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Craft With Conscience: Dee Monti of MONTI

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: Dee Monti of MONTI

Sarah Benning

Dee Monti // Designer // London, UK


Dee Monti is the founder and designer of the geometric glassware brand MONTI which she launched in 2015. She is a self-taught glass artist who designs and makes all pieces by hand in her London home studio using glass, copper and solder. Dee has been featured in various publications and often works with private clients to create bespoke pieces. Her current collection is a selection of geometric multi-functional shapes which bring simple geometric design and nature together with the encouragement to be creative with your choice of shapes and how you adapt them to your personal surroundings. 

Check out more of her amazing work at  www.montibymonti.com, her Instagram or facebook

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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?

The internet has opened up a lot of opportunities for me. It has been undeniably essential in setting up my business. I taught myself everything I could about glass design before launching MONTI through watching YouTube videos and online tutorials so it has been important to the growth of my business since the beginning. The internet has enabled me to reach out to a wider audience and connect with people I would not have otherwise met in real life. It’s really encouraging to share ideas and receive feedback. Having said that, I don’t like to fully rely on the internet. There’s something unsettling about always turning to the internet for inspiration and answers so I like to go ‘offline’ every now and then. It feels good to process my own ideas and work my brain cells without any distractions.

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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 wouldn’t say my inspiration comes from one particular source, I often find ideas and inspiration comes from everyday life and when I am away from my studio. I use Pinterest a lot when researching new ideas for bespoke pieces or collections for clients and as a general source of visual inspiration. The internet is currently my only consistent marketing tool. Instagram has opened up a lot of new business, new clients, collaborations with other designers and has driven direct traffic to my website. It has also enabled me to build new relationships both online and IRL. Through Instagram I have been able to curate a visual story behind MONTI, sharing new content, designs, behind the scenes and processes. It has been a great form of personal documentation which helps me to visualise the progress of my work a lot better.

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

I think it can be hard to find your own voice as a creative. It can take a while to find a medium which represents your own style that is consistent and reflects who you are as a person and as a designer/artist. I think I’m still trying to find my voice! I have only been working with glass for just over 2 years now but It has enabled me to create a collection of work and build a brand which reflects my current creative voice and style. I often think about incorporating new materials and somehow merging them into a bigger creative practice as I still believe there is so much more to explore.

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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?

Unfortunately, I have encountered a lot of copies of my work. I haven’t actively looked for copies, I have mostly been sent images by other designers via Instagram which is nice to know we’ve all got each other’s backs! I have had direct copies of my entire collection, product photos, branding and even the product names. When I launched MONTI, there was a niche for glass design, geometric glass ware was just starting to re-emerge. I spent a lot of time researching current glass designs and trends so not to infringe upon anyone else’s work. I designed a collection that reflected my own style that was completely different, so when people would see one of my pieces they would say ‘oh that’s a MONTI! I do often hold back on sharing design ideas or processes which is a shame because we should be able to feel comfortable in sharing ideas with each other but I do often keep a lot of work to myself in fear of oversharing. I want to inspire and be inspired by other creative people but there’s a huge difference between taking inspiration and just making direct copies through lack of their own creativity. But don’t let it get you down! It’s almost a compliment, your work must be good if people are copying it!

I did reach out to a few people via email with an open mind, some responded with understanding and some with slight ignorance and sass which is always disappointing.  I now don’t spend much time thinking or worrying about it and instead put that energy into my own work. More often than not if you have built a strong following and have a consistent style and branding, people will recognise your products or artwork and they will always follow you.

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

Research! Don’t just dive into something without knowing anything about the medium you are working with or the market audience. 

Spend time to get to know your creative abilities and find your own style, be as much as yourself as you can be. Be honest with yourself about your capabilities, what you are good at, what are not good at and what can you see yourself doing in the long term. Finding your own voice is important, you will find yourself stuck if you are copying the style of another artist or designer as it wont’ come naturally to you. 

Be open to new opportunities and collaborations, I have found it really important to work with other brands and designers. It’s good to build relationships with other like minded that could lead to IRL friendships! It’s essential to surround yourself with people that inspire and support you. It’s a tough life for self employed creatives so support is important!

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

@Watts.on @watts.place @camillewalala @lauraberger @atelierbingo @gurlstalk @decorhardcore  @designmilk

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All images provided by the artist.