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Craft With Conscience: Bodil Jane

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: Bodil Jane

Sarah Benning

Bodil Jane // Freelance Illustrator, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

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. Bodil Jane's clients include Wrap Magazine, Red Cap Cards, Unicef, Chronicle Books, and Marks & Spencer, among many others. She is represented by the London based illustration agency Folio Art.

Find her work at bodiljane.com and check out her work across social media on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook

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1. I began my #CraftWithConscience series as a way to simultaneously promote the work of other makers and to discuss the complicated issues surrounding creative inspiration and developing 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 think the internet plays a pretty big role in my professional life. I think it’s amazing how the internet influenced my career. I would probably be nowhere without it. Already from the second year of art school I started a blog, website and Facebook page. I really had to get used to getting my work out there. I felt it was embarrassing and exhibitionistic to show the world the things that I was doing and making (I felt like no one would be interested). After getting used to it, I felt good about it. It motivated me and people seemed to like it. Suddenly they were up to date about my creative life that had always been inside my room.

After my graduation (2014), I started an Instagram account. I just bought my first smartphone and it changed my life. I love documenting things and have always kept journals so it was easy for me to update photo’s to the account. In the beginning it was a bit of an obsession: if I was just making a drawing I felt like I had to make it beautiful so that I could post it. Like people were watching over my shoulder as I was drawing. But luckily I realized that of course it’s a choice what you show and not show online.

The likes and comments motivated me. And the account grew quiet fast. Sometimes when a magazine or blog posted my work, I woke up to +2000 followers. It became a bit of an addiction. But when I reached 50K the addiction kind of stopped. It feels pretty weird to have a group of +60k people in my phone. Sometimes it feels nice to ignore it for days. At the same time, it still gives me a kick to post something and get reactions to it. It motivates me to work and to improve. I think I get the main part of my jobs through Instagram. People from all over the world started to send me e-mails and fan mail and ordering from my shop. It’s amazing how Instagram helps me to keep doing this dream job.

Also, Instagram gives me the feeling that I have a lot of colleagues and I also try to get to know these people in real life when I’m traveling. I’ve made friends through Instagram.

The downside is that some people can be a bit obsessive. There are some girls that copy me a lot. Not only 1/1 copies of illustrations but also my ‘profile’ as a creative person. My work, style and taste feel very personal to me and to me it feels like my account shows a lot about my life and about who I am. My work is like a combination of all the things I’ve done and experienced in my life, it’s really me. And sometimes it’s a bit ‘unfair’ how someone just copies it.

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 a lot of different things. I think I’m obsessed with objects. I get really inspired by flea markets. I love postcard collections, exotic curiosities, antique table ware, freaky dolls, kitsch vases, rusty tools, vintage perfume bottles and so on. I just love things. I also get very inspired by beautiful packaging, fashion, exhibitions and travelling. Also, I like to visit botanical gardens (all around the world) to do sketchbook drawings.

My illustrations are like a big collage of a lot of inspiration that I have found. This can be objects or furniture or outfits that I have myself or found on a flea market or took a photo of at a museum or found on Pinterest. It’s like a big collection of things that I love and have changed to my own taste.

For example Pinterest makes it easy to find inspirational pics. Sometimes it almost feels like cheating because it’s a database that everyone can get into. So I prefer getting inspiration from other places.

Also I used to feel very influenced by artists that I followed on Instagram. Not necessarily that I wanted to be like them, but when I would scroll through the feed I would think: oh no I really have to get better. Things like that! But now I feel very confident about my style and that it’s really ‘me’. So I feel like I’m just going to an exhibition and enjoying the things that other people make.

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 already answered most of these questions. About strategies for dealing with it: When I find out that somebody copied me or clearly has been watching my work a lot, I feel a bit frustrated. As I said before, it doesn’t only feel like somebody ‘stole’ my artwork, but also my profile as a person: my taste, my colours, my inspiration. For example, a fan who buys all my favorite books, because she’s read it in an interview. Or people “suddenly” drawing the same kind of interiors or subjects. It’s just a bit annoying. At the same time I understand that a role model is important to find your own style. I think you can learn from copying things, I just think you shouldn’t share it online.

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

If you are still trying to find your own style, I think it’s better to not spend too much time online on Instagram and blogs. I think it’s better to find your style through the things that genuinely interest you or the things that you see around you etc. Not because it ‘just happened to show up in you feed and you like it’. Try to find something that makes you special and authentic. Instead of wanting to be someone else.

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

Examples of artists that I think are really authentic and have a very personal style are: Merijn Hos, Kristin Texeira, Brecht Evens, Marion Fayolle, Eleanor Taylor, Maria Herreros, Llew Mejia. I only read the It’s Nice That blog.

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All images are courtesy of the artist.