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Craft With Conscience: Alexandra Knie

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: Alexandra Knie

Sarah Benning

Alexandra Knie // multidisciplinary Artist // Valencia, Spain

Alexandra Knie is a German multidisciplinary artist and university lecturer with a degree in
Fine Arts, currently living and working in Valencia (Spain) where she most recently has
been awarded an Artistic Research Fellowship from the Consorci de Museus de la
Comunitat Valenciana. Her special interest is the artistic investigation of the intersection of
art and science.

She focuses on the transfer of microscopic and macroscopic visualized images into hand
or machine embroidery, which links two complementary areas: modern science and a
historical textile technique.

In addition to some important solo exhibitions, Alexandra Knie has participated in several group
exhibitions in Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and the USA, among others.

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

Alexandra Knie portrait color.jpg
Studio Alexandra Knie.jpg

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?

Mainly I use the internet to look for suitable calls for exhibitions worldwide. This takes
much time, because I try to promote my artwork through displaying in interesting places.
Not every call for art is serious. You have to read carefully all terms and conditions and to
check out the institutions’ review. And of course, you have to be aware that not every
application will be accepted in the end. Social media like Instagram is a new chapter for
me right now. I see it as an interesting platform to establish contact with creative makers
and artists and I am positively surprised by the sometimes unexpected feedback.

virus cultures macroscopic magnified 2 times Alexandra Knie.jpg
detail virus cultures Alexandra Knie.jpg

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

Besides drawing, silkscreening and painting, I use hand and machine embroidery as an
emphasizing stylistic device in my artwork. In the long history of embroidery, it was always
used as a form of decoration and narration to valorize religious or profane clothes and
home textiles. I try to use this potential of collective memory to subvert the outwardly
visible aesthetic surface of embroidery by illustrating dangerous viruses that are not visible
to the naked eye. Therefore, I use scientific microscopic illustrations and background
information offered by the internet or other media to create a metaphoric image of
embroidery put into multiple layers beyond an empirical logic. So I understand the internet
as one of the main instruments for my artistic research, besides books, exhibitions and
daily life.

Study of Zika virus_4 times magnified_ Alexandra Knie_2017.jpg
Study of Zika virus_ Alexandra Knie 2017.jpg

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

Before I started with my scientifically influenced art, I did a wide range of figurative and
abstract paintings. It was a challenging process to find out my artistic intention and to be
satisfied with my work. Just at the age of five I knew that I wanted to become an artist.
Besides drawing nearly every day, I was doing also silkscreening with the help of my
father, and I loved it. Twenty years and a diploma in Fine Arts later, I was teaching
silkscreening at the University of Applied Science in Aachen at the department of design.
At that time, I noticed that the cooperation with the students positively influenced my
artistic process to change my point of view and to find a new topic to work with. Finally, I
started to investigate in the field of microcosm because of an interesting phrase a friend
once told me when she was writing her doctoral thesis in medicine. She explained that she
had to “design a virus“ to find out its effect against a special type of cancer. This sounded
like science fiction and grabbed me until today. I consequently became a designer of “art

Alexandra Knie Virenausbreitung (Ebola) 2.jpg
Alexandra Knie popular viruses_lassa virus.jpg

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?

Up until now I have not found direct copies of my art. I think you have to be aware that a person
at the other end of the world or even your neighbour could have ideas similar to yours
but with different focuses and personal background. Someone who deals with copies is
annoying, but I think it will also be of short duration because in my opinion, ideas adopted
from others cannot be developed further with the same creativity and quality as by its
original creator.

Alexandra Knie popular viruses_1.jpg

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

To reflect critically someone’s art process and development in order to avoid exogenous
influence by unprofessional or non constructive advice. Trust and make it clear to yourself
that you are the only expert in doing your art or running your creative business in order to not lose sight of what you want to transmit or reach with your work.

captured viruses_Alexandra Knie.jpg

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

There are a lot of famous artists I admire and I can learn from, like Nancy Graves, Anni
Albers, Sheila Hicks, Agnes Martin, Noa Eshkol and Ernesto Neto, to point out some of my
favourite ones. But I also follow the creative and inspiring people on Instagram as your
account, Sarah and let me point out others:







study of virus entities_Alexandra Knie.jpg
Alexandra Knie Study 1_ study of virus entities_2017.jpg
Detail Study 1_ Alexandra Knie.jpg