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Craft With Conscience: Arounna khounnoraj of Bookhou

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: Arounna khounnoraj of Bookhou

Sarah Benning

Arounna khounnoraj // Designer and screen printer // Toronto, Canada

Arounna is a fibre artist living in Toronto. She also runs bookhou, a multidisciplinary studio that focuses on screen printing in the making of a variety of goods including bags and home decor items using natural materials. She also works with her husband John Booth in designing and making wood furniture and accessories.  

Check out more of their amazing work on their website or instagram or try your hand at punch needle art with Arounna's collaboration with The Crafter's Box!

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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?   

We started bookhou when the intersection of the internet and craft was in it's infancy. We worked in our studio and our brick and mortar shop the way most artists did, but realized the importance of connecting to our customers by blogging and sharing our studio processes.  Today I feel that the internet is the most important place for our work and a crucial element in our business not just for sales and reaching a far larger market than I would otherwise be able to just through our shop and craft shows, but also for me as a maker to be able to connect to people around the world as a place to create our narrative and share our story.  The potential for connection has helped us create a following and community for both marketing our goods as well as collaborations with other artists.

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

I get inspiration from a variety of sources - everyday things, nature and botanical samples and the world of modern art since I started my creative life as an artist in sculpture and printmaking. In many ways, though, the internet has changed how I access other artists and design by replacing the way I use to look at print, like books and magazines. It's so accessible now, and I now have to be careful not to get inundated by all the info.  Finding kindred spirits in work is a great assurance in one's work. In other ways I feel that social media has helped keep me disciplined by forcing me to present my work according to a schedule, and also to flush out ideas and get feedback from my online community.

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

I have always focused on the handmade. Whether it is purely decorative items or more useful things, we have always emphasized the fact that it is made by us in our studio. The social media that parallels our work allows us to create a presence in peoples lives. Even though I'm interested in a variety of media in the studio I find that showing the process of the work helps people to understand the work and the love I have for it. People love the world of handmade in contrast to much of the consumer world and I find that what I make and how I spend my time resonates with people and it gives us a unique voice.

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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?  

 We have been copied so much and at first I would get really angry and be hurt by someone benefiting from my hard work. It's so hard to pursue copiers and get them to stop, but I find that more often that those merely being inspired or learning will eventually find their own voice and those who are just copying will eventually stop altogether. Copying is one thing but lacking an underlying creative drive or ideas is quite another and will lead to their downfall. I now take a different approach, if I get copied I try to change the work and try something different, so in a way the copiers help me grow in my work and process.

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

I think the best thing to do is to make work that you love and believe in rather than follow trends and not to worry about what someone else is doing - put blinders on and focus on what you are doing. And work hard!

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

well I love your work, I'm a fan of Ann Wood. her intricate paper structures are so beautiful, Elisabeth Dunker, who I think I have been following her since the beginning and love everything she does, My dear friend Margie Oomen in how her photos resonate her love for nature.

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All images provided by the artist.