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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: Lindsay Stripling

Sarah Benning

Lindsay Stripling // Painter, san francisco, CA

Lindsay works primarily with watercolor on paper, using color and form to create dreamlike narratives that echo folk and fairy tales that we vaguely remember from childhood. Whimsical and dark characters exist in familiar landscapes, playing out scenes from stories with no beginning, middle or end. And where the moral might be lost, switched, blurred or even just completely missing.

Check out her website or Instagram for more work.

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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 am going to date myself a bit, but when I was a freshman in college it was the first year of Facebook- when it was connected to colleges only- flash forward to now where instagram is queen (I do not like Facebook and am barely on there now, which is a growing sentiment I think) and sharing work, images and creating community is so easy to do! The internet has made me becoming a full time artist possible, and its also opened the door to seeing how other people have made their art/work their full time jobs. Its very inspiring and pushes me for sure.

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 find a lot of inspiration for my work through reading (a lot), I love magic realism like Helen Oyeyemi, Haruki Murakami, Ken Liu and recently I have been re-reading and exploring greek myths. My other main source of inspiration is observing people and looking at their fashion choices, color combos- living in the city and walking through the park, taking the train, I get to see a lot of really amazing people and do a lot of observing, probably one of my favorite parts of San Francisco is the variety of people and styles in one small place. I also am an avid listener of the news and podcasts like Pod Save America, Mythology Podcast, Last Podcast on the Left and Myths and Legends. Most of my paintings are just me sketching on paper until the image feels right, and then painting from there, often times I just know an inkling of an idea of what I want to make, and then it solidifies as I work on it.

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 love sharing work on social media, I often do a lot of teaching with workshops and online classes, what I was taught and what I still believe is that part of people learning or developing style is emulating people they admire. I encourage my students to do that because inevitably their work will be different. I often times use things from my own work as examples of how to create- so my students end up making student work based on a style I have developed for myself, they tag me in them and I love it. I have a hard time with the word infringement, I have for sure  had people make work that is unintentionally/unconsciously in the same vein as mine and vice versa, and I think that that is hard to avoid in a world where we are so transparent about our imagery. Part of me finds it refreshing, part of me finds it annoying, but mostly I think that it doesn't matter that much- my work is my work and I don't need to spend a ton of time justifying it, and neither should anyone else. That being said, there are points when that type of back and forth can take an ugly turn, with companies like Zara full on stealing independent artists' ideas and not being apologetic about obvious thievery. But in my personal experience people being inspired by other people is part of what making art and sharing it is all about.

 

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

Sheesh, do they have any advice for me? I feel like I am still just sorting all this out, making better decisions on how to track my finances, handle shipping and bringing in a studio assistant to help me with organization. All I want to do all day is the creative work, draw, paint and draw some more, but I obviously need to handle the other boring stuff. So I would say do all the things yourself at first, so you know how to do them, and then bring in someone to help you with the things you don't like to do (like shipping and finances), cause if you are like me at all, they just won't get done well otherwise. I am still working full time alongside my full time art career- and it is really hard, but I guess I also want to say that instagram and other social media accounts don't really do a good job of allowing space for artists to discuss the fact that most of us have to have a side hustle in order to make it. I wish I could just be a full time artist- and I feel like I am making moves to get there, but for now its a lot of late night painting sessions after getting home from work.

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

Some of my favorite artists, the ones I always come back to, are Marcel Dzama, Amy Cutler, Jockum Nordstrom and Mamma Andersson. I was able to see a show of Amy Cutler's work a few years ago at the Virgina Moca, and it absolutely blew my mind, since then I feel like my work changed from trying to talk about memory and narrative through found objects and photos into me trying to create narrative through characters of my own, I just love how her work crosses into the political in so many ways, and it feels relevant and personal because of that. I also love seeing what artists like Nathaniel Russel, Winnie Truong, Angela Dalenger, Stacey Rozich, Andrea Wan, Louise Reimer, Kristen Liu Wong, Michelle Blade, Esther Pearl Watson and Carson Ellis are all up to. They are all badass artists.

All images courtesy of the artist.

Craft With Conscience: Danielle Clough

Sarah Benning

Danielle Clough // Fiber artist // Cape town, South Africa

To just call Danielle Clough a fiber artist is a bit of an over simplification. While much of her work consists of embroidery techniques in various forms, she's also established herself as a photographer and designer. Her embroideries are not only interesting for their compositional techniques, but also for the various materials that support her stitching, such as tennis rackets and chainlink fences. Inspired by the Cape Town street art and music scene, Danielle's work truly modernizes a traditional craft to make it something totally unique and her own. Please check out more of her work on her website or her Instagram. (seriously, there are too many amazing pieces to display here!) 

Photo Credit: Tyler B. Murphy

Photo Credit: Tyler B. Murphy

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, and mostly Instagram has been a critical tool in my creative and professional growth. It has given me exposure and direct access to people who appreciate my work, and want to work with me without having to follow the traditional formulas of shops or galleries. I feel so grateful for the how it has shaped my business and way of life. It has given me the freedom and confidence to do what I love as a career. I don't know what I would be doing if it wasn't for the interwebs.

That being said, like with anything, it comes with its challenges. It’s a new 'space' that doesn't have an exact formula and because of that, there is a lot of trial and error, with no manual or fall back plan. I've found I have gone through personal ups and down. Putting your work into the world through social media, where people have direct access to you, can leave you feeling quite vulnerable. I've gone through phases of putting a lot of pressure on myself to push out work, and the need to create content sometimes over powers the process, and my patience with myself to create good work that I should be taking my time with. I get left with the feeling like I am creating work for 'likes' and losing my own sense of direction. The affirmation from a social media platform when connected to your work can feel like a direct reflection of your skill and when it’s not there, it can be like failing. Those feelings have left me quite self-critical, which then gets in the way with what is really important, and that’s simply enjoying what I make. I am very self aware of these downs because of how important it is to share my work from an 'authentic' place. I absolutely love my audience, and the embroidery community who I find are very open about their own challenges with sharing work and have found the best way to get out of these down spaces is to put my phone away and create something just for me. These are often the pieces that I progress the most with.

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

I try not to engage with the internet for inspiration. I avoid looking at other people’s work as I feel it either filters into my thinking or, honestly, intimidates me (there are so so so many incredible creatives out there!). I try follow people from different disciplines to me to stop me from being comparative on social media, and that way I can just enjoy their work. I don't use Pinterest because of this. Its almost over stimulating. I find I am the most inspired when I am doing something outside of my routine and looking at things that I can be resourceful with; new tools, colours or materials (like finding a chunky bright pink wool, or seeing a broken fence and stitching it up). Inspiration is a fleeting thing, like a flash of energy when your favourite song comes on. What’s more important for me is being mindful of what motivates me. The force that takes an idea, that flash of inspiration and turns it into something tangible. In some ways Instagram plays a part in that because I feel driven to create new work for Instagram and my website. My main motivation though lies in challenging myself and  learning new skills.

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?

This is a difficult one as embroidery is predominantly a craft, based on patterns and replication. This creates a safe place where people can just 'make' and one can sit anywhere on the spectrum of creativity. This is why there is such a wonderful supportive community, but also why infringement is common. Embroidery by its nature is about taking other people's designs and techniques and recreating it, so with contemporary embroidery it straddles that line of art and craft. The rules of infringement seems to be more blurred than with other creative mediums. It has happened to me in varying degrees and was difficult at first. I've had to put my ego in check and am not bothered by it anymore. It helps having amazing support from people around the world who stand up for me, even when people repost my work and don't credit me. Its honestly one of the most heart warming things. I feel protected by the kindness of others and this helps me focus on what is more important to me which is own progression. When it comes to infringement I now think about it as they are recreating something that has already been done, and I will focus on creating something new.

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

On the practical side, take good photos of your work and always keep high res versions of your work ready. You never know when you are going to need them. Document your process and space as best you can and don't be afraid to ask for help (and be nice! You never know who's help you are going to need!). You do not need to be good at everything, just focus on being really good at the thing you enjoy.

On a more personal side, find the part of your creative process you enjoy and indulge in it. Your business will find a way to build around what you love most. This way you will also develop your own style, and when your work isn't derivative, you will tap into a market that you didn't know existed.

Oh, and a new trick that I learnt, when you are working on something and it doesn't feel quite right, look at it upside down!

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

I have a few! I find the people I l am moved by the most are not just because of the work they create, (there is so much incredible work out there) but because of the manner in which they do it.

I love the embroidery of Michelle Kingdom

Paintings of Lorraine Loots (possibly the nicest person on the planet)

The dedication of Jack Fox

The scale and scope of Faith47s work

The colours of Casey Weldon

The humour and honesty of Cecile Dormeau

And most importantly the work, advice and relentless support of Tyler B Murphy

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Craft With Conscience: Sara Boccaccini Meadows

Sarah Benning

Sara Boccaccini Meadows//Textile Designer + Illustrator// Brooklyn NY

Sara Boccaccini Meadows is a textile designer and illustrator, originally from the north of England. She takes inspiration from nature and the tiny details in her everyday surroundings to create unique and quirky prints and illustrations. She works with a variety of medias including watercolor, gouache, markers and fine line pens and starts her design process by making small studies in her sketchbook or journal. Check out her website or Instagram to see more of her amazing work.

  

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 been an amazing way to grow and market my business. Sites like Instagram and Tumblr are great to curate visual stories of design process. I often share inspiration found from foliage, art and details from my surroundings, anything that inspires me and sparks the creative process for a new project or design. Often I follow with work in progress images of my paintings and illustrations, then a final piece or product. I think it is such a good platform to get your art out there and the feedback i've received has been so positive. I try to give myself time away from the internet whilst i'm painting, exploring and collecting new ideas, it can also be a distraction and time waster, it's sometimes hard to get the right balance.

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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 find the majority of inspiration from nature. I go on a lot of hikes and like to explore botanical gardens in every city. I tend to collect little bits along the way- a rock, branch, leaf, flower then draw my findings. Sometimes it's from a photograph or memory.

I tend to use the internet more for client projects, especially in the initial stages when we're deciding on color and subject. Pinterest is amazing for this!

My recent personal work has focused more on the political climate in the world and has driven me to more figurative illustrations. It's been a challenge after not studying figures since my school life drawing class almost 10 years ago. But I'm quickly developing a style again and enjoying the diverse opportunities that are coming up. I'm particularly passionate about helping with issues that surround woman and plan on focusing more on this going forward. News sites and magazines like National Geographic are great sources of inspiration for these more recent works.

 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 a few paintings very close to some of my work but I try not to worry about this too much. I've found a lot of people are interested in my process which I'm happy to share, it's nice when I'm tagged in art inspired by my work which can sometimes look very similar but I know it will always be slightly different and hope that aspiring artists will use this to develop their own style. However, if I was to see my work stolen by a brand I'd be upset. I know this happens a lot and it's so sad that independent artists/brands have to deal with huge corporations ripping them off.

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

 I think just do what you love and don't force it. Things often develop naturally and if you're passionate about something that's a great start for success. I'm still working out the "business" side of my creative practice but I would advise getting a little help when you can, if for example, accounting, isn't your strong point. Also, talk to other creatives and help each other or bounce ideas- I find this SO inspiring!

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

I have a few so here's some of my favs!

Blog

http://www.designsponge.com/ 

I absolutely love Design Sponge and always find inspiring features, Grace Bonney is an inspiration and I love that she uses her platform to talk about important issues.

Podcast

http://www.debbiemillman.com/designmatters/

Design Matters is a series of podcasts presented by Debbie Millman, it has wonderful interviews with all sorts of creatives (including Grace Bonney) and keeps me focused and inspired whilst working.

Photography

@indiahobson

India Hobson has the most amazing colour/photography Instagram that's so beautifully organized. A lot of her work is shot in my home town and makes me so happy to scroll through if I start to miss the north of England.   

Illustration

http://www.bodiljane.com/

Bodil Jane is a Dutch illustrator I first came across when we both designed a series of posters for interior company Oh My Home (@ohmyhome). Her illustrations have serious girl power and her style has such a unique, feminine quality.

Embroidery  

@lockhartembroidery

I'm always so inspired by beautiful embroidery and adore your work and patterns (obviously, haha), I love that it's available to everyone with your monthly pattern program. @lockhartembroidery is another stitch inspiration- her work has a lot of 70's inspired details and she often works on denim and creates incredible sketch style stories-all hand stitched!  

Magazine

http://makersmovement.ca/

Makers Movement is a new magazine based out of Canada. I love how beautifully curated and thoughtful each issue is and they support lots of new, independent brands.

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Craft With Conscience: Nalani Gloor - Knotty Bloom

Sarah Benning

Nalani Gloor // Fiber Artist + Interior Architect // Tauranga, NZ

Nalani Gloor is a fiber artist and interior architect based in New Zealand. She studied Interior Architecture and Design at the Academy of Art in San Francisco, before completing her Bachelor of Design majoring in Interior Architecture at Swinburne University of Technology in Melbourne, Australia. She learnt her macramé practice from her mother and started Knotty Bloom as a side business when she moved to New Zealand. With a mission to create honestly made and lasting products, that strive to embody a sense of comfort, care and visual aesthetics. She currently uses her home studio space to hand craft macramé pieces out of locally sourced New Zealand made materials in the hopes that each pieces brings meaning and life into their spaces.

Check out her beautiful work on her Instagram or Facebook.

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 proved to be a useful tool, especially for the business side of things. Instagram in particular has been an integral platform that has helped my work grow, evolve and expand in ways that I never thought were possible. It has enabled me to reach a global audience in a simple and accessible way. I have the freedom to create, control and curate my own distinct visual aesthetic, enabling the potential to reach my own niche audience in a direct and honest approach. Surprisingly, I have found that the Instagram community is filled with some of the most supportive and genuinely kind people. This direct engagement with my audience is priceless and has been one of the main driving forces behind my creative process.

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 find inspiration in various forms, from nature, music, design, and architecture.  However, one of my earliest and biggest influences in my creative pursuits has been my mum. She has a never-ending ability to make almost anything. Moving around as a child, she was able to transform any space into a home. Just to give you an example, when we first moved to Australia from the United States, we lived in a large shed in Far North Queensland that was intended to be a temporary living arrangement while we built a house. It had a concrete slab floor and timber posts supporting a corrugated iron roof, with concrete masonry block walls around the bathroom and garage only. The rest of the shed was open to the wild outdoors and weather conditions, which created a literal 'indoor-outdoor' flow. Living in this space for 4 years, my mum was magically able to create a cosy and inviting home.

Another prevalent influence for me would have to be Mid Century Modern design, which has transferred from my studies and design job in Interior Architecture. Since I'm frequently looking at architectural plans, I'm drawn to compositions with geometric shapes, patterns and lines that I then try to incorporate in my macramé pieces as a way of modernising the idea of macramé.

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?

Since starting my side business I have definitely become more aware of the value of one's own work. My first few encounters with copycats left me feeling cheated and distressed. Since then, I have tried to muster a calm approach and remind myself that nothing can be reproduced in its authenticity. On a good day, I will try to use the frustration as an incentive to develop and refine my work, in the hopes that I can create a distinctive voice and aesthetic. This usually leads to further experimentation and instills an urge to discover new techniques or approaches to my work. Sometimes I like to think of these instances as a way of prompting me to let go of old work and designs, thus making space for new creations.  

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

Just start! There's no perfect time and no amount of planning or strategizing that can ever guarantee success. Dive in and figure out what works for you along the way as there's no one-size-fits-all approach. Above all, I would highly recommend connecting with other creatives, entrepreneurs and your audience, their advice, support, encouragement and presence is so empowering. The feeling of being part of a community can make all the difference to keep you going on those days that you're having doubts. Also, don't take yourself too seriously and enjoy the process!

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

 I could write a very long list but I will just name some recent favourites:

Blogs: thedesignfiles.net and broadsheet.com.au (when I feel homesick for Melbourne)

Creative Podcasts: meandorla.co.uk, and have-company.com

Artists: Elizabeth Barnett, Living Pattern, Adriana Picker, Katie Scott and Sophie Melville

Instagram accounts: @looseleaf_ @popandscott @haarkon_ @windychien @mimdesignstudio (plus many more)

All photos provided by the artist.

Craft With Conscience: Michelle Kingdom

Sarah Benning

Michelle Kingdom// Embroidery Artist // Burbank, California

Her work explores psychological landscapes, illuminating thoughts left unspoken. she create tiny worlds in thread to capture elusive yet persistent inner voices. Literary snippets, memories, personal mythologies, and art historical references inform the imagery; fused together, these influences explore relationships, domesticity and self-perception. Symbolism and allegory lay bare dynamics of aspiration and limitation, expectation and loss, belonging and alienation, truth and illusion. 

Born and raised in Los Angeles, Michelle Kingdom studied drawing and painting at UCLA, earning a Bachelor’s degree in fine art. She has been involved in various fields of art, design and education throughout her career.  As a self-taught embroidery artist, Michelle quietly created figurative narratives in thread for years. She now exhibits her work nationally and internationally, and her embroideries have been featured in numerous publications such as The Huffington Post, Hi Fructose, Juxtapoz, Saatchi Gallery, and Colossal.  When not busy stitching, Michelle is a preschool teacher and lives in Burbank, CA with her husband and daughter. 

Check out her work on her WebsiteFlickr, Facebook, or her 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 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 and life, which seems a bit ironic considering I use the terribly old fashioned, labor intensive medium of embroidery.

I first started stitching in the 1990's, before the prevalence of the Internet. Back then you had to physically see art in galleries, museums, or books, which made it much more reliant on art gatekeepers. The digital world has changed all of that and allows an intimate, personalized relationship to art, with unlimited accessibility to ideas and images. With a now broadened art world, we have the ability to customize our art exposure and consumption. It has essentially created a new pathway into a highly focused art experience, which may parallel the fine art world, completely diverge from it, or transform it into a hybrid.

As an artist, the Internet, and especially social media, has allowed me to find an audience that I believe would have been more difficult for me to find in the past. My embroideries are unusual, do not easily fit into an accepted genre, and are fairly small in scale. They might be marginalized or overlooked in a traditional context. But online, particularly on a format like Instagram, a post of a 6 inch embroidery carries the same weight as a full scale installation. The physical presence has been equalized, allowing for a newfound emphasis on personal resonance.

Professionally, showing and selling work has changed as well. There are now many points of entry and access in a highly complicated art world. Traditional gallery spaces are still important but social media is another valid way to promote art and should not be overlooked or dismissed. 

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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?

Inspiration comes from everywhere. Each piece is a synthesis of several elements including memories, relationships, photographs, literature, personal mythology, art history and imagination. I am interested in exploring identity and relationships, and how our perceptions, particularly filtered though the lens of our psyche, shape our reality. The continual tension of opposing dynamics such as aspiration and limitation, expectation and loss, belonging and alienation, truth and illusion, fascinates me. Ultimately my own personal experiences drive the concepts. 

My current process is really a collage of ideas and influences. I keep a sizable collection of reference materials including photographs, notes, sketches, quotes and memories. Many of these materials I store digitally, though not all, which has made accessibility nearly unlimited. By playing with multiple, sometimes juxtaposing images and ideas, beginnings of a story and vision emerge and are further developed into a mature piece. 

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 both inspiration and infringement, though it really doesn't affect my work much. I genuinely am flattered when someone else finds inspiration in what I do and am always happy to answer questions when people have them. Because I only make one of a kind pieces, I don't have issues of pattern infringement or duplicates  that might plague other artisans. A few people have tried to post my work as their own on social media sites which was very perplexing. When this happened, people that know my work have notified me (which I greatly appreciated), and the posts have been shut right down.

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

The best advice I have is to keep going, keep experimenting, and keep persevering. Don't wait for inspiration because it usually strikes when a project is already underway. I also think it's important to stay true to your own vision. While I am all for keeping an open mind and listening to others, an artist needs to answer to herself first and foremost.

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

There are so many amazing artists out there, too many to include everyone unfortunately. Some of my favorites stitchers are Darrel Morris, Sophia Narrett, Lisa Smirnova, Victor Espinoza, Ana Teresa Barboza, Anna Torma and Amelie William Levaux. I am greatly inspired by many other artists and mediums as well and anyone interested is welcome to visit my Pinterest boards.

Craft With Conscience: Ellie Macdonald

Sarah Benning

Ellie Macdonald // Embroidery Artist // Brighton, U.K.

Ellie works predominantly on a vintage freehand embroidery machine, she also trained at Cordwainers, specialising in the pattern cutting and construction of leather accessories. Ellie is currently focusing on producing bespoke embroidered commissions and small limited edition batches. She works collaboratively with other designers and brands while steadily building her own collection of embroidered patches these can be found in Wolf and Gypsy Vintage and online at Ellie Mac Embroidery Shop.

Check out more of her work on her Instagramwebsite, or her Pinterest

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 had a huge impact on my whole business,  it’s helped take my embroidery in new unexpected directions.  Instagram  has enabled me to test ideas, see what’s popular and has ultimately lead me to launching my shop.

I've found that if you spend the time interacting with other people you build a small like minded community , In my experience this has lead to genuine friendships with a great support network.

For streamlining my thoughts I use Pinterest  a fair bit, especially when collaborating with people. I find it's a useful space where all our ideas, themes and inspiration can be amalgamated.

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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?

Inspiration can come in lots of different forms, if i'm feeling like i'm in a creative lull I visit somewhere new like a different town or a gallery, places that involve lots of people watching normally  help with new ideas . One constant inspiration is my family business which specialises in antique clothing and textiles.  I'm lucky to have access to my mum's archive of vintage textiles, this is frequently a great starting point for researching colours and techniques. The textile business has been a part of my creative life for over 20 years and I never get bored by seeing the pieces coming in and out as they are bought and sold.

Once I have an idea or a subject I then turn to books, google & photographs. If I'm at the stage where I'm interpreting an image like a photograph for example,  I normally trace a more simplified version in preparation to test embroider, things like the birds and flowers can be broken down into different thread shades and even adding in stitch direction meaning that I know how I'm going to build up the embroidery.  

I think in some ways the internet can make the design process a bit lazy, it's without a doubt a great tool but it's important to get out and about and put you own twist on what your drawing and designing.

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?

Yeah it's a tricky one. For my own work I would always rather share and take that risk, it's only when I put it out there that I can gauge if there's an interest. That said, some projects I've had to start limiting what I share on social media and have a totally separate portfolio that's not made public. My interior collaboration EvA with Amelia is kept more under wraps, when we show clients our samples they want them to be exclusive and unseen. I've noticed the occasional account with similarities to my work, but I personally try not to dwell on it as its hard to take ownership of a subject matter and I'd rather use my energy towards starting something new. There can also sometimes be synchronicity between designers, not so much copying but more common themes and fashions that are circulating . Designers will  always be influenced by their environment  and fellow artists ,  there is of course a big difference between being influenced and producing a straight copy.

One thing that does bug me is people re-posting without crediting the original artist , but again it's hard to have control over these things, it's one of the downsides to having your work online.

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

Work hard, be original, don't be scared of striking up conversation with other designers & collaborate - collaborating is one of the best ways of testing your medium out with someone's else's field of expertise!  I've always worked lots of small part time jobs at once,  I enjoy the change and challenge of making things works, no two weeks are ever the same for me. It does takes a lot of work to carve your own path in this industry but its more than worth it to do a job you love.

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

I'm mainly focused around Instagram so here's some of my favourite accounts:

Mara Hoffman , Dries Van Noten  & C_l_o are all great for colour inspiration, I also really love Dries Van Notens embellishment. 

For textile inspiration Lorna Doyle & Mijo Studio  both produce really beautiful work using interesting techniques  and I love Richard Quinn's amazing floral on floral pieces.

Freehand machine embroiderers Jill de Burca & Emily Potter - Jill mixes embroidery with embellishment into her womenswear collections and Emily works with freehand machine embroidery too. Both worth checking out.

I really like Jodie Ruffles hand embroidery for her interesting approach in focusing attention on the reverse side of her work.

Hand embroiderer Mother Eagle is self taught and so skilful, love the way she groups her collections.

Couture inspiration - Alexander Mcqueen & Josep Font and I love the artist Unskilled Worker, her work's stunning.

Craft With Conscience: Mar Cerdà

Sarah Benning

Mar Cerdà // Paper Artist // Barcelona

Mar is a paper artist working out of the Gràcia neighborhood of Barcelona, Spain. Meticulously cutting paper into miniature 3-dimensional forms, she creates entire scenes and landscapes that somehow captivate the imagination but fit into the palm of your hand. Her work seamlessly straddles the line between craft and fine art, with reference to film and popular culture, it can be cute and clever, but always delicate and beautiful.

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

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?

Internet,  or more specifically, Instagram, plays an important role in my professional life. Not only do I have the opportunity to sneak into someone else's studio and discover new artists and keep up with an art galleries' news but I'm able to show my art process as well, like a studio visit.

I love the process of my work, so Instagram is a good place to share this with others, not only the final piece.

For me, social media is a good tool to see a direct response to my work from the audience. I see what it is that they like more or less, what connects better with the public, what messages are more well understood and I learn from my own work through their view. Having so many followers around the world has taught me a lot and has put me in contact with some great costumers and clients.

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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 find inspiration in so many places. One of my main inspirations is cinema, of course. But also my city and other cities I've been.

I usually work with images I've found of frames from films or photos that I've taken while walking around some cities (I would be mortified to admit how many photos I take on my travels!) Google images is a great way of finding images as well as Pinterest to find and organize inspirational images I want to use. People can follow me on Pinterest, but I don't use it as social media really.

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 haven't found other people working on copies of my work yet. I've found people trying to reproduce something similar, in their own way, perhaps as a personal project and as a craft idea. That kind of "copy" makes me so honored, as they tag me and show me they work inspired by mine and it's a very humbling feeling, to be able to inspire others.

But I guess finding an artist working and selling real copies of my work would be hard, I'm not sure how I would deal with it. It would also strike to my insecurities, for sure.

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

The key is passion, to find the things that come from your heart and make you passionate about. If you love what you are doing then it’s more likely than the audience will love it too, more than if you try to imitate some other artists because they are having success or what they do is awesome. One can’t imitate someone else’s passion.

Everyone is different and we need to find the thing that makes us different and show it. The world is big enough for everybody so you have to find your place on it and don’t despair when you get a lot of “no”, it’s only that you are not knocking at the right door, at the right place. You need to keep learning, keep practicing and knock new doors.

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

I love to visit the blogs of The Jealous Curator (and listen to her great podcasts of conversations with artists), This is Colossal and Artistic Moods.

And as an Instagram addict I love to follow talented artists as @AlyssaMees, @MabGraves, @KelseyJBeckett, @BaotPham, @RebeccaGreenIllustration, the paper artist @AllieMayKiphuth, @Ollanski, @HattieNewman, some paper collectives as @StrictlyPaperArt and @PaperArtistCollective, and of course yours, Sarah!

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Craft With Conscience: Emillie Ferris

Sarah Benning

Emillie Ferris // Illustrator // Leamington Spa, U.K.

Emillie is a self-taught illustrator based in England. After completing her studies at University in 2015 she pursued a creative career in Embroidery, which she fell in love with during her 2nd year of study. After finding success through the social media platform Instagram, she has been able to embroider an assortment of pet portraits and woodland animals full-time. Emillie hopes to expand her business by embroidering people in the future, hosting workshops & taking part in fairs & exhibitions.

Check out more of her amazing work at her Website or Instagram.

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1. I began my #CraftWithConscience series as a way to simultaneously promote the work of other makers and to discuss the complicated issues surrounding creative inspiration and developing 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 could rave about the Internet for days! I believe it's so important to take a step back and just admire what it's done for so many of us who have found their business through it. It was through the Internet as a young girl that I started to look at other people’s artwork (mostly through deviantart) I believe I was probably googling fanart for books I was reading at the time, and I remember it would blow me away looking at how people had used their imagination to bring the characters to life <3 At this age (around 11) The idea that illustrators like Quentin Blake illustrated for their adult jobs was so out of reach to me, it sounded so fun and perfect that I  think I convinced myself from that point that when I was a grown up there was no way I could do that! I always kept drawing, and expressing myself creatively though (mostly through photography) and it wasn't until I was 19 that I found the medium of Embroidery. Now, you may have heard of this amazing platform called Instagram ;) but this creative community just worked wonders for me! It's like you go to work and all of your colleagues are there, but they are also creating their own awesome work, and alongside that they are encouraging you with yours! So, through the Internet I've been able to follow my little girl dreams to 'draw when I'm older'.  I’d say it has had an extremely positive impact on my life!

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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'm really drawn to creating images of British wildlife, and I think growing up in the Suffolk countryside contributed to that. Though it wasn't until I moved to a town for University that I found myself wanting to keep in touch with these roots, and voila, My woodland embroidery hoops started! I work mainly from reference images which I'll merge and form together in Photoshop until I'm happy that it's matching the vision I wanted :) Social media has definitely altered my design process, due to the amount of requests and emails from my followers, I started to realise there was a huge niche gap in the market for hand embroidered pet portraits! And I thought, hey, why don't I just go for it!

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 found a few examples of people using my literal images on products they were selling abroad without my permission, but I have been fortunate so far to have not seen any actual embroidered copycats of my designs (maybe I haven't looked hard enough). Since I started embroidering pet portraits, there does appear to be this huge influx of people doing the same thing! Don't get me wrong though, I 100% wasn't the first person to think of the idea! Before I went ahead with my first pet portrait I wanted to make sure I wasn't going to step on anyone's toes! The ONLY people I found that did them were Hiroko Kubota and Nichole Lynn Alvarado.  When I saw their embroidery I told myself that I would never ever ever embroider a pet on a shirt pocket like Hiroko. This is her own distinct style, and despite people emailing me to see if I could, I always turn them down and point them in her direction :) Nichole has her own style for her portraits too, hers are very fun and a little more abstract as she uses more strands of embroidery thread than myself. Stitching Sabbatical started her pet portraits around the same month I did I think! Haha :) there are a few slight copycats now, but luckily due to the detail and time I put into my portraits, there luckily hasn't been anyone I've had to confront (just yet!).

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

I'd say get your social media hat on! Learn photography, get a good camera if you can afford one. Most importantly find your style, do what you love, not what you think others will like! Finding your niche can take time, and even now I still don't think I've found my thing yet, but without trying to sound cliche: if you haven't created something you love today, there's always tomorrow!

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

Here are a few I can think of from the top of my head! :) There are definitely more than this, but sometimes I forget their names until I see their insta feeds/website and find myself ogling for hours!

Wildlife artists:

Meadowandfawn

Begoodnatured

Lamblittle

Kelzuiki

Mister finch

Fan art!

Helen green

Peter strain

Oh gosh cindy

Mike Mitchell

heartbeatsclub

Photographers

Rosie hardy

Embroidery artists

Maricor/Maricar

Chloe giordano

Trish burr

Ellie mac embroidery

Stephanie K Clark

Craft With Conscience: Sarah Strickland

Sarah Benning

Sarah Strickland // Illustrator and Designer // Melbourne

Sarah is a illustrator and textile designer living in the creative hub of the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne. She works mainly with gouache on paper and has been painting for as long as she has been able to hold a brush. Sarah's work focusses on close observation of the everyday stuff around her. Lush
colour give her paintings an otherworldly feeling, that seeks to draw the viewer in, so they can calmly observe as well.

Check out her beautiful work through 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 probably a much bigger part of my life than I give it credit for. I know that I have had many successes by being able to easily share my work with the world and reach across oceans to people who like what I do. Something I can't even imagine would have been possible for me if I were doing what I do pre digital age.  For someone like me who finds it very hard to actively promote myself, the internet is a wonderfully easy and minimally stressful way to do this as well!

I use the internet everyday to communicate, research and inspire and for all it's pitfalls, it really is an amazing thing.


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?

My work is all about observation and spending a lot of time with those inanimate objects that don't often get a lot of attention, so I really try to slow down and just look around the space I'm in for inspiration and draw from life. I often find little scenes that I had never fully appreciated before. I try to honour those objects as best as I can by painting them into a lovely picture! Having said that, I do find images (photos I have taken or images I find) that really resonate with me and I will try to capture the feeling that the image gave me, in a painting.
I use these found images as a base from which to build my own imaginary world.

When it comes to composing the colour within a painting I go through all my collected bits and pieces, wherever I have them stored and try to put together a palette that I find really sings. This is the part I labour over the most, so I will take inspiration from wherever I can!

Having said all that I usually begin my process by scrolling through my very healthy Pinterest and Instagram accounts! Often just looking at the abundance of imagery makes me want to get up and actually create something myself (can also have the reverse effect!). The internet is really a great tool for finding imagery and information you might never have access to, which might spark an idea or help to flesh something out, but it is just a tool. I do try to find inspiration from as diverse a field as possible, I still even go to the library! In the end I want my work to look like I did it, so I really do just treat the internet as a tool, along with my box of paints and brushes.

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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?

Fortunately I have not had to deal too much with copies of my work as an illustrator, which speaks to my level of exposure I think.

In my professional work as a textile designer, I have encountered what I would call a startlingly similar design to something I had done and I think my first reaction was a kind of bemusement! I felt like I was finally a real designer - my design was good enough to be copied!

Levity aside, I am extremely conscious of the murky history of copyright infringement within the textile industry and creative world generally and therefore I work very hard to create unique and original designs. I have no interest in creating something that already exists. I am also lucky enough to work for a brand that really prides itself of on being a unique product so I am never put in an uncomfortable position where I am asked to copy something (which does happen!).

I guess I would also like to add I know how easy it is to subconsciously end up reproducing something - I know I have had to scrap designs altogether when I realised I have done this. Given that we are all looking at the same images on Pinterest and Instagram, we are all fed the same "creative ingredients" if you like. It makes sense that we will be creating very similar recipes. That's why I think it's really important to get away from the screen and find inspiration from the incredible world around us!

At the time I found one of my textile designs being appropriated, the design I had created was no longer for sale so it did not directly impact the business I work for. If this was not the case I think the best approach is to contact the person/business directly and privately. I know this may not always be successful, but I have witnessed a few instances where these feuds have played themselves out on social media and it can turn very ugly. I think this is where knowing your stuff about copyright laws is essential and some public education is definitely needed
here.  

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

My advice is to find your own voice. I think this is an ongoing, work in progress for me, as we are not fixed beings, but I certainly feel much closer to this the more I make. It is what makes the work so satisfying as I am creating my own truth and also I think, what resonates with the world. Your own voice is your greatest asset!

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

I have been following the work of artist Camilla Engman for years and used to religiously read her blogs every week! Now I am more of an Instagram fanatic. I love that I can have a glimpse into the creative worlds of the people I admire, I especially love those that share really interesting insights on how the hell they go about trying to exist as a creative person! I follow way more people than I can ever keep up with, but here are a few accounts that I love;

I love with a passion the work of Miranda July and her Instagram account! Her work is full of humility and nuance and humour.

Deserted in Parisis a wonderful Instagram account by Tal Spiegel who is a pastry chef with an incredible shoe collection, living in Paris. It's no good to look at if you're trying to quit sugar (not me!) but the creations he shows are true works of art! Talk about colour inspiration!

A Floral Frenzy is a rich source of just mind blowing, beautiful floral arrangements. So much colour and beauty to be found here.

I love reading Sight Unseen for staying up to date with what is going on in the design world.


Finally, it's super cheesy, but the most inspiring artists to me are the ones I know as mates, as I have seen their work progress and fly. A great example is my husband! We studied illustration together when we were just babies (pretending to be grown up) and have been each others greatest cheerleaders and critics for the last 14 years. He is a really incredible comic artist whose passion and commitment to his creativity are awe inspiring! I consider myself a lucky person to be able to witness this every day. He sporadically posts to his Instagram
@andy_monstercomics_isaac.

All images courtesy of the artist.

Craft With Conscience: Allyson Rousseau

Sarah Benning

Allyson Rousseau // Fiber Artist // Montreal

Allyson’s work explores the relationship between traditional methods and contemporary design. With each piece, and each new idea, her goal is to express a simple concept of good design by breaking down the design elements; color, shape, texture, space, and form. With this process, she is creating work to push beyond the realm of traditional craft making, with the ultimate goal of contributing a unique and lasting perspective in contemporary Fibre Arts.

Check out her website and scroll through her instagram to see more of her amazing work.

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?

When I began teaching myself how to weave back in late 2013, there were very limited resources available for self-teaching (on the internet, and elsewhere). Ironically though, the first woven art pieces that I discovered and that inspired me to learn how to weave were found on the internet. I could just sense that weaving was about to explode back into focus and have a huge impact on the practice of contemporary fibre artists.

Flash forward to 2017, and the resources are now very accessible, all over the internet, published in contemporary how-to’s, blogs, and new weavers are born every day through the facilitation of workshops held all over the world (and online!). It has been a really wild and insightful experience to have begun my practice sort of at the “start” of this new wave of weaving, and see how quickly it has spread and grown.

For my personal practice, I would say that I have been fortunate to find most of my clients internationally through the exposure and sale of my work on the internet. I started a shop on Etsy a few years ago, and I share most of my work on Instagram with the intent of reaching a large and broad viewership. So that is to say that the internet has a tremendous role and impact on my work. The possibilities for creation become endless when you open your work up to the whole world, and I think it has helped put me on the path to succeeding in certain goals that I have for my work.

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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 do my best to avoid the work of other weavers (which is maybe easier said than done) and the internet altogether actually, and instead take my inspiration from areas of my physical life. I am curiously interested in the good design of everyday objects and environments, and I think that a lot of my inspiration manifests itself subconsciously through various media that I absorb from my surroundings.

Social media has impacted my design process in the ways that I protect my work. As soon as you post an image or share an idea on the internet, you lose a certain percentage of ownership simply because others can take inspiration from that work and you lose control of how it is shared. So I think it has made me aware and cautious of what I post, and I try to share only completed ideas that are uniquely my own.

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 yet to discover outright copying of my designs (and I hope that I never do…) but I have dealt with a number of instances where my style and designs have been appropriated in others’ work. I think that it is becoming increasingly difficult to brand myself as an artist, when there are so many weavers out there, and it can be discouraging to feel like one, in a sea of many.

The line that lies between “craft” and “art” is very thin. For some, weaving is a hobby craft, or an outlet to feel a sense of “place” in a community, and for others it is their art form, their chosen medium to produce thoughtful and contemporary fibre art. I categorize myself within the latter distinction, and feel I am constantly standing up for my work to keep it in that category- in the eyes of its viewers.

The way I can make sense of it simply, is that you would never ask an artist outright for their tips on how to achieve a certain technique in a painting…with the intent to do the same in your own work, for example. Art and Artists demand(s) a certain level of respect, and I find that because there are so many weaves out there, the vast majority of it automatically falls into the craft category…wherein people are comfortable copying techniques, and approaching other weavers for their tips and tricks. The line is made even thinner when you are trying to separate your woven artwork from the “hobby craft”, when weaving is after all a craft!

My strategies for dealing with instances of possible infringement issues are still a work in progress I think. The more of a following I accumulate, the more I learn about my own process for sharing work on the internet. I want to maintain engagement with my followers, and I wholeheartedly appreciate their interest in my work, absolutely! After all I am sharing it on the internet, so that it can be seen. But I think that dealing with any such situation requires respect and awareness on both ends, and maybe I need to adjust the ways in which I brand myself as an artist in order to receive the respect that I wish to have for my work. One way in which I can do so would be to stray away from Etsy as my shop platform- because Etsy is notoriously known and used for crafters.

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

The best advice I can give, taken from my own experience is to be original. Create unique, and thoughtful work. You’ll never be able to please everyone, but staying true to your own style will give you leverage in what can be a very competitive field. Don’t sell yourself short. Make sure that your pricing fairly pays for your time and the quality of work that you produce. If a client really loves your work, they will pay the price. This is something that I have learned in dealing with customized work, and knowing when you might be dealing with somebody who is shopping around for the cheapest price.

Respect others and work hard!

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

I’m not a big blog person, but this is a good opportunity to share the IG account of the artist that first inspired me to learn to weave: @bymimijung, and on that note I recently came across fibre artist @britt_wilkins who coincidentally explores very similar elements of shape and form in her work.

I love the illustrative work of @martinapaukova, @karl_joel_irsn, and @atelier_bingo. Artist @micahlexier has a great eye and style for shapes, lines, forms, design, and found objects.

When I am looking for a laugh or a dog I turn to @napkinapocalypse.

All images courtesy of the artist.

Craft With Conscience: Tessa Perlow

Sarah Benning

Tessa Perlow // FIber artist // Asbury Park, NJ

Tessa is a fiber artist based out of Asbury Park, NJ. Using vibrant colors and expressive stitching her work seamlessly crosses back and forth between fine art, craft, and fashion. Often working from observation, Tessa reinvigorates an old world craft with rustic iconography, floral patterns, and plant design into something unique and modern.

To see more of Tessa's work check out her Instagram and visit her 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 definitely been both a blessing and a challenge for my artistic and professional life. I have to be grateful that the platform of instagram exists- it is initially how I was able to get exposure to promote my business and keep me motivated to produce work. Right now social media is the best tool for me to generate business with my etsy but at the same time, I really do not like to spend too much time on my phone or on my computer.

I think as a result of social media and wanting to make money, I find myself gearing my work towards what people want as opposed to what feels right for me. One of my goals this year is to be confident in my artistic vision and definitely to make time to work on pieces I want to make and not necessarily share everything I do on social media. Sometimes you lose confidence in yourself with social media because instagram is such an easy vehicle of comparison. It’s tough- I am always tempted to delete my social media accounts to get a little break from all the noise but right now it’s too valuable a tool for selling; I really rely on the income.

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 am always greatly inspired by nature- plants and animals are a recurring theme in my embroidery.  I am also greatly inspired by movies, books, art history, and science.

I like to come up with a little theme every so often that I keep to myself but use as a go-to inspiration for color palette and motif inspiration. I went to F.I.T. where I studied fashion design, and one of the best things we did with every project was make mood boards and inspiration journals. Because of social media, there is a pressure for everyone to brand ourselves and to have a 'look'; to have a 'lifestyle'. What I try to take from my time studying fashion design is that though branding is important for businesses & artists, as the seasons change and your mood changes, let your inspirations change as well. When I first started embroidering I relied heavily on pinterest (I am still probably on pinterest twice a day) and used a variety of reference images to source for my art. I still like to use reference imagery but I definitely prefer working from life. I am trying to transition my pieces completely to works based on observation to maintain originality and heart. personally, I feel Its just more exciting and free to embroider over my drawings of houseplants and my cats than it is to stare at a screen.

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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 encountered an instagram account that I saw was very obviously using my embroidery designs on clothing and patches as well as other well-known embroidery artists. At first, it’s natural to feel frustrated or sad about it but ultimately I do not let stuff like that bother me.  Situations like that are opportunities to tell oneself- it’s no big deal, I am full of ideas and I'll just keep doing what I do. In general I feel the most healthy when I just focus on my goals and not worry too much about what everyone else is doing. Plus I understand that sometimes the best way to learn is to replicate. When I was growing up, I tried to copy things that I really loved either as a learning tactic or because I couldn't afford the real thing, so really I cannot judge!

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

My advice for aspiring artists is to firstly read The Crossroads Between Should and Mustby Elle Luna, It totally changed my life and I really need to give it credit for helping me through a tough time when I questioned if I deserved to think I could be an artist. Its an incredibly inspiring book and anyone who is creative in anyway should read it!

I think it’s most important to realize that you have a right to express yourself and that when you create, you enrich the world. I'd say never feel guilty prioritizing what makes you happy. For me personally, right now my happiness comes from embroidering and so I am literally spending as much time as I possibly can working on my craft. At the same time Its important to strike a healthy life balance, allow yourself to do other hobbies you love, and spend time with friends and family. As far as business advice goes I could definitely use some!! I feel very much like where maybe I have strong creative vision and am good at prioritizing work time, I probably lack in my business and communication skills. I am trying to not get too mad at myself when I feel overwhelmed by the business aspects of etsy and crafting but it is definitely the most challenging aspect of my life since I got my LLC. Still- we humans have to be kind to ourselves and remember we do the best that we can at any given moment. Embroidery isn't life or death, so when I find myself getting seriously stressed out I force myself to step back, breathe, and reassess what is so overwhelming.

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

 Even though instagram seriously stresses me out, I can't help but admit it is magical in how it has connected me to a community of totally awesome artists & especially embroidery artists. My favorite art account to follow is probably @alia_pop for amazing punchy color stories and painted graphics that are ridiculously dreamy. I also have been a huge fan of Fred Stonehouse's work since having babysat for a family that had a couple of his pieces. His handle is @fstoney1960 and he is constantly posting new work- so cool and weird and inspiring in terms of how prolific he is not to mention brainy and technically skilled. I've been really into contemporary artist Jonas Wood's work which is  really stylized paintings of houseplants, interiors as well as portraits. I love his style, I've only seen a couple of his works in person but I would really love a chance to see more, his work has been a huge inspiration to me this past year.

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All images are courtesy of the artist.

Craft With Conscience: Jenny Kiker

Sarah Benning

Jenny Kiker // Living Pattern, Florida, USA

After graduating from Savannah College of Art and Design with an Illustration major / painting minor, she started her first job with Carter's/Osh-Gosh kids clothing as a technical/creative artist in Atlanta. After 4 years, she gave in to wanderlust and moved to San Diego and found her place with Free People in visual display/creative merchandising. She was able to work with URBN Inc. where she learned the value of compelling creativity in a brand. Constant soul searching started to eat away at her and she jumped. Jenny has grown Living Pattern as a way to connect herself and her audience to the still delicateness of nature and to themselves. For her, it is a learning process that changes day by day. 

Find more of Jenny's work by checking out her Instagram and livingpattern.net.

Jenny Kiker, Living Pattern Studio

Jenny Kiker, Living Pattern Studio

1.  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 vessel to share my work and process. It's allowed me to make friends with some of the most interesting people that I never would have otherwise. I love the radical openness that exists online. It's an amazing sharing economy of ideas, information and things that accelerates the evolution of my work. How else could I have such immediate access to so much subject matter and so many people to share the results with. It's been the ultimate catalyst.

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?

My inspiration comes from every medium I can find. I keep a collection of plants and I love them very much. I always consider drawing from life the best but there is not substitute for a Google image search to find new species and even compositions. I've also collected beautiful plant encyclopedias and botanical almanacs that I use to explore a genus as a whole or helps me with species identification. I also encourage followers to use #livingpattern to tag plant photos or whatever else they interpret it to mean. This brings a whole new dimension to my work as it creates a feedback loop with my audience to inform my future direction.

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 does it affect you?  If so, what are your strategies for dealing with it?

Yes, I absolutely encountered that to all degrees. A company in Chile makes a living on ripping off art. A customer of mine at a South American craft fair sent me a picture of my Monstera and Lacy Tree hanging their a booth and I recognized several other artists work upon further investigation. Other artists made slightly less blatant copies of my work and called it their own but what affected me the most was when the pieces were in concert with other elements of my brand voice, such as photography, desk styling and wording.

I believe in the saying "a good artist copies, a great artist steals," but steal from everyone in your work. I took inspiration from Christopher Marley and nineteenth century botanical illustration but it's the blend of these things that makes it unique and my own. A strategy to deal with it recently has been a focus on intricacy and detail. My two new blooming cactus prints are an example of that but there is some really complex work on the docket.

On the bright side of this, my work has inspired lots of weekend projects and fun experiments for people. I love to get tagged by people showing me renderings of my monstera, ferns, etc. If I can be the reason that someone get a little more use out of their paintbrushes, it's my privilege to share!

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

My advice would be to be extremely critical of what you put in front of people. Be particular on how you want things to look and it something feels off, keep pushing to get it to where you want it. A simple photograph takes me hours to get, which leads me into another piece of advice: learn photography. If you're a doing food, art, music, events, craftwork, products or anything, compelling images are key.

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

Absolutely. Design Sponge has always been the godmother of cutting edge aesthetic to me. A Beautiful Mess, The Junglow and Dabito are other accounts my thumb is always inclined to double tap, as well. My retailers have some amazing account too. Rare Device, Room6deepcove, Shop Miroja, Fern Shop Cincinnati and Botanic and Luxe are just a few. House Plant Journal is a great source of plant knowledge and time-lapsed plant photography. Michelle Morin and I shared the bond having our art plagiarized by the company I mention above - her work is amazing. I love the jewelry of Alexis Russell Jewelry and Bearand the Adelaide and the recipes of Minimalist Baker. If there is one artist you should check out tho, its Baotpham.

Living Pattern Studio
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Craft With Conscience: The Crafter's Box

Sarah Benning

The Crafter’s Box delivers hands-on workshops in collaboration with experienced artists to makers all over the world. The Crafter's Box pairs monthly online workshops with a thoughtfully sourced box of tools & materials shipped to makers so they can learn more about and dive right into crafting techniques such as block printing, embroidery, weaving, leather working and ceramics. 

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Craft With Conscience: Bodil Jane

Sarah Benning

Bodil Jane is an illustrator from Amsterdam, the Netherlands. She graduated with honors from Willem de Kooning Academy in Rotterdam, specializing in illustration (2014). Bodil Jane loves to illustrate food, recipes, animals, fashion, interiors, plants, packaging and maps. All of her illustrations include hand made elements and digital techniques.

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Craft With Conscience: Brannon Addison

Sarah Benning

Brannon Addison an artist that specializes in hand embroidery. While pursuing a career in education and nonprofit communications, she turned to drawing and painting as a creative outlet, which resulted in the launch of a stationery line in 2011. Following an ankle injury in 2014, she taught herself how to embroider and fell in love with needlework. Brannon releases monthly collections of her framed embroidery and has extended her work into pillows, pins, and clothing as well.

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