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Craft With Conscience: Adipocere

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: Adipocere

Sarah Benning

Adipocere // Embroidery Artist // Melbourne, Australia

Adipocere, a self-taught hand embroidery artist, primarily creates their imagery for the therapeutic catharsis evoked through the medium. Their work focuses on displaying what they refer to as emotional self-portraiture while operating within the confines of a constantly developing, overarching fiction, one with small roots in reality but using motifs and symbolism to delineate concepts such as martyrdom, asceticism, existentialism, and the eventuality of death. Adipocere is inspired by their environmental science studies, focusing on misrepresented fauna and the point at which humanity intersects.

Check out more of their amazing work at and on Instagram.

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

As with most, the internet definitely plays a very large and direct role. I have only recently begun to develop local, Australian connections, and even those are entirely through the internet. All networking, artistic relationships and international opportunities were afforded to me by way of social media. I’m very thankful for it.

Furthermore, It has allowed for the large level of personal separation and anonymity I have maintained so far, which although isn’t so important to me now, felt very important to begin with.


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

A lot of my inspiration comes tangibly from literature, snippets of recorded history, philosophical contemplation of life and death, and cats. My ongoing Environmental Science degree has also proven a rich source of inspiration, largely through various flora and fauna studies. I tend to become attached to groups of largely misrepresented fauna like spiders, moths and bats, which appear often as personal motifs.

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If my process changes with social media in mind, it’s completely subconscious. I guess any work-in-progress style documentation feels largely spurred on by social media. It more accommodates an ability to share process or studies which otherwise would not be seen due to their un-exhibitable nature, for someone who does not create via commission.


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

Creativity has always come rather naturally, albeit internalised. More recently, I’ve begun developing a large overarching fiction to link more of my sentiments together. It is a very slow process of constant expansion and looming constraints, carefully avoiding anachronisms. At the end of the day, I’m always trying to verbalise personal feelings through my imagery. This is probably why I find the actual process so cathartic. Each work tends to be a labour of love eked out one stitch at a time. Hand embroidery can feel like a form of introspection when creating what may appear to be rather simple imagery, in such a time consuming fashion. I love the preservation of human-error in what results, often having a voice of its own.


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

That sometimes arbitrary line of inspiration versus infringement is an interesting conversation. I’ve seen blatant infringements, but also uncharitable accusations of being overly inspired. It doesn’t really affect me, honestly. I typically ignore it if I see it. Currently, I solely create work for various galleries, which doesn’t feel so jeopardised via these instances, when compared to how it may affect someone who is working solely via commission, or at a full-time capacity. It’s always great to receive credit for original designs, but I would encourage anyone to come to terms with the inevitability of work being copied, intentionally or otherwise. 

I believe this all plays a part in the art versus craft conversation as well. Casual infringements appear rather commonly within the embroidery medium. Generally, I am not interested in these direct, uninspired forms of fan art from a viewers perspective, and definitely don’t condone re-creating another’s work for monetary gain. That seems terribly immoral.

However, I do fully allow any of my imagery to be committed to skin. I find it interesting how many people have been interested in getting tattoos of my artwork, around 150 that I know of.


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

Be honest. Be yourself.


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

 If, like me, you have a penchant for macabre surrealism or baroque art, I highly recommend the various posting of my good friends @beinartgallery, @beautifulbizarremagazine and @bloodmilk.


All images provided by the artist.