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Craft With Conscience: Gabriela Martínez Ortiz of Ofelia & Antelmo

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: Gabriela Martínez Ortiz of Ofelia & Antelmo

Sarah Benning

Gabriela Martínez Ortiz // Fiber Artist // Mexico City


Named after her maternal grandparents, Gabriela is the textile artist behind Ofelia & Antelmo, a proposal based on two joint formats: Textile art and Wearable Art. Its visual approach is the result of the exploration of organic textures by the repetition of patterns that invites the viewer to stop, slow down and contemplate. She applies traditional textile techniques – especially hand embroidery– and transforms it into contemporary pieces. Her work pays special attention in the manufacturing times to rethink the way we consume as a protest to the speed of the XXI century. Ofelia & Antelmo embraces the fair time that the artisanal processes demand.

Check out more of her amazing 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?

The internet plays an important role in my daily bases. It gives me the freedom to work from home by my own rules. All you want to learn is there. 

Instagram has been until now, the only platform where I'm constantly sharing my work and process, many of my sales have come from there.  Instagram also helps me to keep my creative search active, there you have the opportunity to get to know the work of many amazing artists and designers from all over the world and in the best case scenario, you get to connect with them. I think it takes time and constancy to create a community as an artist on the internet, so I have to remain patient, but I also think it is a great place to do so without having to have important contacts and without having to give half of my work to the biggest stores and galleries. It is a platform that allows your work to travel, remain alive and keep updated..

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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 am very interested in photography, so my work is very influenced by the places I visit and the photos I capture. I'm always observing and searching for compositions and combinations of colors in my everyday life. I like to look for patterns on the textures I find interesting, my favorite ones are from nature. 

When it comes to the design process, my mind works as a collage, so most of my decisions are made directly on the material. I like to improvise and adapt my ideas with what I already have, so each piece is born from previous inspiration and continuity. 

Many of my new ideas also come from special commissions, those are the ones that make me come out of my comfort zone.

Even though the Internet has given me the chance to start my own business, I don't consider myself very technological. I try to be careful with the time I spend on the Internet, it is an extremely big and illusive world that can easily make me fall in comparisons and insecurities.  It is addictive and it can be very distracting for me. I really use it to listen to music when I’m embroidering I also love to listen to podcasts and conversations that enhance my personal and artistic development. The channels I listen to most are: Creative Lives by Chase Jarvis, The School of Greatness by Lewis Howes, Marie TV by Marie Forleo, The Tim Ferris Show, Super Soul Conversation by Oprah and TED.

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

I have learned to trust my intuition more, but I think that is a never-ending search that keeps transforming. It has been a very organic process but finding the why of my project has been key in order to identify my creative voice. I have always wanted to work with my hands and never wanted to be a part of mass production. The idea of my project has been forming and becoming something since my university thesis and keeps transforming. My biggest motivation today, is to create unique pieces that last and can be passed on, always emphasizing the value of the craft and the importance of working with your own hands.

Embroidery is what I learn the most from, it has helped me cultivate my patience and to trust in the time that each piece requires. It has taught me to be with myself, to heal and to be present. I think that the only way to find your creative voice is by doing, exploring and observing your process, this is what strengthens the most your vision and tells you the right path to go. It is in the process where all the lessons lie.

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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?

Fortunately, I haven’t found an identical work to mine but I am not looking for one neither. I'm aware that sharing my work on the internet carries some risks, but I like to think that even though there will be people that would like to copy my ideas, I am always a step forward because I am the only one that understands how my vision works. If I get to find a copy of my work or publication/post lacking my credit, I think I would raise my voice, but only to make them know that it’s not OK by me, but I'm also aware that these situations are out of my control so I try not to think about them too much.

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

To go for it! To let go the idea of the perfect scenario because such a thing will never come, nothing ever goes as planned, problems arise on the go and everything it's figure-outable. You can start with as small steps as you want but start! and share them on some social platform. Be very persistent and make healthy habits and routines. Whenever you feel stuck, surround yourself with the people you love, leave time to play and wonder and visit some green places. Don’t be afraid to charge the price you think your work is worth because if you don’t give it its worth, no one will. Fall in love with your messy start and embrace uncertainty because it’s the only thing we have for certain. And most importantly, trust your process and your vision because nobody sees the world as you do, and that is the touch that makes the thing you do, unique.

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All images provided by the artist