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Craft With Conscience: Britt Hutchinson of Tinycup Needleworks

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: Britt Hutchinson of Tinycup Needleworks

Sarah Benning

Britt Hutchinson of Tinycup Needleworks // Embroidery Artist // Cleveland, OH

 Tinycup is the moniker of Britt Hutchinson (a person not a brand) who creates one of a kind, free hand embroidery pieces meant to reflect the myriad of feels connected to one's humanness.

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

Photo credit : Chris Dilts

Photo credit : Chris Dilts

Photo credit : Chris Dilts

Photo credit : Chris Dilts

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?

Tinycup wouldn’t exist as it does if it weren’t for the internet. Everything I know now came to fruition due to posting things I made to Instagram while learning to embroider via the ever patient and wonderful people of the fiber community on YouTube. As time went on things snowballed and the feedback I received encouraged me to further explore and expand my skillset inside of the practice. It seemed that the more I shared, the more opportunity to correspond and grow with other similarly minded creators and small business folks seemed to appear.

I am a relatively introverted person by nature, so having a platform that allowed me to socialize and share my work with the world without having to be in a crowded space really helped/continues to help me develop my network and practice. Furthermore the following I have been fortunate enough to accrue has served as a continual reminder to try and lead by example and periodically give back to my community. While I am endlessly grateful for the opportunity and information the internet has provided me, I do find myself at odds with it pretty regularly. I am an analog gal at heart, so when things like algorithms change and/or the need for further social media engagement increases I can oft be found thoroughly confused and fighting back the urge to throw my computer out of the window. Full transparency, I prefer pencils, miss the sound of dial tone and I still have no idea how to use photoshop. Gratefullness and appreciation aside, I really do like to keep a healthy distance from unnecessary internet engagement. It helps keep irrational feelings away.


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

My work is intensely motivated by my emotionality and mental state. As someone who struggles with mental illness, having a creative outlet that provides much in the way of structure, repetition and concentration really aids in maintaining positive mental health. All of that being said, my personal work is inspired by my emotional response to any given situation I am experiencing/witnessing. Needless to say, being a deep feeler in a world full of endless turbulence and an avenue to expose myself to it (the web,) my cup runneth over with the need for catharsis. When it comes to commission work, I simply try to tap into the hearts and minds of clients with a series of questions pertaining to their requests in order to best reflect their desired imagery. When it comes to the internet and social media impacting my inspiration, I find the breadth of readily available knowledge to be an absolute honey pot. I love to learn and when I learn, I feel. I read a lot about historical events and the thoughts and feelings of those involved. I also really like literature and bookplates, and the public domain is full of mind-blowing old work I’ve never before seen or heard of.


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

I continue to discover my creative voice by seeking management and understanding of my myself, my depression and the world around me. I also try to make sure to put myself in a position of growth by doing something new/uncomfortable at least twice a year. In my opinion, striving for and fostering your best version of humanness ultimately makes you a better creator.


 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?

Unfortunately I have encountered this multiple times, and without fail it causes me a great amount of grief. The anonymity of the internet seems to breed many forms of entitlement and misinformation. Along side of that, working within a medium that is heavily based in patterns and reproduction, it is very common for folks to just assume that what I or anyone else has made is undoubtedly at their disposal to do whatever they want with. As someone who is deeply emotionally connected to each piece I create, as well as my practice (as many creators are) I always feel an intense violation of my personhood when someone recreates/heavily references my work. Depending on the severity of infringement (the worst case scenario being another creator claiming another’s style as their own [high treason in my mind]) moments like this have thrown me into a bout of depression. What’s more is that sometimes when I stand up for myself, I am equally devastated when folks then shame me and tell me how I should feel about it. More often than not, people will say that because other people “don’t have time” or are “not as creative,” that I should just allow them to utilize my designs because “everyone deserves art.” While I do not disagree that everyone deserves art, I firmly believe that true art is created upon the exploration of one’s own self. If you run around ripping other people off, you’re basically just trying to be yourself in someone else’s clothes. Creators work sometimes their whole lives to find and develop their “voice.” Who are you to take that away because you will not put in your own time? And what exactly do you learn by inhibiting the exploration of your own psyche? Nothing but surface. I do not recreate my work, and I would prefer that no one else recreates it either. I do not think that creators are in the wrong by asking others to respect that. Nor do I think creators deserve a backlash when they do. The phrases are also common: “Good artists copy, great artists steal.” As well as “Everything has been done before.” To those statements I whole heartedly say, pooh (and that is putting it politely for the sake of your audience.) I won’t stand up and shake hands with a cop-out like that. Sure, bullion knots have been done before by billions of people, but just as each person is unique, so is their creative vision. There are an infinite amount of ways to create work in any medium. FIND YOUR OWN -that’s part of it. I have done everything between directly confronting folks and explaining my feelings, to sending cease and desists. None of it feels good. The only thing that does is doing my best to educate and perpetuate the importance of one’s own self actualization and creative exploration. I also highly encourage everyone to seek inspiration outside of one’s own medium. Studying someone else’s work is fine, I guess, but that’s how you end up inadvertently copping style. What’s important are the rudiments. Take the things that have been done before and are ok to do again, a french knot, and find your own unique way of implementing it. I think it takes a lot of courage to share your work, and conversely a good amount of cowardice to ride someone else’s style as if it were your own. At the end of the day I try to do my best to ignore the copy cats. If they are OK with being a hack that is their cross to bear.


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

The best advice I have was given to me by an early client. He said something along the lines of “Never be afraid to say no. The second you lose the ability to decline is the second you’ve lost control.” I remind myself of this every time I am faced with a choice regarding my business. If my heart isn’t in it, I say no. To me it is important to never compromise my ethos for the purpose of profit. Money has never been, and will never be my motivation for why I do what I do; Heart and mind are. I have maintained this though these last almost 5 years, and it has kept what’s sacred to me. I’ll forever be broke, but at least I am doing what I love on my terms. I encourage anyone who wants to do anything to never deviate from their heart. Trust your gut, but do not mistake fear for a bad decision. Doing what scares you may be daunting, but you will always grow from those experiences.


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

 If you’ve never seen the quilt work of Ken Ellis, look it up!

 Weimar art and German Expressionism is some of my favorite ever. Otto Dix’s war imagery is insane and beautiful. The photographs of Frank Hurley took during the Great War are also up there. Honestly anything made between the first and second war is incredibly moving to me.

 @sauerkrautmissionary22 is my current favorite IG account.

@ninniluhtasaari, @timberchouse, @jackiholland are stitchers of some kind that I am currently very into.

 @emilyburtner, @chloemariegaillardburk, @noeliatowers, @catsandart, @candorarts, @matthilvers, @hota_ are artists that I deeply admire.

 If I could be a completely different person I’d be @battlefieldarchaeologist

 I’m sure I am forgetting someone.