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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: 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.

Craft With Conscience: Tasha Lewis

Sarah Benning

 

 

Tasha Lewis // Mixed-Media Sculptor // Jersey City NJ


Tasha Lewis is a mixed-media sculptor with a wide ranging artistic practice that includes global collaborative street-art, book design, self-publishing, illustration based on literature, and a variety of hand-sewn sculptures. Lewis works with cyanotype, a historic photographic process also known as blueprints or sun prints, as well as found and dyed textiles. Her studio-work has recently begun to focus on the human figure through the lens of Classical Greek statues. She embellishes the surfaces of these sculptures with embroidery and beading seeking to evoke a “sea-change” of lost artifacts transformed by ocean-life. Lewis has forthcoming solo exhibitions at The Philadelphia Magic Gardens (September 2017) and the Parthenon Museum in Nashville, TN (January 2020). Signed first-edition copies of her book “Swarm the World” are available on Kickstarter now through November 19, 2017.

Check out more of her amazing work and projects on her Etsy, website, and instagram.

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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 actually a particularly pertinent time in my practice to talk about the role of the internet in my art and business as I have just launched a Kickstarter campaign to promote and sell a new book I am self-publishing. The project “Swarm the World” itself hinges in a huge part on the role of the internet as a community builder, but I will get to that later. One of my friends, upon hearing all the steps that I had been through to make the physical proof copy of the book in his hands, noted that in almost any other circumstance there would have been teams of people working to produce a similar end result. This got me thinking and ended up sparking a few paragraphs that begin my Kickstarter Campaign story and I think are pertinent to this question:

"I am a full time artist. What that really boils down to is that I am my own boss and there is no one to delegate to. First, I am an artist. I invent new processes and create cultural content. But, to be an artist in the 21st century, I also have to be a web designer. I learned to code in order to best display and share my work online. I became a graphic designer and photographer in order to present my pieces in a clear and compelling manner. Then, once I had the idea for this project, I became an organizer. I created databases of addresses and mobilized people on a global scale. After the images came back from the participants, I learned how to design a book from scratch. Then, to promote the project I became my own videographer and animator.

Next, I will be a publicist. I will pitch my work to media outlets online and in print. Finally, I will work the mail room. I will process, prepare and ship out all these books to your homes. An artist is never just an artist."

To me, the internet is an amazing resource, but it is also always hungry. Hungry for more images of better quality and brighter backgrounds, for more complex interfaces, like mobile-friendly website designs, and above all for more content. I think as an artist if you can keep up with even some of these demands, you really have a chance to get your work to a wider audience.

One important lesson I have learned, though, is that you need to want to make what you feed the web. I love solving problems, especially visual problems, so web, graphic and book design are exciting challenges for me. On the other hand, I hate Twitter and I’m really starting to question Facebook, so I don’t force myself to engage on those platforms. Bottom line: if you can see this type of engagement as an extension of your artistic practice that is also in service of the sustainability of your practice, then try it out. You never know who might discover you. Seriously.

Coming back to the project. For Swarm the World I used the internet to find collaborators on a global scale. Since 2012 I have been hand-stitching small magnets to the bellies of my stiffened fabric cyanotype butterflies. Thus empowered, these little creatures can alight on metal objects or surfaces without leaving a trace. So began my ever evolving piece: The Swarm. I started with 200, but every few months that number grew. In this first stage of the project I was installing butterflies around my home town of Indianapolis, IN and I would take them with me whenever I traveled. The installations were ephemeral, lasting only 15-20 minutes, and I documented them with my camera. The blog I started soon filled up with hundreds of images of swarms of blue butterflies on fences, garage doors, telephone poles etc.

By the Spring of 2014, I had shown the butterflies in various gallery contexts, and their number had risen to 4,000, but I still felt that they had more to offer. What I wanted was to expand the pool of people who got to experience what I did with the butterflies — the selection of a place or object to swarm, the swarming process, photographing the results and engaging with strangers who happened to walk by— not just the images of the swarms on the internet. The idea came to me while on vacation in Istanbul, Turkey. I brought a few butterflies with me, and my friend and I were really enjoying discovering a new city through butterfly swarms. It was during the second night when I couldn’t sleep that I realized something: while I could not afford to travel the world with my butterflies, I could connect with people who already lived in diverse geographies and cultures and sent them the butterflies. So Swarm the World was born.

It is clear to me that this project would not have gotten off the ground as quickly as it did without the internet. A few key articles and blog posts explaining what I was looking for and I was flooded with over 400 participant email requests. After three years of coordinating schedules and international shipping, my 120 final participants sent me thousands of images of their swarms from 45 different countries and all seven continents. The resultant book is much more than an art book. It is an artifact of collaboration and trust with strangers I met through the web. I gave my art to them, knowing all the things that could go wrong, and what they gave me in return is truly magic.

In a separate branch of my practice, I use Etsy as a forum to sell my work that is designed for the home. I recently made a collection of affordable hand-sewn glow-in-the-dark faux-taxidermy sculptures geared towards integrating into peoples lives and not a gallery context. I wanted to use some new mold-making and casting skills that I had developed in order to make forms that are strong and less labor-intensive. I could go on a whole tangent about labor, but essentially, while I enjoy designing and building my forms, I especially love the stitching of the skin. By implementing these new techniques, I was able to significantly cut down the time it took to get to the sewing stage. I wanted these works to be playful and freed from more rigorous standards of concept. They are little beacons, night-lights, or just curious companions. I love making them, and unlike some of my larger sculptures, they are scaled for people living in apartments.  


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

I do find a lot of inspiration on Instagram. How much of it filters into my work in the studio I am not sure, but that does not mean that is doesn’t nourish me in other ways. What I am drawn to is getting a little dose of the lives of makers all over the world. Through Instagram you can go on studio visits with both famous and emerging artists alike. For me, it proves a simple truth: that, as artists, we go to work everyday just like everyone else, we are not mythic beings, untouchable and misunderstood. We drink coffee, have pets, and children and we live full engaged lives. Seeing this every day on my phone doesn’t feel like a distraction because it affirms to me that my choice in life is valid and that thousands of other people are working through the same challenges and setbacks as I am. And more, that I can reach out to them as ask for advice. All the above has helped my grow and develop my philosophy as an artist.

As for direct inspiration, as a sculptor, I am really inspired by process. It seems like ages ago now, but when I was first introduced to the cyanotype process before my last year of High School, I was captivated. I loved its history, I loved that you mixed the chemicals together yourself, I love that you painted it onto watercolor paper with beautiful Japanese brushes and I loved that you could make you own negative from xeroxes or found leaves. Ever since, I have been pushing that process, learning new things about it and finding innovative uses for it. My double sided cyanotype fabric butterflies are one example. Indeed, a huge epiphany came when I discovered that you could buy fabric pre-treated with the chemical. That became the basis for my switch to making sculptures with textile skins which have since evolved in many new directions.

I am currently reading The Haystack Reader: Collected Essays on Craft, 1991-2009, and a line from Christopher Rose’s essay really stuck out to me. He says “We could say that time is ‘folded up’ in the craft object. In a sense, increased time gives increased dimensionality.”  (p. 237) He is speaking not only of experiencing an art object, but also of slowing down to understand material processes. His words are also an apt way of describing how I become inspired. There are so many new things to be found in novel materials or the combination of known materials, you just have to take the time to dive in.

At the moment, the materials that are activating my discovery are plaster gauze and felt. Those may sound like crazy combination, but they work quite well together in creating strong, durable sculptures that also have moments of softness embedded directly into them. This is essential because when I sew the fabric around the form, I need places where I can throw in a few stitches and secure the textile ‘skin’ in place. I have found more and more, that my sculptures must be made with a sensitivity to the textile that will eventually cover them. And this necessity inspires me just as much as a visit to the Greek / Roman wing of the MET Museum does.

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

Tying into what I said in the previous question, finding my voice has always been about curiosity and experimentation. I have landed where I am now not only because I make work in a novel way, but also, and equally, because it fulfills the needs of my hands. I mentioned earlier that I was reading a book of writing collected by Haystack, and that place, The Haystack Mountain School of Craft, has been a huge influence on my voice. I have attended workshops there as a student, work-study and technical assistant, and each new relationship with the school has given me new skills to apply to my practice. It has also provided a physical counterpart to my virtual community of makers on Instagram. Community and context are essential to honing your voice as an artist and anything you can do to expand them will be beneficial.

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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 I have, particularly with my butterfly Swarm project. My general thinking is that no one is really going to have the patience to truly replicate what I do and if there are low-quality copies out there, they only make my work look better in comparison. But that attitude may only be because I have never encountered anyone actually making money from a market that I have not reached with work that looks like mine.

In general, when I see a cloud of blue butterflies that was created after 2013 (when images of my project began to go viral), first I acknowledge that it could be a coincidence. I was not the first artist to swarm insects and so obviously I won’t be the last. Second, I look to see who is making them. I have had many students reach out to me to ask about my process, and I am very open with them. All artists learn from copying to a certain extent, and I think it is natural. What really matters, and as I said what I have yet to really encounter, is someone who is making money from work that has direct ties to innovations that were clearly mine. Yet, I think if this did happen, I would probably let it go. I believe in being open about my work and process on the internet. If 99% of the time that openness helps other artists grow or understand their own work better, or draw collectors into my unique processes and 1% of the time people take advantage of it, then I still feel like it’s well worth it.

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

My advice is to carve out a space in your life, both temporal and physical, where you just show up and do your artistic work. A room of one’s own is still essential. Also, know that your creative impulses are not an ornamental novelty. As a collective, we as artists make culture and that is important work even if it isn’t always reflected in a paycheck. More, in the service of our creative community know that you can always try to reach out to other artists and ask for advice, and those other artists if you are reading this, please also take the time to respond.

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

David Atlmejd is always making amazing work, and for anyone interested in materials he is always pushing things to new places

Loie Hollowell and Corydon Cowansage both have amazing painting practices. If you need color inspiration check them out.

Check out more of Tasha's "swarm the world" book project at www.SwarmtheWorld.com

Check out more of Tasha's "swarm the world" book project at www.SwarmtheWorld.com

Check out more of Tasha's "swarm the world" book project at www.SwarmtheWorld.com

Check out more of Tasha's "swarm the world" book project at www.SwarmtheWorld.com

Check out more of Tasha's "swarm the world" book project at www.SwarmtheWorld.com

Check out more of Tasha's "swarm the world" book project at www.SwarmtheWorld.com

Check out more of Tasha's "swarm the world" book project at www.SwarmtheWorld.com

Check out more of Tasha's "swarm the world" book project at www.SwarmtheWorld.com

Check out more of Tasha's "swarm the world" book project at www.SwarmtheWorld.com  

Check out more of Tasha's "swarm the world" book project at www.SwarmtheWorld.com

 

Check out more of Tasha's "swarm the world" book project at www.SwarmtheWorld.com  

Check out more of Tasha's "swarm the world" book project at www.SwarmtheWorld.com

 

Check out more of Tasha's "swarm the world" book project at www.SwarmtheWorld.com

Check out more of Tasha's "swarm the world" book project at www.SwarmtheWorld.com

Check out more of Tasha's "swarm the world" book project at www.SwarmtheWorld.com

Check out more of Tasha's "swarm the world" book project at www.SwarmtheWorld.com

All images provided by the artist

Craft With Conscience: Sara Barnes of Brown Paper Bag

Sarah Benning

Sara Barnes // Artist and Blogger // Baltmore, Maryland


 Sara Barnes is an embroiderer and freelance writer specializing in illustration, art, and craft. She has her MFA in Illustration Practice and is obsessed with finding the latest and greatest in the field, which she shares through her blog, Brown Paper Bag. 

Learn More at www.brwnpaperbag.com and be sure to check out her Instagram.

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1. The way that we consume culture is rapidly changing in the modern age and the internet and social media outlets have become very useful tools that let artists promote their own work. Could you talk about the role that social media plays in your own business and if and how the internet has affected your own illustration practice?

I can't understate the importance of social media in my business and illustration practice. It is my only marketing tool and the way in which I connect with a community of makers and illustrators. I've gotten commissions because of my Instagram account, and for my blog, Brown Paper Bag, social media is the primary way that I share posts I've written. Unless one of my posts or artwork is posted on social media, I feel like it's just in some infinite Google abyss. Outlets like Facebook, Instagram, etc. are places where they can live. 

The internet provides me endless inspiration. While this is helpful, it's also paralyzing at times. How does someone do anything original when so many different styles, techniques, etc. are being shared through social media? Because of it, I've learned the importance of getting offline and finding inspiration from things outside the virtual world—to live in your own mind for a while and see what comes of it; this goes for my artwork as well as my blog. For this reason, I find long plane rides helpful. You're without the internet and have time to think!

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2. How do you source the work that you feature on your blog?  Do you have a research process as to make sure you aren’t promoting a directly derivative or stolen works or designs?

I mostly use Instagram to look for artists, embroiderers, illustrators, etc. to feature on my blog—sometimes Pinterest and Behance, but I love the communities that form on Instagram. I don't have a formal research process to finding content, but it is important that I stay up on current trends so that I can identify who is producing authentic content and creations and who is just, at best, taking advantage of what's en vogue—and at worst, people who are ripping off hardworking creatives. 

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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, do you ‘shop’ for work on social media? Have you encountered copies any of the artists' works you've featured on your site and how do you react to it? 

I use Pinterest and Instagram as a place to get acquainted to new artists and makers, as well as to keep up with what my favorite people are doing. I wouldn't say I 'shop' for work; when looking for an artist or illustrator to feature, I look for pieces, techniques, or projects that I feel a genuine connection to.

Proper credit to the correct artist is so important—especially when social media is concerned. If I see an individual incorrectly attributing an image, I correct them by telling them who the actual artist is. Often, it's as simple as the person just not knowing who created it, and not taking the time to research it further.

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4. Do you have any advice for creatively minded shops or blogs in regards to ethically sourcing the work that they promote?

Research, research, research. Be obsessed with whatever genre of art/design/craft you're interested in. Get to know the people in the communities and creative circles so you know the essence of who they are. 

Also, don't be afraid to trust your instincts. If you see something and think "that looks like something I've seen before..." then it probably is. At that point, you've got to make the decision whether or not you want to promote that person or shop. 

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

I love looking at embroidery Instagram accounts. Some of my current favorites are @yesstitchyes@elizabethpawle, and @smeldridge. For illustrators, @ohkiistudio@isabellefeliu, and @jordansondler (who looks like she's always living her best life). The House That Lars Built inspires me to make all the things, and Quipsologies has a great mix of design, illustration and art. 

And @pearl_meets_world just makes my heart happy. 

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Craft With Conscience: Laura Berger

Sarah Benning

Laura Berger // Painter // Chicago, IL


 Laura is a visual artist living and working in Chicago.  Featuring figurative imagery and dreamlike, minimalistic environments, her current work is centered around themes of self understanding, interconnectedness, and our collective search for meaning.  She has exhibited her paintings around the US and abroad, and also does editorial illustration work, murals, ceramic sculpture, and animation.

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

Photo Credit: Marta Sasinowska

Photo Credit: Marta Sasinowska

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 plays a huge role in my professional life.  It has allowed me to connect with people from all over the world, for people to accidentally stumble upon my work, and has served as a way for me to link up with interesting projects and exhibitions.  It seems crazy to think about how different the promotional approach is for artists now as compared with the past. I think it's much more streamlined, but perhaps also more overwhelming and random.  I also sell my work online both through my own website and through the websites of the galleries I work with, so the internet is a fundamental part of me being able to make a living and support myself.  I'm very grateful for it.  It also drives me insane, as I know it does all of us.  Sometimes I don't always feel like sharing what I'm working on -- the whole creative process feels somewhat intimate and vulnerable, and it can take a degree of bravery or detachment to post your work publicly and jump into that immediate feedback loop with strangers.  That being said, it can also be very useful to do so.  It's a complicated relationship for sure :)  but overall extremely beneficial.  I feel lucky to be working in a time when we have this tool to help carve out our own little corners to share our work and build connections.

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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?

For me, inspiration comes mostly from random little moments.  It's usually nothing earth-shattering but rather subtle things like a pattern on a brick wall, the texture of something, or a color combination that can be the spark of a new idea.  Travel is a huge source of inspiration for me, I think mostly because it gets me out of my comfort zone so I'm noticing things in a more mindful and engaged way than normal.  I follow travel, architecture, and fashion accounts on Instagram for the months when I'm pretty much stuck in my studio for 14 hours a day - at least I can still see new things that I've never seen before.  I also tend to get a lot of ideas in quiet moments or spaces between things, when I'm not thinking at all.  I use the internet for research when I want to know what a specific plant looks like, for example, or the shape of a particular kind of building.  Since my work isn't super realistic, that's usually just a jumping off point for me but it definitely helps with the process.

 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?

  Inspiration can be a tricky thing -- we're in a new era with this as we're all constantly ingesting so much visual information and we're also now so much more keyed in to what other people all over the world are doing creatively --  there's inevitably going to be some overlap just because of trends and everyone drinking the same internet punch together.  I'm sure in the 1800s there were artists doing similar things in different parts of the world and they didn't even know about it.  I try not to get overly hung up on all of this as everyone has their own voice and style, even if there are similar elements or themes.  I figure I'm likely on to the next thing and hopefully moving forward creatively by the time someone would be potentially copying something I've done in the past.  It's obviously a huge concern if someone pulls your work and does a direct copy of it for some kind of personal gain -- that definitely feels awful.  Something that I find troubling with the internet sharing of images lately is how companies will pull artists' images and use them to promote their business or product on Instagram without permission.  They may tag you, which I guess makes them think it's ok.  It's a definite challenge and a huge frustration when the artist has no say in how or where their images are used, and for what purpose.  My images have shown up on the craziest stuff and it creates a correlation that I had no intention or interest in making and that feels gross.  The second piece of this issue is that illustration /art / design are actual professions and the professionals deserve payment just like a plumber or an electrician does.  No one ever asks their electrician to work for "exposure".  When companies are pulling content for free to use for promotional purposes, this really devalues the illustration industry.   That's a big concern for me, as I know it is for many other creative industries as well right now.  I'd like to do a PSA about this. Is this my PSA?

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

I think I could always use some advice myself haha.  But if I were to say advice, I would say: work really hard and all the time and keep making new work and trying new things.  I think persistence is key.  Not that I know the key because there are challenges all the time when you're working for yourself and I'm always finding myself in a new confusing place.  I've recently come to a realization that I'm never going to "figure it out" and it's probably never going to feel easy.  I think at one point I thought that would eventually happen, but it's kind of a relief to let go of that and settle into understanding that this is just going to be a perpetual hustle :)

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

Is everyone following chillwildlife on Instagram?  It's my favorite.  I feel like animals are keeping me going right now with all of the madness in the world.  They're like the one pure and real thing we can count on to always be just pure and real, and I mostly want to spend my whole life looking at animals.  If they're being chill, even better.

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Images provided by the artist

 

Craft With Conscience: Rachel Edler / Noble Kinfolk

Sarah Benning


Rachel Edler // Embroidery Artist // Berlin, Germany


Rachel Edler, owner of Noble Kinfolk is a textile artist from Bristol currently residing in the bright lights of Berlin. She creates her textile works by using the technique, free motion embroidery. It was a technique she discovered whilst studying textiles in college when she was 17, and something she has done ever since. However, it was only when she moved to Berlin that it began to turn into something more than a hobby. Her passion for hoarding bright and colourful fabrics injects a flash of vibrance in her portraits, which are mostly of women in contemplative states, an ode to the busyness of life as a modern day woman, being pulled in different directions. Her favourite pieces to create are her commissioned portraits of people, she loves trying to capture people's individual characteristics in stitch.

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

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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?

 The internet has played a big part in my creative life, it was my first leap into showing people my work. I have been sewing for a long time but it was something I regarded more as a hobby, using it as my own personal therapy and for occasional gift giving. I didn’t have the confidence in myself or my work to share to galleries, shops and other outlets. Instagram gave me the opportunity I needed to share my work, it gave me confidence from the positive feedback from people and great connections with other creatives that I don’t think I would have got otherwise. It also connected me with the lovely owners of the wonderful shop Amodo, where I now sell a lot of my work.

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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 mostly find inspiration for my work from photographs, usually from magazines, I love stitching portraits the most, trying to capture an emotion using a sewing machine can be hard, it is not as delicate as hand embroidery but it is so rewarding when you get it right.
 

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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?

As far as I know I have only had one incident where my work was appropriated and put online but luckily for me it was sorted out amicably. I think it is something that can be a worry, especially as like most creatives I put a little bit of my soul in each of my works, but I also think that the online creative community is full of so many positives, it’s worth taking that risk.

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

 My advice would just be to do it, share your work, connect with other creatives. I am part of a collective in Berlin called the Berlin Kreativ Kollectiv, a group formed of creatives in Berlin and it has been so helpful for me starting my own business to be able to ask questions and be around people that are in a similar situation and I’ve made friends through it too. Find out if there is a group near where you live and get involved. Doing the creative thing can be scary but it’s so much easier when you can connect with like-minded people who can offer you support and encouragement.

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

 At the moment I am looking at Instagram a lot so I’ll share some of my favourite accounts, although I love embroidery my favourite accounts are usually artists working in a different medium.

 I love the work of @dirtyliketheweeds, her drawing style is so unique and beautiful.

 The beautiful weavings of @moandmum

 I absolutely adore the paintings of @bobbyandtide

 @thediggingestgirl and@rarepress create the most wonderful prints.

 Of course @bkkkollectiv, a feed full of amazing artist’s work

 And my talented younger brother who creates awesome illustrations @jamiedlerillustration

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Craft With Conscience: Tara Guluska

Sarah Benning

Tara Galuska // Paper Artist // New Westminster, BC, Canada


Tara is a paper artist whose delicate and intricate miniature paper plant artworks explore interior spaces and the plant owners themselves. Born in Zimbabwe in 1984, Tara spent her early childhood in Zambia before moving to Australia. She now lives in Vancouver, Canada, with her husband and two cats (and many plants). Over the last two years Tara has built a thriving art practice and business and creates artworks for clients from all over the world. In addition, she works with select brands to create custom work for their projects including Urban Outfitters, The Land of Nod and last year she lent her paper engineering skills to a commercial for Tide.

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

Photo by: Britney Berrner  @britneyvb

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?

I love the internet! It's given me so much and plays a huge role in the business side of my art career. It's where I get the majority of my opportunities and where most of my clients and collectors find me too.

As much as I love it though I do feel more of a desire to define my boundaries around it for myself and my creative work especially lately.

I'm creating some new work right now and really feel a desire to cocoon and I don't want to share it because I'm not ready.  I had been putting pressure on myself to share because "that's what you're supposed to do" but had to ask myself why?  I need to be able to make work for a while without any feedback or too much input from others work.

Photo by: Britney Berrner  @britneyvb

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

My life and my experiences are where I find my inspiration! Some recent inspiring adventures include a visit to the Vancouver Art Gallery, ROVE an art walk I also showed work in and a heritage home tour in my neighbourhood. Today I'm going to visit some used bookstores and go on a walk on the Fraser River for a little boost of inspiration. Instagram and all the art available to view online is great but there is nothing like real life inspiration!

Photo by: Nicole Wong @tokyo_to
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Photos by: Nicole Wong @tokyo_to
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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 had one of those experiences this morning actually! It used to feel like a punch in the gut but now it doesn't get under my skin so much or for as long.

I am only in competition with myself and that is my main focus. I feel so grateful to be a creative person because I am always coming up with new work and ideas and asking myself what is next? Where is my work going? How can I push this?

I don't like being copied but I do like when I have inspired someone to explore their own creativity! That is one of the many things that makes putting my work out there worth it, even if it may mean dealing with a few copies here and there.

Photo by: Nicole Wong @tokyo_to
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4. Do you have any advice for aspiring artists or creative business people?

I would not be where I am without the support and accountability that I get from my community and I encourage artists and creative business people to find yours or even make your own!

Being an artist and the sole person working on my business can be very lonely and often overwhelming. It was something I really struggled with and fortunately that turned around when I found THRIVE a community for female visual artists.

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Photo by: Nicole Wong @tokyo_to

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

Some artists I am very excited by at the moment include @jonburgerman, Natalie Baxter and @aimeehennybrown. Also while it is not specifically an art account @chillwildlife is everything good about the internet!

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Photo by: Nicole Wong @tokyo_to
Photos by: Nicole Wong @tokyo_to

All photos provided by the artist

Craft With Conscience: Zemer Peled

Sarah Benning

Zemer Peled // Sculptor // Los Angeles CA


Zemer Peled's work examines the beauty and brutality of the natural world. Her sculptural language is formed by her surrounding landscapes and nature, and engages with themes of memories, identity, and place. The association of porcelain with grace, refinement and civilization gets turned on itself when it is broken down into shards and the brutality of its jagged edges is juxtaposed with its insistent fragility. The material becomes both violent and beautiful, hard but breakable. When seen in the organic formations of Peled’s structures, a whole for the shards is recreated, this time estranged from its original context of neatness, tradition and cultivation but nonetheless unified by an overall cohesiveness of movement and composition.

Peled (b. 1983) was born and raised in a Kibbutz in the northern part of Israel. After completing her BFA from the Bezalel Academy of Art and Design (Jerusalem), she earned her MA at the Royal College of Art (UK). In recent years, her work has been exhibited internationally, including such venues as Sotheby's and Saatchi Gallery (London), Eretz Israel Museum (Tel Aviv), Nelson-Atkins Musuem of Art (Kansas City), among others.  Her work is in many collections around the world. 

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

Photo by: Cristina Schek

Photo by: Cristina Schek

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?

The internet is an incredible tool for artists - especially with things like Instagram because it’s so visual. Through it I’ve been able to meet new people and get to see and learn about so many new artists. And not just artists - Instagram makes it possible for people in all kinds of fields to visually show their passion - I love looking at not only artists but also accounts of archaeologists, scientists, national parks etc. for inspiration.

Instagram is definitely my number one social media platform. It’s a great tool for collectors, galleries, and museums to find my work - I think every artist should have it. Sometimes it’s better than a gallery because way more people look at it than will walk through a single gallery space. It’s very powerful tool.

With Instagram I am able to share my thoughts, travels, creative life, and studio practice.

Photo by: Cristina Schek

Photo by: Cristina Schek

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

Everywhere I go, everywhere I look.

 I’m constantly inspired by nature, travelling, and hiking. The first place I go when I visit somewhere new is the botanical gardens. I love gardens, national parks, and taking in huge landscapes - Joshua Tree is my favorite place I found this past year.

I find inspiration on social media as well: new places, ideas for traveling. I don’t actually follow a lot of personal accounts, but I follow all the national parks, antique porcelain dealers, mudlarkers, archaeologists...

I’ve found so many new people and made many new connections through Instagram: I found this guy named Ted Sandling who mudlarks in the Thames - he followed me and I followed him for about a year. Then when I went to London last January I asked if he’d be willing to look for shards together in the river Thames

it was amazing! He has written a fantastic book about all the shards he has found and he is super interesting person. This is why I am a huge fan of Instagram - it is so easy to communicate with people from all over the world.

Photo by: Cristina Schek

Photo by: Cristina Schek

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?

Yes I have encountered really bad copies. I love sharing process images from the studio because I find them the most incredible and way more interesting than the final piece but I find myself a lot of times deciding not to share things for that reason. It’s frustrating because lots of people nowadays are copying what they find online and not giving credit to the artist.

I don’t mind people being inspired or using techniques or getting ideas, but I would prefer them to be inspired and find their own voice instead of copying; to take the inspiration a step further with their own vocabulary.

I’m always trying to strike a balance between sharing too much and sharing too little.

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"Black Dream 2"

"Black Dream 2"

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

Be yourself - it’s not a cliché!

Don’t give a shit about what anyone says - follow your passion!

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"Formed Shards" photos © Sylvain Deleu

"Formed Shards" photos © Sylvain Deleu

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

Mudlurker and antiques specialist Ted Sandling 

The Jealous Curator and her fantastic blog and podcast.

Chef Slavatore Martone is sharing inspiring videos showing off his skills.

Archeology Magazine @archeologymagazine because I love archeology

Porcelain specialist: Cyrille Froissart

And another favorite porcelain antique specialist is Andrew Baseman.

Joshua Tree National Park

And finally the hilarious dogs account - dogs poorly photographed @dogspoorlyphotographed

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"Under the Archway"

"Under the Archway"

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Craft With Conscience: Defne Güntürkün

Sarah Benning

Defne Güntürkün // Textile Designer and Embroidery Artist // Istanbul, Turkey


 Defne Güntürkün is a textile design professional. She received her bachelor's and master of arts degrees at Mimar Sinan University of Fine Arts in Istanbul. Aside from her professional activities in designing fabric patterns as a freelancer, she has taught herself how to embroider in the past few years. This led to a leap forward in her pursuit of art and creation. Her long–term practical experience in mostly nature–inspired fabric design is reflected in her embroideries. She recently started a small business through her website where she makes her embroideries available for purchase. She has an arts studio in a historic district in downtown Istanbul, where she spends most of her time doing what she loves.

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 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?
 

The internet is a great tool to be in regular contact with people and reach out to the outside world.

It allows individuals like myself to expose their work to the world and facilitates an effortless way of exchanging ideas. I believe I had a chance to utilize the internet to a very large extent in terms of reaching out to people whom I would have never met in real life and share my work with others.

 For example Instagram has helped me a lot. I share my work with others, get reactions, see what is most liked and it directs people to my shop. I can easily say, I built my small business through it. It allowed me to open an online shop which I think is more effective than a physical shop, this way I can reach out to a bigger audience.

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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 inspiration does not arise from a single source. I am greatly inspired by the environment that I am interacting with. Nature is an unlimited origin of inspiration which is manifested in my work.

 
Since I have been designing fabric patterns for over 15 years, I have a comprehensive knowledge dealing with color combinations, exploring different kinds of plants, objects, etc., and illustrating them has been helping me a lot with my embroideries. So I think jumping in  between designing patterns and making embroideries is a natural inspiration.

 Most of the time an idea pops up in my mind and I am eager to start exploring it. I sketch very rarely, usually I draw on the fabric right away and see where it takes me. At this point if I need to, I use photos I have taken or searched through internet, such as details of a plant, proportions, etc. One of the things I am paying attention to when I start a new project is that it needs to be unique.
 

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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?
 
When you publish an art piece online, you kind of take the risk for it to be open to public which you cannot follow where it ends up. You can not control whether it will be used without your permission or copied but we all know that there must be a limit to “inspiration”. It is ok to be inspired until a certain extent but when it becomes a direct copy (mostly a sloppy one), that is the place to stop.

 I have been seeing similar works to mine or partially copied works. Although I have chosen not to confront those cases until recently, I found out that two people made exact copies of my work, not just one, but many, strangely on the same day.  My instant reaction was reaching out to those people and asking them to remove the work from all social media. They were even selling the copies and seemed to be proud of coming up with a great idea. I have to admit that it made me angry. So I asked them in a polite way and in the end made sure that they know, if they do not remove the work and keep making new ones, I would take a legal action. 

 How I found out was with the help of great people that notified me. Feeling this support of others is way stronger than the disappointment of my work being infringed.  I receive messages from people when they see a copy of my work, or a post sharing my photo without crediting me, there are other very nice people who makes me feel that I am not alone and there are others also looking out for me.

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


My main advice is to be original. I believe everyone has their own style but sometimes they may be scared to discover it. It may pretend to be easier to look like someone else who has been already successful but it will be a lot more satisfying to create your own unique work and see people appreciate it. This needs a lot of practice and patience but the result is worth it.

 Capturing a good image of your work is as important as the quality of your work if your audience is online. I sometimes see a great artwork but a terrible photo of it, which makes me think that you should definitely pay attention to taking good quality photos of your work.

 About selling your work, I know it is a tough one! Most of the talented artists I know do a great job in art but are bad at marketing. I know it is the nature of being an artist, it is hard to put a price on one's work and deal with the technical parts of marketing your work.  I opened my website a couple of months ago and in the beginning it seemed like too much work that I did not want to deal with. I ignored my fear and went for it, so you can do it too.

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


I am surrounded by artists and it is a great feeling. My husband Benoit Hamet is an illustrator , my best friend and studio partner Gözde Başkent  is a painter. So we share the same studio and they inspire me everyday. We always exchange ideas.

There are so many people I really love to follow and appreciate, just will put some of them here;

Embroidery artists; Danielle Clough,  İrem Yazıcı, Tessa Perlow,  Chloe Giordano , Adam Pritchett

Weawing and embroidery artist Judit Just

Illustrators  Georgina Taylor , Carolyn Gavin , Polina Bright

Fiber artist Dani Ives, Justyna Wolodkiewicz, Liz Payne

Artists Tara Galuska , Yellena James  

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Craft With Conscience: Marine Edith Crosta

Sarah Benning

Marine Edith Crosta // Painter // London UK


London based French painter Marine Edith Crosta is best known for her miniature tondi depicting stormy seascapes. More than just another nautical themed painting, her Lost at Sea series addresses the notions of intimacy and introspection, enhanced by the small format and the locket like frame. A feeling also conveyed through her Wanderer paintings, gazing at the ocean, and more recently through her portraits, where the subject depicted from behind looks away from the viewer, creating a level of mystery and privacy unexpected in portraiture.

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 ones’ 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?

First I'd just like to say if I can, well done you! As an artist, when the promotion of oneself on Instagram seems to be the norm, it is very tempting to try and draw all the attention to yourself, and keep things that way. So thanks for sharing and promoting other people's work too!

When I was studying art - Fine Arts in Bordeaux - I used Tumblr a lot, and I absolutely loved it. I think it really helped me build an aesthetics that I still strongly rely on. Most of the pictures I posted 6 years ago are still relevant to my art today, and it is very satisfying to look back at them!

I never interacted much with anyone on that platform, it was simply for me to train my eye and build a mood board, for myself, and develop a palette, an atmosphere that will direct my choices later in my practice.

 Instagram was literally a game changer for me as an artist. I am not afraid to say that I am addicted to it!

First, the audience and the contacts you can create, whether it be with collectors in Arizona, artists you admire in the same city, or even galleries, it is endless and broadened the spectrum of possibilities for everyone, everywhere. It is almost magical.

I am very interested in the business side of things, and I put the greatest care in building my internet and artistic persona, in terms of branding mainly, and see how that can reflect on the sales. I try and be consistent in my interventions online, because once you put it out there, you sort of lose the ownership and the control of things a bit. Being genuine but careful is, to me, the key.

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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?

Oh I wish I was painting from live view! I was using reference pictures found online when I first started my Lost at Sea pieces, then pictures I took myself while travelling. My collectors include sailors and surfers, who often send me their favourite photos; it is hard to run out of inspiration.

For my portraits I just photograph people myself, from friends to random strangers.

In terms of impact, I think the key for me is to stay away from painters who have a similar technique or subject. There is nothing more depressing and counterproductive than to compare yourself, unfortunately it is very easy to discourage yourself as there are SO MANY amazing artists out there on Instagram, you might as well give up. I try and challenge myself and find my own pace, instead of racing against other people, which is a recipe for disaster. I follow a lot of painters who have a completely different technique or palette, and I find it utterly inspiring. I also follow a lot of designers, potters, interior designers, fashion bloggers, antique dealers and photographers - and meme accounts, but that serves a different purpose ;)

 Talking about memes, there was one the other day that stroke me, saying something like 'Imagine if women were as kind to each other as they are in a club's toilet'. I find that the best thing about being on Instagram so far is the feeling of sisterhood that I've never felt anywhere else before. There is nothing more empowering than another successful woman, and there's so much to learn from them it almost makes my head spin.

I think the idea of the bohemian solitary artist is a myth that belongs to the past. I might be a creative and a maker, but I'm a business woman too. I make conscious decisions regarding the way I want to run things, and watching all the other girl bosses out there making it is a real booster!

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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 copies, and most of them were endearing art students respectfully replicating things and sending it to me. It isn't the same, we all learned by copying stuff we love, didn't we? And that's totally fine.

I find it a bit more frustrating when it's an account with huge following asking me where I source my frames, or things like that. Just do your own thing!

I found that my work became popular as soon as I started being true to myself and people must have felt it. But it took a lot of work to get there, so plain copies by seasoned artists are not ok. It's even a little bit sad.

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

As I stated above, I think it first takes a lot of work and research to ground your taste and lock in your true style. It can and it will always evolve but it doesn't happen overnight. Seek inspiration elsewhere, and stay true to your guts and what really makes you, you. As a creative it's the most important thing.

And then kindness, towards fellow artists, collectors, advice seekers. Money and success will come after, naturally ;)

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

So many! Can I do a ladies special then?

@morganelay who took the pictures illustrating this interview, une belle rencontre!

@quindry antiques and best taste ever, this lady is a true inspiration

@pernilleteisbaek, @polliani, @dilettabonaiuti fantastic sense of fashion and style, never forced.

@silkenfavours, is truly amazing and designs everything herself. Her clothes and crazy colours are just dreamy.

@helenedelmaire she is just so skilled and poetic, amazing oil painter

and I could go on and on, love them all.

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Photos by @morganelay

Craft With Conscience: Katy Biele

Sarah Benning

Katy  Biele // Embroidery Artist // Victoria BC, Canada


Katy Biele is a Chilean Embroidery artist living in Victoria BC in Canada. The style she's developed is based on her South American background and everything that she has taken in while traveling. The result is a combination of textures, a lot of bright colors and a wide variety of stitching and painting techniques.

Check out more of her beautiful work on her websitefacebook, instagram, or Etsy shop.

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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 share my artwork on the internet, mostly on instagram where I try to share my process to my followers and people who enjoy seeing my artwork. At this time I think it plays a super important role because it's a good platform where my work can be discovered and direct people to my Etsy shop

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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 paint and make a lot of drawings, that's a big part of my process for finding inspiration. I've also been traveling a lot and living in different places and have a lot of photos and memories of particular styles, patterns and colors that have had an impact on me.  At the moment I live in the beautiful west coast of Canada, and in Victoria there are a lot of gardens where I can find ideas for new artwork. On the internet I like to follow artists that I respect on instagram and I feel very inspired when I see their process too. I Usually have ideas in my mind that I have to create either in textile or on paper, some ideas last longer and some are very fast. It's a magical process, sometimes I really don't know where the ideas come from.

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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?

   Instagram is growing so much now and I realize that we take a lot of risks sometimes sharing all our work, videos, and processes etc. Somebody can take all of our ideas and sell them very easily,  but without these internet sites, it would be so much more difficult to be discovered by art curators, shops and other business opportunities. I have seen some copies of my work and ideas where even the title of the piece was copied. It makes me feel very frustrated and sad when it happens, but most of the time I find very respectful followers or other designers and artists that like my work. There is a very supportive community out there.

  I try to take as many photos as I can of the work in progress, to show the steps that I have to do to create an embroidery piece, painting or illustration. I also write about where the idea come from or why I'm doing that piece etc. I think that is  a good way the  show how your work and process are totally creative and  real.

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

   The advice that I can give is to keep going, that this is a long long process, and it can take a lot of time to create an art style to finally create pieces or illustrations that  make some sense for ourselves. Always keep your own style, and find your own voice in any kind of creative art or business that you make, the key is to keep it original. Also try to use different materials and mediums because we never know what we can discover there!  Remember, if it was easy, everyone would be successful. 

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

I follow a lot of artists whose work, originality, and creative process makes me feel so happy and inspired. These ladies are my favorites:

 Trini Guzman from Chile.

 Valeria Faúndez,  From Chile

 Isabelle Feliu, who is an illustrator.

Leah Goren, from NY

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All photos provided by the artist