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Craft With Conscience: Carmen Mardónez

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: Carmen Mardónez

Sarah Benning

Carmen Mardónez // Embroidery Artist // Los Angeles, CA


Carmen Mardónez is a Chilean artist currently living in Los Angeles, California. Her work is focused on exploring how to convey movement, color, and lights through hand embroidery, finding inspiration in Northern Lights, and Telescope captures. In Chile, she worked as volunteer and professional in prisons and local governments, whereas her artwork was a personal search. Since arriving in Los Angeles, she is completely dedicated to embroidery.

You can find more of Carmen’s work on her website and 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?

I belong to a generation that takes the Internet for granted. In my personal life, from shopping to reading the news, from collaborating and working with other people to watching movies, I’m connected most of the time. All the more now that I’m far from my family and friends, so I use the Internet to feel close to them. In my work as an artist this is not different. Artists, in order to their art to be pertinent and meaningful, have to live in their own time. This doesn’t mean to be naive, but not archaizing either.

The Internet is not just the channel to share my work, but a place in which I can be connected to and interact with hundreds of artists from different places in the world. Of course, it has some drawbacks too. Sometimes I feel discouraged after seeing a lot of incredible artists, wondering if my own work would reach that point anytime. Other times I feel disappointed when I see other people stealing my work and attributing to their own. I’m also convinced of the value of face-to-face interaction with people, and of the direct encounter with art when possible, which could sense pretty obvious but it is not always the case. However, I really enjoy the possibility of sharing ideas and creations with people that otherwise would be too far to contact, and getting inspiration from online sources.

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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’m currently working on a Northern Lights series and starting to embroider space landscapes captured by telescopes (particularly the Hubble). I have never seen Northern Lights (yet), and I have not seen a Black Hole or a Supernova (I hope this never happen face to face!). But I can have access to all those images just because of the Internet, and especially through Instagram accounts from travelers and scientific teams sharing their explorations and searches for knowledge.

In fact, social media was also important in my rediscovery of embroidery, not just as a craft technique and a set of rules (as I learned it when I was a child), but as a tool for artistic expression. It was on Facebook, probably in 2015, where I encountered the work of Victor Espinoza, and I got captivated. In creating my artwork, I enjoy working with the colors itself, more than images, drawings, and figures. However, painting in my house was too dirty to have a constant practice. The work of Victor allowed me to discover the threads as an artistic mean, realizing that I can actually “paint” with them, with freedom and at the same time cleanliness.

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

I believe that my artistic voice has been present during my life in different ways, although most of the time as a “B side”, complimenting my more intellectual or rational occupations. My more artistic side took prevalence as a mental health necessity some years ago. In the midst of a really hard time when writing my master’s thesis in psychology and intensive work in prisons of Santiago, Chile, I turned to the arts for inner equilibrium. The starting point was a couple of meetings with Victor, where he showed me some of his artwork and his way of working. After that, it was just a matter of experimenting and let the threads and movement to flow.

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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?

It just happened to me a few days ago, my sister found an Instagram account with a Northern Light embroidery using not only the same technique as me but even the same picture and detail of one of my artworks, without citing me or the original photographer. I confront the person and she only said “it came completely out of my imagination”, which is really hard to believe. I feel frustrated and in some way abused. I have worked so hard to figure out how to best represent the Aurora, and then someone comes and say “I just tried and this came out”. It is only a matter of recognizing your inspiration and all would be just fine. At first I thought that maybe I should make harder-to-reproduce pieces, but in the end, one should just do what one wants to express, I guess, without being influenced by how other people can misuse your artwork. I'm still thinking about how to protect my future creations.

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

The most important thing that I constantly remind myself of is to wait for inspiration, but just be working and experimenting. The inspiration will eventually come, but as someone said, it should find you working.

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

Ana Teresa Barbosa 

Victor Espinoza 

Mónica Bengoa

Alexandra Kehayoglou 

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All images provided by the artist