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Beating Burnout

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!

Beating Burnout

Sarah Benning

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

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

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I know I am not the only artist/maker/designer/writer/musician/creative/PERSON to go through these challenges and the amount of support and encouragement I received over the past six months when I opened up about my creative struggles was overwhelming! So, incase anyone else out there is in the midst of it and is having a hard time seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, I want to share the strategies that work for me.

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This is by no means an exhaustive list and I welcome and encourage anyone reading this to drop a line in the comments section sharing other strategies. Because we are all in this together and downswings are inevitable. But so are the upswings, so here we go.

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Slow down. Take a breath. Be grateful for your existence. In time, everything will work out. As hokey as it seems, I am a deep believer in things happening for a reason. Even struggles. Perhaps, especially struggles. I know some of the most significant experiences in my life have been some of the most difficult. They have shaped who I am and by extension shaped my work and my business. Experience the hardship, but know that everything is temporary.

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Have faith that you have the experience and the know how to get through this challenging period. You know you have good ideas. They just aren’t flowing right now, but they will if you give them the time and space to develop. Go back to no. 1 and breathe. Trust your instincts about what comes next and try not to let fear and anxiety lead your decisions.

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This is a big one. Stick with it. Push through the block in your creative endeavours and celebrate the progress—however big or small. Because slump or no, most of us have obligations that must be met. Not doing anything and letting things slide until you are feeling better isn’t always an option. So do your best to pat yourself on the back and offer up a little personal encouragement about what you are able to accomplish. Be gentle and kind to yourself. You are doing your best and you will get through it.

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Experiment! Shift your perspective on this slow period and look at it as an opportunity to break out of your comfort zone! Not all experiments will stick. Some might be complete failures. But likewise, some experiments might lead to whole new avenues of creation! Lately, I have stepped outside of my medium and explored linocut printmaking and acrylic landscape painting and it has been so refreshing and inspiring! While I haven’t yet made time to implement them, these experiments have generated so many new ideas of how I can incorporate different materials and techniques into my practice and I couldn’t be more excited.

I have turned to The Crafter’s Box for this monthly dose inspiration. You can learn more about them here! (In the spirit of transparency, know that this is an affiliate link.)

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Take a break. Clear your head and experience life outside of your studio and your creative block. It is especially hard for me to tear myself away from my work when my work is a challenge. The pressure to create sets in and it is so tough to make time to step away. This is where self-care steps in—and I don’t necessarily mean bubble baths and manicures (though if that’s your thing, by all means INDULGE)—but rather make sure you are getting enough sleep. Make sure you are drinking enough water and eating good food. Treat yourself to some physical activity and all the endorphins that come along with it. And take some time for YOU to do whatever it is that you want to do. Personally, I like to indulge in an afternoon of thrifting every once and awhile. It’s time for me to get out and about, go for a walk, rummage through shops, and interact with other humans face to face. I always get home refreshed, even if I had to force myself to leave in the first place.

So, my final word here: if you are struggling, know that you are not alone. We have all been there and will all be there again. Communicate with your community and ask for support when you need it. You will get through it.