for dealing with it?

Unfortunately I have encountered this multiple times, and without fail it causes me a great amount of grief. The anonymity of the internet seems to breed many forms of entitlement and misinformation. Along side of that, working within a medium that is heavily based in patterns and reproduction, it is very common for folks to just assume that what I or anyone else has made is undoubtedly at their disposal to do whatever they want with. As someone who is deeply emotionally connected to each piece I create, as well as my practice (as many creators are) I always feel an intense violation of my personhood when someone recreates/heavily references my work. Depending on the severity of infringement (the worst case scenario being another creator claiming another’s style as their own [high treason in my mind]) moments like this have thrown me into a bout of depression. What’s more is that sometimes when I stand up for myself, I am equally devastated when folks then shame me and tell me how I should feel about it. More often than not, people will say that because other people “don’t have time” or are “not as creative,” that I should just allow them to utilize my designs because “everyone deserves art.” While I do not disagree that everyone deserves art, I firmly believe that true art is created upon the exploration of one’s own self. If you run around ripping other people off, you’re basically just trying to be yourself in someone else’s clothes. Creators work sometimes their whole lives to find and develop their “voice.” Who are you to take that away because you will not put in your own time? And what exactly do you learn by inhibiting the exploration of your own psyche? Nothing but surface. I do not recreate my work, and I would prefer that no one else recreates it either. I do not think that creators are in the wrong by asking others to respect that. Nor do I think creators deserve a backlash when they do. The phrases are also common: “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” As well as “Everything has been done before.” To those statements I whole heartedly say, pooh (and that is putting it politely for the sake of your audience.) I won’t stand up and shake hands with a cop-out like that. Sure, bullion knots have been done before by billions of people, but just as each person is unique, so is their creative vision. There are an infinite amount of ways to create work in any medium. FIND YOUR OWN -that’s part of it. I have done everything between directly confronting folks and explaining my feelings, to sending cease and desists. None of it feels good. The only thing that does is doing my best to educate and perpetuate the importance of one’s own self actualization and creative exploration. I also highly encourage everyone to seek inspiration outside of one’s own medium. Studying someone else’s work is fine, I guess, but that’s how you end up inadvertently copping style. What’s important are the rudiments. Take the things that have been done before and are ok to do again, a french knot, and find your own unique way of implementing it. I think it takes a lot of courage to share your work, and conversely a good amount of cowardice to ride someone else’s style as if it were your own. At the end of the day I try to do my best to ignore the copy cats. If they are OK with being a hack that is their cross to bear.

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 5. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or creative business people?

The best advice I have was given to me by an early client. He said something along the lines of “Never be afraid to say no. The second you lose the ability to decline is the second you’ve lost control.” I remind myself of this every time I am faced with a choice regarding my business. If my heart isn’t in it, I say no. To me it is important to never compromise my ethos for the purpose of profit. Money has never been, and will never be my motivation for why I do what I do; Heart and mind are. I have maintained this though these last almost 5 years, and it has kept what’s sacred to me. I’ll forever be broke, but at least I am doing what I love on my terms. I encourage anyone who wants to do anything to never deviate from their heart. Trust your gut, but do not mistake fear for a bad decision. Doing what scares you may be daunting, but you will always grow from those experiences.

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 6. Do you have any favorite blogs, artists, or Instagram accounts that you’d like to share?

 If you’ve never seen the quilt work of Ken Ellis, look it up!

 Weimar art and German Expressionism is some of my favorite ever. Otto Dix’s war imagery is insane and beautiful. The photographs of Frank Hurley took during the Great War are also up there. Honestly anything made between the first and second war is incredibly moving to me.

 @sauerkrautmissionary22 is my current favorite IG account.

@ninniluhtasaari, @timberchouse, @jackiholland are stitchers of some kind that I am currently very into.

 @emilyburtner, @chloemariegaillardburk, @noeliatowers, @catsandart, @candorarts, @matthilvers, @hota_ are artists that I deeply admire.

 If I could be a completely different person I’d be @battlefieldarchaeologist

 I’m sure I am forgetting someone.

Craft With Conscience: Chloe Amy Avery

Sarah Benning

Chloe Amy Avery // Embroidery Artist // London, UK


Chloe Amy Avery is a London based artist with a Masters Degree in surface textiles for fashion.  Chloe hand embroiders large scale, intricately detailed art-work as well as wearable pieces.  Her style is hyper-realistic impressionism, using food and nostalgia as the inspiration for her work. Food carries memory and culture.  It tells our stories. At first glance Chloe's work could be mistaken for paint.  But the atypical medium and texture of thread forces the viewer to question what they see.

Check out more of her amazing work on her Instagram or website.

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1. I began my #CraftWithConscience series as a way to simultaneously promote the work of other makers and to discuss the complicated issues surrounding creative inspiration and developing one’s own visual vocabulary. The internet is an ever growing fixture in many artists’ lives and businesses; could you talk about the role the internet plays in your artistic and professional life?

I create with thread. I create food inspired from nostalgia and memory. Food is such a critical part of who we are and having lived in different cities and abroad from where I was born and grew up I realised that food is a crucial part of people’s stories. As an artist I portray food using embroidery thread to give a sense of surprise to the viewer, something often mass produced and dismissible a sense of fun and nostalgia, re-crafted and reimagined. I was inspired by people’s food story. As I created I found the platform of social media so helpful to start conversation and be inspired for more of my work. I use Instagram to showcase my process and work and I have not only gained an amazing amount of support but an invaluable amount of insight into different cultures around food.

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2. Where do you find inspiration for your work?  In what ways has the internet and/or social media impacted your design process?

I find inspiration from the people I meet, the people I do life with and the city I live in. living in London gives you such a diversity of viewpoints and changes the way you view cultures and opens your eyes to how other people live. I find that sharing my process and my ideas on social media just adds to this wealth. I love that when you ask a question accompanying an image on Instagram the responses you get are so personal to each person.

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3. How have you, as an artist, found your creative voice?

 I have for years tried to find what I love and to find my voice. I love people. I love creating food inspired from people’s lives which enable to reminisce and smile. Having social media as a platform, has given me confidence to share what I love doing with a continuous interaction with my viewer.

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4. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram are popular places for artists’ to share their own work. They also act as public visual archives, often leading to creative work by others that walks the line between ‘inspiration’ and ‘infringement.’ Have you encountered copies of your work online and how does it affect you?  What are your strategies for dealing with it?  

 I guess with anything you create you are available for people to infringe your work. It is something as an artist that I do sometimes fear. I do have a word with myself, so as not to feel overwhelmed with frustration I tend to take the stance that if they were inspired and I helped someone be creative then great. I have to move on quickly and remember why I do what I do and where my inspiration comes from. I can’t help feel people have robbed themselves of producing something from their heart if they are mimicking other artists.

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5. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or creative business people?

I’m so early in my creative career that I feel unready to provide advice, but what I would say is keep coming back to where you started. I know why I was inspired and what I set out to do. Constantly reminding yourself of that is so helpful.

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6. Do you have any favourite blogs, artists, or Instagram accounts that you’d like to share?

 I have a few Instagram pages that I love. Two of which are friends. Lakwena is a London based artist whose use of text and colour is such an inspiration. The second is a a very dear friend who I grew up with, but now lives in the U.S.A, her page hello_little_darlings explores the use of colour, textiles and pattern in a bohemian style. I love her design and use of colour and texture. The last of my favourites is such an inspiration to what I do - Cayce Zavaglia uses thread to create spectacular portraits. Her use of colour to create hyper realistic portraits is a true inspiration. Although we have never met in person, she’s been so incredibly helpful to me and I think I can call her a friend.

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All images provided by the Artist.

Craft With Conscience: Patricia Larocque of Ffembroidery

Sarah Benning

Patricia Larocque // Embroidery Artist // Lyon France


Patricia Larocque is a Canadian embroidery artists currently struggling in Lyon, France. She works from her home studio which is really just her kitchen table let's be real. She currently enjoys creating anxiety ridden patches that are close to life representations of herself and her daily life. She enjoys being her own boss and hopes that one day she'll be about to quit her day job.

Check out more of her amazing work at her website or instagram.

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1. I began my #CraftWithConscience series as a way to simultaneously promote the work of other makers and to discuss the complicated issues surrounding creative inspiration and developing one’s own visual vocabulary. The internet is an ever growing fixture in many artists’ lives and businesses, could you talk about the role the internet plays in your artistic and professional life?

Well I'm a huge social media junky and pusher and sad meme collector. Without Internet I'd be sitting at home bored with nothing to stream (I only watch tv shows and movies when I stitch) and obvs ffembroidery wouldn't exist without Tumblr or Instagram. It's the one way I connect day to day and really socialize with ppl and other artists, is that sad? ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ . Ffembroidery first started on tumblr, I began to upload photos of my embroidered bags and started getting messages asking if I was going to start a store. I didn't have a smartphone until 2014, my Instagram and store were first created then. It took me 2 years before I really started to care and curate my Instagram into what it is today. Since then I've really started to grow my business with the help of Instagram mostly.

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2. Where do you find inspiration for your work?  In what ways has the internet and/or social media impacted your design process?

Oh I have a boring answer that everyone says but it's true! I find my inspiration from everyday life, Ideas just pop in my head, I'll see colour combos that I like and be inspired. I also need to leave the house once a day to refresh my brain so that helps. I only take my drawing supplies out of the house with me. Everything I make starts out as a doodle and drawing is my therapy, as well as embroidery. All the cringe ugh-faced girls are all just me. The pressure to create more and always have something new to post can be challenging, I enjoy it mostly with a few normal breakdowns in between. I put pressure on myself a lot but you gotta be able to overcome that and keep creating and keep pushing yourself to come up with better ideas, which is a welcome challenge.

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3. How have you, as an artist, found your creative voice?

I don't know if I have fully, I just do what I like to do and make what I think looks cool. I've been experimenting for almost 7 years with my embroidery and only until quite recently have I thought that I'm on a good path and really enjoy what I make and that I have found a style that is my own. I'm still trying new things and want to make more changes soon and I'll always be experimenting I think and as an artists you should challenge yourself as you become too comfortable in one style.

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4. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram are popular places for artists’ to share their own work. They also act as public visual archives, often leading to creative work by others that walks the line between ‘inspiration’ and ‘infringement.’ Have you encountered copies of your work online and how does it affect you? What are your strategies for dealing with it?

Full blown copies? no, teenage girls tagging me in photos saying they are "inspired by me" yes. Which irks me, sorry kids! In my head I feel like I'm not commercial enough to be copied by a big company so I'm not too worried but at the same time you gotta know it's gonna happen. If it did happen (from a bigger company) real talk I'd be pissed and probably cry, I've cried for less and then I'd get pissed and blast them and hope I'd have support? Instagram is notorious for copycats. I enjoy uploading photos, sharing what I do, I enjoy the support and nice comments and I would continue to create original pieces. But when I do find someone random who has been a little too inspired, my way of dealing with it is...as much as I would love to call someone out I usually just message them and tell'em straight but try to be kind and not sassy about it...which is v-hard for me. That's usually the end of it....phew!

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5. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or creative business people?

I would just say be yourself and work hard...Try shit out and give it time. I always get messages for advice and honestly if you're not willing to put in the time or allow yourself some patience then move on to something else? Also don't do shit for free, I think working for exposure can be a tricky thing and unless you feel super supported or working for something you love then don't do it. If a blogger (is that still a thing.. "influencer" is maybe a better word) wants shit for free don't do it, if they love what you do then they will support you and buy something. Doing a swap with a fellow artist who you love can be a really cool way to meet another artist and potentially lead to collabs and new opportunities. I'm not good at giving advice because even if it looks like I know what I'm doing, I don't! I freak out, get anxious and wondering what the hell am I doing on the daily.

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6. Do you have any favorite blogs, artists, or Instagram accounts that you’d like to share?

I love @emotionalclub Instagram, it's full of sad relatable memes. Sofia Salazar @__hiedra__ is my homie who creates cool shit, @thefiberstudio got me to 1000 followers and is a rad site for discovering fiber artists if that's what you're into. @embellishedtalk is also super cool for interesting interviews and textiles. Jenny hart @embroidery, mom, hers was the only cool embroidery I saw at the time back in the day when I first started, didn't have a smartphone or Instagram and had to google everything.

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All images provided by the artist.

Craft With Conscience: Elsie Goodwin

Sarah Benning

Elsie Goodwin // Fiber Artist // Chino Hillso, Ca


Elsie Goodwin is a Fiber Artist, Wife and Mother to two girls. Her focus is on Macrame, but she has a strong background in Knitting and Crochet and has most recently taken up Floor Loom Weaving and Punch Needle; yes, tell her your craft involves fiber and she is in. She offers Do-it-Yourself Macrame Patterns and Kits as well as teaches workshops and thrives most when she is able to teach others.

Check out her amazing work at Reformfibers.com or her Instagram and Facebook page.

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1. I began my #CraftWithConscience series as a way to simultaneously promote the work of other makers and to discuss the complicated issues surrounding creative inspiration and developing one’s own visual vocabulary. The internet is an ever growing fixture in many artists’ lives and businesses, could you talk about the role the internet plays in your artistic and professional life?

Let's start with Professionally; it has allowed me to share my craft with others and to create a community and connection that I was searching for. The foremost important part is Instagram, which has helped me to hone my own eye and voice in the creative world. I am thankful to it daily and know it changed the direction of my life and focus. Artistically I use the internet to search for inspiration, not looking at other artist work, but at Interior spaces to allow myself to imagine how my work would look there, how would it add to, enhance, just be a part of?

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2. Where do you find inspiration for your work?  In what ways has the internet and/or social media impacted your design process?

I find inspiration everywhere, magazines, books, blogs, instagram, when I am out and about, and often times from my husband and daughters. I don't keep up with very many Macrame Artist as I don't want to inadvertently be inspired by them, it's more so artist from other crafts and a lot of Home, Lifestyle, Fashion and Parenting sites. The internet makes you feel like the world is at your fingertips, I can spend hours on Apartment Therapy, Sunset Magazine, Mother Mag...

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3. How have you, as an artist, found your creative voice?

I have found my creative voice by doing the work, and more work, and more work. Through the process I learned that I have a style that feels my own, which is a lot of structure with clean and hard lines. My actual voice or the tone/vibe in the creative world stands out more than my work though. I aim to be a place of encouragement and like to make Macrame super accessible and easy to understand and my way of sharing has allowed me to grow a community that feels accepted and comfortable in pursuing their own creative interest.

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4. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram are popular places for artists’ to share their own work. They also act as public visual archives, often leading to creative work by others that walks the line between ‘inspiration’ and ‘infringement.’ Have you encountered copies of your work online and how does it affect you? What are your strategies for dealing with it?

Yes, yes, inspiration vs. infringement, I have experienced people copying my work and I've come to a place where I accept it as a part of my success. It use to bum me out, but I have learned that if I need to explain myself to someone, about their copying my work, than they probably won't get it anyway, it's most likely a waste of my time and energy. You know, they should know that it would be too close for comfort and if they don't then it's not worth bringing it up.

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5. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or creative business people?

My advice would be to do the work, day in and day out, even when nobody is watching, eventually they will. Explore all of your creative interest and curiosities, you never know where they will lead you. And document your process, people enjoy seeing the behind the scene shots, what may seem boring and mundane to you may be super interesting to someone just starting out, or it may make them feel like, oh, me too, I do that or like that also.

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6. Do you have any favorite blogs, artists, or Instagram accounts that you’d like to share?

I am endlessly inspired by @_jujujust for her color, @tammykanat for her innovation, @christabelbalfour for her clean lines, @HeidiMerrick for her laid back California Cool clothes, @alexisreneesassard for her effortless interior shots and @ren_vois who is becoming a close friend and is totally doing the work, has found her own voice in a competitive market and her friendliness makes her super fun to be around.

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Craft With Conscience: Liz Payne

Sarah Benning

Liz Payne // textile and fiber artist // Sydney Australia


Liz Payne is an artist from Sydney, Australia. With a background in the visual arts and graphic design, Liz combines this experience with her love of textiles & embroidery to produce work that breaks the stereotypes of embroidery as a medium. Often working on a large scale, Liz’s work blends hand painted fabric with thread, beads and sequins whilst she explores colour, shape and pattern, drawing references from an ancient world and bringing it into the today. Liz regularly exhibits her work in Australia and abroad, and has recently collaborated with the iconic fashion label Gorman to produce clothing, homewares & accessories of her vibrant artworks.

Check out more of her amazing work on her website or Instagram.

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 1. I began my #CraftWithConscience series as a way to simultaneously promote the work of other makers and to discuss the complicated issues surrounding creative inspiration and developing one’s own visual vocabulary. The internet is an ever growing fixture in many artists’ lives and businesses, could you talk about the role the internet plays in your artistic and professional life?

 The internet definitely plays an integral role, and not just for artists, but for everyone these days. It’s fast, free and easy to use. I was never interested in any of the ‘social media’ platforms a few years ago, instead being more reliant on the traditional methods of getting your art out there. I was finally convinced though, and I’m so glad I did. I was initially drawn to Instagram because it could act as a portfolio of my work, which was great especially in the early days before having my website.

An obvious advantage is having your work seen by people all over the world just at the touch of your fingertips. This can be great as it can lead to opportunities that might not have come your way if you didn’t put yourself out there. However, the (major) downside to that is your work also gets seen by people who unfortunately will copy it, and infringement becomes an issue. I still love using Instagram though - I find when a lot of the time you work by yourself, it’s nice to get feedback from people - and that’s quite encouraging & motivating. I feel lucky to have connected with so many other creatives who are on this platform.

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2. Where do you find inspiration for your work?  In what ways has the internet and/or social media impacted your design process?

 I get inspiration from multiple faceted disciplines. I’m immensely inspired by historical influences such as the beautiful cloths, textiles and beaded artefacts from countries such as Nigeria, Africa, Guatemala, Mexico & Uzbekistan. I’m also inspired by the latest in design from everything fashion, interior & furniture and I like to keep up to date with what’s new. Drawing on the past and pairing it with what’s new, or not even ‘new’ yet, but what’s next - sums up my work aesthetic as well.

The internet has been an important tool in opening doors in which these inspirations can be so easily accessed. Now, we are able to virtually visit exhibitions that are on in New York, research artefacts from galleries across the world, be able to look at rugs from Morocco... Now more than ever, we literally have access to everything. I regularly use sites like Pinterest to access imagery to some of these things, but I think it is still so important to not just rely on that - instead making the effort to go visit galleries, get inspiration from books, music, and just life in general.

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 3. How have you, as an artist, found your creative voice?

 Practice. And time! But I think I am still learning and establishing my creative voice. It’s a journey, and a process. I think with everything, practise leads to evolvement - and I hope I never stop wanting to learn, experiment and push myself further. I think when you are developing your own creative voice, it’s important to stick to what you believe in - for me I like pushing the boundaries of what is possible, and am always striving to push myself into developing something new.

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4. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram are popular places for artists’ to share their own work. They also act as public visual archives, often leading to creative work by others that walks the line between ‘inspiration’ and ‘infringement.’ Have you encountered copies of your work online and how does it affect you? What are your strategies for dealing with it?

 I have unfortunately been subject to seeing copies of my work. It can be really disheartening, and it’s a shame how frequently it happens. There is a lot of work that goes into creating an original artwork that you don’t always see, especially with Instagram, where it is a curated selection of images we choose to share. All the sketches & drawings, experiments, and the ups and downs of the creative process - all these steps contribute to the end image you see - and when someone sees that final image, then takes that idea and reproduces it - it takes away from the original. It can be frustrating but it’s also a reality, so I just try to rise above it and not let it bother me too much.

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5. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or creative business people?

 Stick to your guns! Believe in yourself and your own aesthetic. Don’t feel the rush of trying to keep up with other people, just run your own race.

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 6. Do you have any favorite blogs, artists, or Instagram accounts that you’d like to share?

 The tip of the iceberg of a few of my favourite instagram accounts:

 @mca_australia - One of the galleries in Sydney I frequent a lot

@camillewalala - I’m a sucker for print and colour and this lady’s got it in spades

@_sightunseen_ - The best of what’s new in design and art

@leahreenagoren - I’m obsessed by everything she makes

@archdigest - The International Design Authority

@delmoregallery - Australian gallery with an amazing Aboriginal art collection

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All images provided by the artist

 

Craft With Conscience: Rose Pearlman

Sarah Benning

Rose Pearlman // Fiber Artist //  Brooklyn, NY


Rose Pearlman is an artist and art teacher who focuses on textile design. For the past 6 years she has used the traditional method of rug hooking to make modern abstract compositions in fiber. Always the teacher, Rose loves creating new ways of making things simply, and leads a wide range of workshops in the NYC area. In 2014, she invented the craft tool the “Loome”, a hand-held fiber tool that combines weaving, cording, making pom-poms, tassels and friendship bracelets. Her self published craft book, ‘Tied with String’ is an exploration of similar DIY projects and ideas. Her book, along with her OAK Rug Hooking Kits are sold at Purl Soho in NYC. She currently lives in Brooklyn with her husband and two children and an impressive closet full of rug yarn.

Check out more of her amazing work on Instagram or her website.

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1. I began my #CraftWithConscience series as a way to simultaneously promote the work of other makers and to discuss the complicated issues surrounding creative inspiration and developing one’s own visual vocabulary. The internet is an ever growing fixture in many artists’ lives and businesses, could you talk about the role the internet plays in your artistic and professional life?

The internet can be complicated. On my good days it inspires and engages me. It’s an invaluable tool to build an audience and create a community with those who share a common interest. I am very grateful for social media’s wide reach, and the ability to have an audience that extends further than cities and friends. I am also grateful for those who use social media to encourage and support others, and this, more than anything else, motivates me to create art and inspires me to push personal boundaries.

But it’s easy to go down the social media rabbit hole. The internet can breed lots of insecurity and an exhausting stream of distraction. When you feel depleted yourself, seeing others successes and idealized homes, family, wardrobe, body, etc. can be overwhelming. Not to mention the time wasted while scrolling endless content. Limiting myself on the internet is really the only way I can gain control over it’s consuming power and focus on its positivity.

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2. Where do you find inspiration for your work?  In what ways has the internet and/or social media impacted your design process?

 Social media opens up the world of art without having to leave the home. As important as it is to see and experience art in person, the internet has made all types of creative work accessible to everyone. From art to nature, the internet is an endless source of incredible content. When I stumble upon something on my feed that leaves an impression, I take screen shot. Then, when I am at a loss, I often refer back to these images for inspiration. 

But seeing art through a screen is limiting and sometimes deceptive. The internet is a series of curated images, many of which use a great deal of ‘smoke and mirrors’ and look the way they do, with a combination of angles, light and filters. Creativity is sparked not just visually, but with touch, smell, feel, and sound. Being present in a moment helps you remember the experience without the need for visual reminders. Seeing a painting on a wall stays with me much longer than seeing the same painting on a screen. 

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3. How have you, as an artist, found your creative voice?

 I admire many creative people whose work is very different than my own. I find others abilities both inspiring and aspirational. But I know that their skills are not my own. While my art can be improved upon with practice, it cannot be forced into any other style. My parents are both painters, and I am comforted by similarities between their work and my own. It’s as if I inherited a certain sensibility and to fight it would be pointless. Within my quirky abstract designs, there is always structure. My compositions are worked on until they feel right, even if that “right’ is something only I can see. For me, rug hooking is the fiber medium most like painting. The punching technique is simple to master so your energy can be spent on composition and color. It is also easy to change your mind and undo your work. I have created entire pieces only to pull it all out and start again. With rug hooking you can easily pull stitches out to reuse the same cloth backing and fiber without waste.

Also, after years of creating and storing paintings, it’s very satisfying to make pillows, rugs, bags and other practical home goods that can be used. 

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4. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram are popular places for artists’ to share their own work. They also act as public visual archives, often leading to creative work by others that walks the line between ‘inspiration’ and ‘infringement.’ Have you encountered copies of your work online and how does it affect you? What are your strategies for dealing with it?

As an artist and teacher, it’s my goal to inspire and help others create, but there is a fine line between inspiration and stealing. I have seen my ideas bounce back at me through the internet in subtle and not so subtle ways by individuals who try and profit off my original ideas. And as a creative you feel powerless in both preventing it from happening and claiming ownership when it does. It definitely stings and leaves you feeling helpless. The only comfort I can offer is this, your work was copied because it was special. No one that imitates you can do it like you can. If what was copied is something so important thatdefines you and your creativity, then the best way to gain control back is to do more of it. It will become very apparent where the originality lies when your passion for your art shines through.

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5. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or creative business people?

 My best advice for artists, is not to compromise their unique vision to fit someone else’s standards. Those who are drawn to your work will like it for what it is. Pleasing others comes at a cost, and often takes the pleasure out of creating and compromises your art. That goes for business as well. If the business aspect of creating has taken over, and compromised your love for what you do, then you need to go back and reassess your goals.

I grew my business at a very slow speed. I would only buy my supplies with the money I had already earned. Investing and risk taking might work for some people, but slow growth can also work. Starting off, I would compare my business with others that were perfectly branded and slick. Instead of waiting until my work looked “perfect’’, I just put out the content I had and improved upon it as I went along. In the beginning this meant iPhone photos, a bare bones website, limited social media content, etc. Once I acquired new skills, or made enough money, I then put them back into the business to improve itsoverall appearance. Today it is still far from perfect, but the important part is just to start, and know that you can improve upon these things as you go along.

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6. Do you have any favorite blogs, artists, or Instagram accounts that you’d like to share?

 Some of my favorite art inspiration Instagram feeds :

      @altoonsultan – check out her amazing hooked art.

      @littleartforms

     @b.d.graft

     @parade.pimlico.pearl

     @d_anselmi

     @maxinesuttontextiles

     @stuffwithprints

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All images provided by the artist

 

 

Craft With Conscience: Stewart Easton

Sarah Benning

Stewart Francis Easton // Illustrator and embroidery artist // London uk


Breaking the traditional boundaries of craft, Stewart Francis Easton’s work fuses together hand embroidery, sonic art and design based illustration. For Easton’s latest works he has been removing the ‘storyline’ of a visual narrative by creating geometric / graphic forms in stitch. This reassembling of his work ethic in a conscious measured layout enables the viewer to be free of their preconceptions of story. Using a process of abstract minimal stitch he is enabling himself to create a visual reference to an ever changing pathway and reaching for a utopian form. Easton’s stitch work blurs the lines between craft, illustration and fine art making his work dynamic and progressive and a must see. Stewart Francis Easton is a visual storyteller based in London who works in thread, ink, paint and digital media.

Check out more of his amazing work on his website or instagram

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1. I began my #CraftWithConscience series as a way to simultaneously promote the work of other makers and to discuss the complicated issues surrounding creative inspiration and developing one’s own visual vocabulary. The internet is an ever growing fixture in many artists’ lives and businesses, could you talk about the role the internet plays in your artistic and professional life?

The Internet for me as a multi disciplinary artist has been a goldmine for source material. Since working with sound and stitch and collaborating with other artists the Web has allowed me to make contact with those artists whom are a real inspiration to me and my practice. It’s shown a human side of works and their creators. Growing up in the 90’s and seeing works in books and galleries the artist always seemed outside of my scope of vision. With the super fast growth of the net and especially social media things are a little closer and accessible. Though there it does have it’s downside too. We seem to have lost our ability to look outside, and slow down. I was taking to my son (who has just gotten his first record player) the other day about collecting records and going to record fairs and having to search through magazines and speak to people about music. And then the excitement of finding and discovering a record. We don’t do this anymore, life is too instant now. It’s why we sew!

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2. Where do you find inspiration for your work?  In what ways has the internet and/or social media impacted your design process?

I tend to find inspiration in most places. Galleries are the main point for inspiration. Seeing the physical painting, drawing, artwork etc. I don’t think anything can really beat this for the drive to better yourself and to sit and create. Aside from galleries music and story plays a major part in my design process. Trying to interpret a tone in a piece of music or the rhythm in a story plays an important role in my process more so than viewing an image on social media on a small hand held device. The net has been great in giving a platform for the DIY artist. I wouldn’t say there is a spirit of punk as such but everyone now has a voice- if they want to use it. So in this way I get to see works which not are being driven and promoted by Collectors and Dealers. It’s gonna be interesting to see haw this develops.

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 3. How have you, as an artist, found your creative voice?

It’s quite ironic really that I criticise social media and its time consuming habits, but I guess that at the start of my creative practice it was Myspace which propelled me and gave me the confidence to push on.

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4. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram are popular places for artists’ to share their own work. They also act as public visual archives, often leading to creative work by others that walks the line between ‘inspiration’ and ‘infringement.’ Have you encountered copies of your work online and how does it affect you? What are your strategies for dealing with it?

I’ve been quite lucky in that i’ve not been ‘copied’ as such. I once had a chap contact me and ask if I could create the artwork for his latest release. I had to decline as was too busy. Then a friend sent me a photo of a flyer - the guy had copied one of my drawings for the artwork. It was awful! Looked real bad, so I jest left him to it. He had a real bad record sleeve - Karma! My partner is an illustrator and has had her worked copied before, and also used for T-shirts etc. without her permission. You just have contact and hope they are decent folk. I think one of her designs which was used was licensed to a major corporation so when she contacted and told them this and that she would be contacting the company and pass their details on these smaller companies tend to flap. But I have heard of bigger companies stealing designs etc.

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5. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or creative business people?

My main advice for new artists is to be patient. To breakthrough takes time, takes years. Lots of folk try and push. Spend a year or two and don’t reach the heights that they want then they give up. It’s strange path to follow as it’s ever moving, your goal posts are not static so you need to be flexible too. So be patent, flexible and keep on creating.

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6. Do you have any favorite blogs, artists, or Instagram accounts that you’d like to share?

My favourite instagram accounts of the moment are:

@britishculturearchive -reminds me of my youth in Coventry, England.

@iranianoutsiderart -wealth of creativity

@damienhoardegalvan - I wish I made everything Damien makes

@jonasbrwood - same as the above

@clairescully - I’m lucky in that I get to share my life with these drawings and lass. The skills blows my mind

@jonklassen - He’s a force to be reckoned with! Everything he does is genius.

@carsonellis - As with Jon Klassen and Claire Scully these guys

draw worlds I want to live in

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Craft With Conscience: Olga Prinku

Sarah Benning

Olga Prinku // Designer and maker // North Yorkshire, UK


Olga Prinku is a designer and maker behind prinku.com, originally a handmade wool goods business. She has a background in graphic design, but has always had a strong connection to traditional craft. More recently she's started experimenting with floral art by creating floral designs with real dry flowers on tulle, a technique she developed while styling photos for Instagram that looks like a cross between embroidery and wreath making.

Check out more of her beautiful work on her website, Instagram or Youtube Channel

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1. I began my #CraftWithConscience series as a way to simultaneously promote the work of other makers and to discuss the complicated issues surrounding creative inspiration and developing one’s own visual vocabulary. The internet is an ever growing fixture in many artists’ lives and businesses, could you talk about the role the internet plays in your artistic and professional life?

It’s a double-edged sword. I find it a wonderful way to spark my creativity and share my ideas, but I’m always in danger of getting sucked into spending so much time online that I don’t actually bring those ideas to life. In the past I’ve certainly been guilty of spending too much time on Pinterest and Instagram, in particular. I’m getting better at finding the right balance by forcing myself to restrict the time I spend online and use it a more focused way. More fundamentally, I love that the internet is such an open and democratic space and there’s so much serendipity. It’s so easy to share your ideas and you never know who will see them or what might come of it.

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2. Where do you find inspiration for your work?  In what ways has the internet and/or social media impacted your design process?

A lot of my inspiration comes from daily experiences - going for walks and looking at shapes and forms and patterns in nature, or even just gazing out of the window when I’m in the passenger seat of a car and observing what’s growing at the side of the road. Social media has actually had a very big impact on the direction of my ideas because of the way it enables you to see which ideas strike a chord with people. I initially started making wreaths just for styling pictures of my knitted goods, and I started to get nice comments on the wreaths so that pushed me to experiment more with floral creations.

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3. How have you, as an artist, found your creative voice?

I guess by constantly experimenting and challenging myself and trying to see how far I can push an idea. Also, I’ve learned to try not to think about the destination or purpose of an idea and put myself under pressure to achieve it. I try instead just to enjoy the making process and see where it takes me.

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4. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram are popular places for artists’ to share their own work. They also act as public visual archives, often leading to creative work by others that walks the line between ‘inspiration’ and ‘infringement.’ Have you encountered copies of your work online and how does it affect you? What are your strategies for dealing with it?

If it’s not an idea you can patent then you just have to focus on the positive. I find it exciting when people get inspired by what I do and I’m always happy to be open about what I do and how I do it - for example I recently started a YouTube channel, although I still have a lot to learn about making videos. Especially with the idea of weaving with dry flowers, it’s very experimental and I know there’s a lot I don’t know, so I’m excited to see where others might take it. Ultimately, I think you have to see it as a challenge to keep developing your own style  and to stay fresh and creative.

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5. Do you have any favorite blogs, artists, or Instagram accounts that you’d like to share?

I’ve recently been discovering some great botanical artists - when I first started experimenting with crafting with flowers, I didn’t think of it as botanical art or realise how many artists are working in this medium. I especially love the hanging installations by Rebecca Louise Law, botanical plaster casts by Rachel Dein, and ceramics by Vanessa Hogge and Hitomi Hosono

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All images provided by the artist.

Craft With Conscience: Arounna khounnoraj of Bookhou

Sarah Benning

Arounna khounnoraj // Designer and screen printer // Toronto, Canada


Arounna is a fibre artist living in Toronto. She also runs bookhou, a multidisciplinary studio that focuses on screen printing in the making of a variety of goods including bags and home decor items using natural materials. She also works with her husband John Booth in designing and making wood furniture and accessories.  

Check out more of their amazing work on their website or instagram or try your hand at punch needle art with Arounna's collaboration with The Crafter's Box!

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1. I began my #CraftWithConscience series as a way to simultaneously promote the work of other makers and to discuss the complicated issues surrounding creative inspiration and developing one’s own visual vocabulary. The internet is an ever growing fixture in many artists’ lives and businesses, could you talk about the role the internet plays in your artistic and professional life?   

We started bookhou when the intersection of the internet and craft was in it's infancy. We worked in our studio and our brick and mortar shop the way most artists did, but realized the importance of connecting to our customers by blogging and sharing our studio processes.  Today I feel that the internet is the most important place for our work and a crucial element in our business not just for sales and reaching a far larger market than I would otherwise be able to just through our shop and craft shows, but also for me as a maker to be able to connect to people around the world as a place to create our narrative and share our story.  The potential for connection has helped us create a following and community for both marketing our goods as well as collaborations with other artists.

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2. Where do you find inspiration for your work?  In what ways has the internet and/or social media impacted your design process?

I get inspiration from a variety of sources - everyday things, nature and botanical samples and the world of modern art since I started my creative life as an artist in sculpture and printmaking. In many ways, though, the internet has changed how I access other artists and design by replacing the way I use to look at print, like books and magazines. It's so accessible now, and I now have to be careful not to get inundated by all the info.  Finding kindred spirits in work is a great assurance in one's work. In other ways I feel that social media has helped keep me disciplined by forcing me to present my work according to a schedule, and also to flush out ideas and get feedback from my online community.

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3. How have you, as an artist, found your creative voice?  

I have always focused on the handmade. Whether it is purely decorative items or more useful things, we have always emphasized the fact that it is made by us in our studio. The social media that parallels our work allows us to create a presence in peoples lives. Even though I'm interested in a variety of media in the studio I find that showing the process of the work helps people to understand the work and the love I have for it. People love the world of handmade in contrast to much of the consumer world and I find that what I make and how I spend my time resonates with people and it gives us a unique voice.

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4. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram are popular places for artists’ to share their own work. They also act as public visual archives, often leading to creative work by others that walks the line between ‘inspiration’ and ‘infringement.’ Have you encountered copies of your work online and how does it affect you? What are your strategies for dealing with it?  

 We have been copied so much and at first I would get really angry and be hurt by someone benefiting from my hard work. It's so hard to pursue copiers and get them to stop, but I find that more often that those merely being inspired or learning will eventually find their own voice and those who are just copying will eventually stop altogether. Copying is one thing but lacking an underlying creative drive or ideas is quite another and will lead to their downfall. I now take a different approach, if I get copied I try to change the work and try something different, so in a way the copiers help me grow in my work and process.

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5. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or creative business people?

I think the best thing to do is to make work that you love and believe in rather than follow trends and not to worry about what someone else is doing - put blinders on and focus on what you are doing. And work hard!

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6. Do you have any favorite blogs, artists, or Instagram accounts that you’d like to share?

well I love your work, I'm a fan of Ann Wood. her intricate paper structures are so beautiful, Elisabeth Dunker, who I think I have been following her since the beginning and love everything she does, My dear friend Margie Oomen in how her photos resonate her love for nature.

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All images provided by the artist.

Craft With Conscience: Katherine Entis

Sarah Benning

Katherine Entis // Designer and Textile Artist // Portland OR


Katherine Entis is a designer, fiber artist and founder of Soft Century out of Portland, Oregon.  Influenced by memories of touch and sight Katherine's work acts as studies of material, color, and composition. Drawing from landscapes both real and imagined, her recent series of knit paintings are an exploration of color and texture that come together as a collection to tell a larger story.

check out more of amazing work at Soft Century or her Instagram.

 Photo credit: Ricardo Nagoaka

Photo credit: Ricardo Nagoaka

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1. I began my #CraftWithConscience series as a way to simultaneously promote the work of other makers and to discuss the complicated issues surrounding creative inspiration and developing one’s own visual vocabulary. The internet is an ever growing fixture in many artists’ lives and businesses, could you talk about the role the internet plays in your artistic and professional life?

The internet has allowed me to connect with makers from around the world. We share business information, contacts, or even just encouragement. Many of my Instagram friends have become real friends who have shown me how to move forward when I've felt stuck. To see so many talented people working hard is inspiring.

When it comes to finding new creative works, social media is a great roadmap to what's happening at any given moment. It's always there for a quick source of visual stimulus, but, more importantly, points me toward works, stores, and shows to go see in person. Pictures and videos are great, but especially in textiles, there's no substitute for being able to get up close and touch something.

 Photo credit: Ricardo Nagoaka

Photo credit: Ricardo Nagoaka

2. Where do you find inspiration for your work?  In what ways has the internet and/or social media impacted your design process?

For me, social media is largely a source of ideas for sales models, styling, and marketing, which are a huge part of trying to build a sustainable business. When it comes to my products, however, I find a lot of inspiration in other mediums like furniture, film, animation, illustration, and painting, or even less direct sources like food or landscapes. Before textiles, I studied painting, so that approach to composition has always been a big part of my creative process.

 Photo credit: Ricardo Nagoaka

Photo credit: Ricardo Nagoaka

3. How have you, as an artist, found your creative voice?

I do my best work when I am able to trust the creative process and not worry too much about outcomes. It took me a long time to truly understand that most of the ideas I have will end up in the trash can--metaphorically, of course! I never throw out material if I can avoid it.

You can't force a good idea. One of the ways that I learned to accept that was by focusing on quantifiable goals and not worrying too much about outcomes. So instead of saying, "I need to make my best pillowcase ever," I try to say, "I'm going to weave two pillowcases by Wednesday." I think long-term success is more about staying focused and working hard than making something that you absolutely love every time you sit down.

 Photo credit: Kennett Mohrman with art direction by Elizabeth Sonenfeld

Photo credit: Kennett Mohrman with art direction by Elizabeth Sonenfeld

4. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram are popular places for artists’ to share their own work. They also act as public visual archives, often leading to creative work by others that walks the line between ‘inspiration’ and ‘infringement.’ Have you encountered copies of your work online and how does it affect you? What are your strategies for dealing with it?

Fortunately, my work hasn't been directly copied by anyone that I know of (yet). I occasionally see a new artist who I know is familiar with my work playing with similar concepts, but I would never claim to have invented those techniques in a field as ancient as textiles. To a certain extent, that's part of the process of give and take that goes along with any creative work.

 Photo credit: Kennett Mohrman with art direction by Elizabeth Sonenfeld

Photo credit: Kennett Mohrman with art direction by Elizabeth Sonenfeld

5. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or creative business people?

Remember that there is always a hidden side to your favorite artists or businesses. Behind what is shared on social media, there are a lot of late nights and self-doubt. No one ever begins as an expert at their craft. You have to start somewhere, and the best way to do that is just to start. Everything you think is cool is being done by someone a lot like you.

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 Photo credit: Kennett Mohrman with art direction by Elizabeth Sonenfeld
 Photo credit: Kennett Mohrman with art direction by Elizabeth Sonenfeld

Photo credit: Kennett Mohrman with art direction by Elizabeth Sonenfeld

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 Photo credit: Kennett Mohrman with art direction by Elizabeth Sonenfeld

Photo credit: Kennett Mohrman with art direction by Elizabeth Sonenfeld

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All images provided by the artist.

Craft With Conscience: Lacy Van Court of Die Trying TX

Sarah Benning

Lacy Van Court // Artist and Patch Maker // Austin, TX


Die Trying TX, headquartered in Austin, was founded by Lacy Van Court.  Lacy comes from a dusty, long line of West Texas misfits and ranchers that have been in Texas just about as long as Texas has been around. Growing up she spent the summers on her Grandparents’ ranch; where her Grandmother Billie, a Texas landscape painter, inspired a love of making things with her hands by teaching Lacy, among many other things, how to sew and paint. Lacy later went on to earn a BFA in painting from the The Maryland Institute College of Art. Her family history, those early summers, and her home state have always been at the heart of her work as an artist.

After working in a variety of creative fields and mediums, she was drawn to the art of chainstitch by its combination of craft, its deep roots in western American culture, and as a way to continue to express the themes important to her work. Using the same hand operated machines that were used to create traditional western wear, Die Trying TX offers a line of one of a kind pieces meant to be collected, loved and lived in.

Check out more of her amazing work on her website or instagram.
 

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1. I began my #CraftWithConscience series as a way to simultaneously promote the work of other makers and to discuss the complicated issues surrounding creative inspiration and developing one's own visual vocabulary. The internet is an ever growing fixture in many artist’s lives and businesses, could you talk about the role the internet plays in your artistic and professional life?

The internet plays a huge role in my work both artistically and professionally. Artistically, it’s a well of inspiration and a way to connect with other artists and makers; professionally it’s been key to getting my work out there and connecting with customers. Instagram in particular has been crucial in allowing me to be doing what I do full time.

The way people shop has changed so much and the internet has really allowed small businesses and artists to find a space to showcase their work (and be discovered by people from all over the world) without leaving their homes. The days of having to have a physical storefront or gallery are over and it’s allowed so many people, myself included, to pursue their creative passions in a way that would never have been possible before.

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2. Where do you find inspiration for your work?  In what ways has the internet and/or social media impacted your design process?

I draw inspiration from my background. Growing up in Texas, I’ve always been drawn to western motifs, landscapes, and traditions. I’m also inspired by contemporary painting, fiber art, ceramics, and country music. The internet is a key part of my design process because it affords such a great way to source inspiration and organize it. I especially love how Instagram has the new bookmarking tool that you can create different folders with. I keep files for all sorts of inspiration from landscapes to color combos. I’m also really into the new iPad pro and pen tool… It’s totally changed the way I draw and come up with ideas.

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3. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram are popular places for artists’ to share their own work. They also act as public visual archives, often leading to creative work by others that walks the line between ‘inspiration’ and ‘infringement.’ Have you encountered copies of your work online and how does it affect you? What are your strategies for dealing with it?

I’ve never had someone copy my work directly but their are definitely other artists using similar imagery. Those similarities are mainly in the use of iconic images that have been used forever… horseshoes, cactus… You can’t own those images and if your going to use images that are universally popular, you have to be cool with other people using them as well. If I create a design that is really specific, I will trademark it, but otherwise I tend to not worry about it. I think seeing similar imagery also just pushes me to be more inventive in my designs and broaden my artistic scope.

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4. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or creative business people?

Connect with your customers and other artists. I’ve been so fortunate to connect with some really great chainstitchers and those connections have been invaluable both creatively and professionally. I also think that being generous to other artists is important. I always try to give as much information to people interested in learning chainstitch as I can. I firmly believe that the more chainstichers out there creates more awareness of the craft. More people engaged in the craft will ultimately benefit everyone working in the medium. I would also say it’s incredibly important to set clear goals and maintain a vision for your work. It’s so easy to get caught up doing what people want and filling orders that you can quickly lose the time to be creative. Figure out what you don’t want to do and be clear about it. It’s ok to say no. I tend to struggle with that but am learning that it’s really crucial to avoid burning out. The other key piece of advice is to just keep going, keep working, keep trying.  It’s not always easy and sometimes you make things that you don’t like or other people don’t like… but just keep it up. Everything takes hard work and time.

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5. Do you have any favorite blogs, artists, or Instagram accounts that you’d like to share?

Some of my fellow chainstitchers:

@jasonredwood

@elpatchembroidery

@dressedneworleans

@bengoetting

@b.blakely

Other accounts I enjoy following:

@markmaggioro

@strangedirt

@thehinysquirrel

@jadeantoine

@baileyhrobinson

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All images provided by the artist


Craft With Conscience: Caitlin Cass

Sarah Benning

 

Caitlin Cass // Comic Book Artist and Print Maker // Buffalo, NY


Caitlin Cass makes comics, drawings and counterfeit historical exhibits that folklorize historic failures and foretell grim futures.  Often working under the moniker, The Great Moments in Western Civilization Cooperative, she questions the authority of traditional historical narratives by co-opting their power for her own devices.  Caitlin draws and publishes a bimonthly comic periodical called The Great Moments in Western Civilization Postal Constituent. Her comics have also appeared in The Public and The Chicago Reader and online at The Nib. She has exhibited her drawings and counterfeit history exhibits nationally and internationally. Recent counterfeit historical exhibits include How to Fly in America (at Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center) and The Museum of Failure (which she has shown in Buffalo, Rochester and Washington, DC.) Caitlin lives and works in Buffalo, NY and teaches Art at Buffalo Seminary.

Check out more of her smart and hilarious work  on her website or Instagram

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1. I began my #CraftWithConscience series as a way to simultaneously promote the work of other makers and to discuss the complicated issues surrounding creative inspiration and developing one’s own visual vocabulary. The internet is an ever growing fixture in many artists’ lives and businesses, could you talk about the role the internet plays in your artistic and professional life?

I make comics primarily for print, but I keep an instagram account and I sell subscriptions to my mail order comic on the internet. I’ve made a few webcomics, but I love the purity of print. I love that printed objects can exist in the world as independent thoughts. The internet is so surrounded by everything all the time. When you are on the internet you always have multiple tabs open. There is all of this white noise. In order to see art online you have to block out a million people screaming. The second you finish looking at something you move onto another tab. It’s hard to take the time to digest anything. Printed ephemera touches individuals in their private, introverted space. There is no substitute for reading a thing in your hands and having a one-on-one experience with it. It becomes part of your life instead of this ethereal thing floating in the abyss of infinite content. I have a love/ hate relationship with the internet. It has helped me sell comics and share my art with a wider audience, but I think I often make stronger connections with people face to face at comics fairs and art shows.

2. Where do you find inspiration for your work?  In what ways has the internet and/or social media impacted your design process?

I find inspiration in daily life and in history. My favorite stories are ones that touch on a sort of bumbling human gumption in the face of failure. We are constantly innovating new ways to mess up and it’s horrible and incredible. I couldn’t make work like I do without the internet. This is the most apparent when I make a history comic, having immediate access to books and articles is amazingly helpful when doing research. What’s cool about the internet is that you don’t just have these trustworthy academic sources, you get the whole crusty lot of misinformation. I find this interesting because I try to “folklorize” history with my comics. I spin tall tales based in fact. This kind of behavior is all over the internet, as close as whitehouse.gov. Unlike the president, I don’t use this power to display my contorted sense of right and wrong, I use this power to ask questions and intentionally create ambiguity.

This can be problematic when creating things for the internet. There is such a push to identify “your brand” and streamline what you do so that you don’t confuse your audience. The thing is: life is ambiguous. Ambiguity inspires creative thought, it asks an audience to actively engage and interpret instead of passively looking. I value ambiguity so much that “branding” can be a real challenge. I think the key lies in layering your creative practice so that there is a clear cut surface interpretation with ambiguous undertones, but I’m definitely still working on this.

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3. How have you, as an artist, found your creative voice?

The single most helpful thing I did was set up a consistent outlet for sharing my work with an audience.  By setting up a subscription comic eight years ago, I became responsible for sending art to actual humans on a regular basis  (every month for the first three years and every other for the last five). This forced me to do the work (there were actual eyeballs waiting to look at things I made!) It also allowed me to experiment, because I didn’t feel pressure to succumb to online trends or to the advice of an editor.

This subscription model has a long history in comics and zines. John Porcello who makes King Kat comix has been doing it for almost 30 years. I am not sure what attracted me to this model at first. I studied printmaking in grad school and great books in undergrad so I definitely have an affinity for print culture. So maybe that’s what attracted me. It’s such a warm non-threatening way to share, and keeping to a schedule has helped ensure that I never stop making things. I make non-comic work too, drawings and art installations, but the Postal Constituent offers a sort of back bone for everything I do. It fuels my whole creative practice.

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4. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or creative business people?

Find deadlines. For me this meant starting a subscription comic, but you can also invite people to your house for studio visits (even if your studio is your living room), sign up to table at a comic or craft fair, apply to something that requires you to submit new work or have an art show in your apartment.  Anything that will force you to get things done.  Don’t wait for people to offer you opportunities to make things. Just make things.

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5. Do you have any favorite blogs, artists, or Instagram accounts that you’d like to share?

My favorite artist is Chris Ware. Aside from his skill at laying out a beautiful comics page he keeps inventing new ways of structuring pages to more closely reflect the way thoughts and memories form in our heads. You learn more about your mind reading his comics. I also adore Amy Cutler’s poetic drawings,  Ilya Kabakov’s installations and the Museum of Jurassic Technology.

On Instagram I love Emma Repp’s beautifully weird illustrations, Brecht Vandenbroucke’s paintings with their poignant social criticism and @the_nib for comics.

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Craft With Conscience: Julie Marriott

Sarah Benning

Julie Marriott // Painter and Pattern designer // San Diego California


Julie is a painter and pattern designer living in San Diego, California. Her work focuses on bold floral arrangements full of color and expressive brush strokes. She shares her passion for art through acrylic workshops, and through creating paintings and patterns that bring joyful color into your home.

Check out more of her amazing work on instagram, facebook, or her website.

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1. I began my #CraftWithConscience series as a way to simultaneously promote the work of other makers and to discuss the complicated issues surrounding creative inspiration and developing ones’ own visual vocabulary. The internet is an ever growing fixture in many artist’s lives and businesses, could you talk about the role the internet plays in your artistic and professional life?

Basically, the internet is the reason my business exists! My first introduction to the world of creative entrepreneurship came from reading blog articles and listening to podcasts. As I’ve learned and grown, the internet has stayed central to everything I do, from selling on my website shop, to marketing my art and workshops through social media, to sharing about my studio projects through my email newsletter. So much of what I’ve accomplished this far with my business is thanks to the power the internet gives me to connect with other creatives and art-lovers.

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2. Where do you find inspiration for your work? In what ways has the internet and/or social media impacted your design process?

Most of my inspiration comes from the online world (thank you, Pinterest and Google!), simply because the information is there at my fingertips exactly when I need it. I think of my paintings as big collages because I use a lot of different images to inform various parts of each piece. I’ll often use photos of interior decor as a jumping-off point for my color palette. Because I paint flowers so often, I’ll reference a bunch of bouquet or flower images based on the variety I need at the moment. My goal when using references is to filter them through my own painting style and interpret them in an expressive, more abstracted way.

3. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram are popular places for artists’ to share their own work. They also act as public visual archives, often leading to creative work by others that walks the line between ‘inspiration’ and ‘infringement.’ What are your strategies to move beyond making work that’s derivative of other artists? How have you, as an artist, found your creative voice?

I want to start by saying that I don’t think it’s wrong for us to be influenced by our artist heroes. Closely following the work of artists I love has played a huge role in giving me the inspiration and confidence to build my own creative business. That being said, as I’ve grown as an artist, I’ve had to discover how to be inspired by someone else’s work, then move on to create my own, instead of getting stuck feeling like that artist’s style is “the” way to create.

I’d like to share two pieces of advice I gathered from my journey toward developing aunique voice in my work:

1. Set boundaries for your art I know that setting boundaries sounds counter-intuitive to creativity, but narrowing the options of what to paint and how to paint it for a specific period of time has really worked for me. For example, try setting a goal to create a series of 5 or more pieces of a specific subject, in a specific way. I did this once where I painted a series of very flat, pattern-inspired floral wreaths where I didn’t blend any colors together on the canvas.

These self-imposed rules cut down on overwhelm and gave me the freedom to play and explore within those boundaries. Even though I didn’t continue painting in that exact style after the series, I learned things I liked and didn’t like about that painting process that informed my future work.

2. Collect a “visual vocabulary”

Look at the work of your favorite artists and ask yourself, “What is it that really, truly resonates with me about their work?” Slow down and get super specific. It could be how they pair warm and cool colors together, their style of mark-making, how their work evokes a strong emotion, etc. Don’t be afraid to cross into other creative disciplines when you’re collecting these details. Make a list of the elements that really move you on a gut level, then think about how you could incorporate a few of those ideas into your own work. Making a study of the specific elements that speak to you visually will help you get to the core of what you love.

For me, I found that I was consistently drawn to work that had a mix of complex neutrals and bold, clear colors, to florals that were abstracted and influenced by pattern, and to painting styles that showed the hand of the artist through imperfect mark-making and thick strokes. I began to experiment with these different elements in my own work, and have slowly developed to where I am today!

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4. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or creative business people?

Remember that finding your creative voice is an ongoing process, not a destination. You never really “arrive” at the final style you’ll use for the rest of your life. Your work will always have room to grow as you learn, experiment and follow what you love to create.

Also, be as consistent as possible about creating and sharing your work. It takes time for potential clients to develop a relationship with you and your brand, so just think about nurturing and giving a little more of yourself and your work to that relationship each time you share.

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5. Do you have any favorite blogs, artists, or Instagram accounts that you’d like to share?

I love the work of my friend, abstract painter Mya Bessette. Her nature-inspired paintings strike a beautiful balance between colorful movement and calm. You can find her on Instagram @myabessetteart.

The pattern designs of Audrey Smit of This Little Street always give me the hugest smile! They’re just so bright, cheerful and charming. She’s on Instagram @thislittlestreet

The Creative Pep Talk Podcast  has been a huge inspiration to me on my art journey. Andy is a fun and quirky illustrator, and he offers lots of practical food-for-thought about honing your craft as an artist.

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Studio photos by Katherine Beth Photography (www.katherinebethphotography.com) and swimsuit photo courtesy of Body Zone Swim (www.bodyzoneswim.com)

Craft With Conscience: Cindy Hsu Zell of WKNDLA

Sarah Benning

Cindy Hsu Zell // Fiber artist // Los Angeles, CA


Cindy Zell is a multidisciplinary artist based in Los Angeles. Her latest collection of large-scale fiber work features material-driven sculptures that explore gravity’s influence on form. Individual pieces serve as studies on curves, drape, weight, and movement, reinterpreting traditional techniques in rope-making. She also has a line of wall hangings and accessories called WKNDLA, which focuses on individually crafted brass pieces handmade with sustainability in mind.

Check out more of her amazing work at her websites WKNDLA  and Cindyzell.com as well as her Instagram accounts at @wkndla and @cindy.zell.

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1. I began my #CraftWithConscience series as a way to simultaneously promote the work of other makers and to discuss the complicated issues surrounding creative inspiration and developing ones’ own visual vocabulary. The internet is an ever growing fixture in many artist’s lives and businesses, could you talk about the role the internet plays in your artistic and professional life?

I learned how to make web sites and use Photoshop almost 18 years ago (I can’t believe it’s been that long!). The internet has played a really wonderful, important role in my life and I am grateful to be able to apply those skills I learned as a child to my profession today. I would say that Instagram in particular has had the most polarizing effects. I met some of my closest friends through the platform and they have become like family in real life. It has also given me a chance to share my work with customers from all over the world. I just shipped out my first wholesale orders to France and Switzerland and I never would have had these opportunities without social media. However, it is really easy to get trapped inside the bubble of gorgeously edited photos and forget that there’s a lot more to life than likes and followers. I am making more of an effort to focus on what’s around me instead of what’s on my phone.

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2. Where do you find inspiration for your work?  Do you work from life or from images and in what ways has the internet and/or social media impacted your design process?

I like to make things that I need myself, which is what inspired my new collection of earrings. In those cases, it’s easy to take inspiration from my own life and style to use in the design process. I like to combine that with my favorite artists and movements, like the works of Matisse, California Light and Space, and Memphis design. Above all, I am inspired by interesting combinations of shapes and colors that I find in the little details of textiles, architecture, and nature. Everything is inspiration. A bright, cobalt blue bicycle rack I found in my neighborhood inspired a lot of my squiggle-shaped pieces and color palettes. There are so many beautiful visuals available online and on social media but I feel like people often end up looking at the same things. It’s more fun to look beyond the screen for ideas.

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3. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram are popular places for artists’ to share their own work. They also act as public visual archives, often leading to creative work by others that walks the line between ‘inspiration’ and ‘infringement.’ Have you encountered copies of your work online and how does it affect you? What are your strategies for dealing with it?

I have encountered infringement and it can be very discouraging. It always surprises me when there is a blatant copy (in those cases I usually reach out and politely request that they take it down. In my experience, these situations have never required further legal action) but what really gets under my skin is when it is a subtle appropriation of my style or aesthetic that I cannot prove. I looked at the previous Craft with Conscience interviews to see how other artists deal with this and I have to admit that I am not as gracious as most! It takes me a while to really let it go. I used to think that if I got angry enough about how unfair it all is, that somehow the person it’s directed at will feel it. But that’s just not how it works, and it only ends up distracting me from my own practice. My process now is to vent to a couple of close friends, get it out of my system, and then keep making and evolving. I believe that originality and integrity do matter in the end and I have to remind myself that it is not my job to patrol it.

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4. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or creative business people?

WKNDLA started as a side hustle in 2014 and I’m currently in my third year of working for myself full-time. My advice to those who are afraid to make the leap is that it will surprise you how much you can accomplish when you give it 100% of your time and energy. It can grow so much when it’s not limited to just nights and weekends. On the other hand, I also don’t think running one’s own business full-time is necessarily the end-all be-all goal for everyone. When being creative is one’s livelihood, some of what was fun becomes “work.” To those whose creative businesses are still a side hustle, I would say to have fun and enjoy making things without the pressure to sell it. While I love working for myself, it comes with a lot of sacrifices that I hadn’t appreciated before!

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5. Do you have any favorite blogs, artists, or Instagram accounts that you’d like to share?

There are too many! Here are some of my favorites right now:

@sight_unseen

@lrnce

@den_holm

@elo_____

@anna_beam

@kristintexeira

@kbergart

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All photos provided by the artist.