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Craft With Conscience: Gracie Ellison-Shortbridge

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: Gracie Ellison-Shortbridge

Sarah Benning

Gracie Ellison-Shortridge // Painter // Portland OR


Gracie Ellison, born and raised in Portland, Oregon, has been illustrating faces her whole life; painting portraits on canvas for only a few years. She has no formal training or education, her art has always been instinctual for her and learned through years of studying the art surrounding her. Gracie almost exclusively paints busts of surly faced women; within that realm she likes to explore with color, patterns, texture, and imperfections. While her creative process is somewhat whimsical, Gracie strives for her subjects to be commanding and impactful.

Check out more of her amazing work on her website and on 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?

Social media is how this all started for me, how I make the vast majority of my artistic connections, and how almost all of my paintings are sold. I started posting some of my paintings on Instagram just to share them, then people asked about buying them; it was a tool I sort of stumbled into. It may be because my website is lacking (I’m working on it, okay!), but most of my client base contacts me through Instagram. Social media has been crucial for any and all achievements I’ve made so far!

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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 constantly stumbling upon inspiration; it usually takes odd shapes like a textile, stranger’s nose, color combination in an outfit. Seldom am I looking for inspiration, more often I see something and scramble to take a photo or screenshot. On a more traditional note, I love to look at the work of other artists, of course. My mom is an artist and I grew up in a house full of art books so I often look back to artists I grew up on: Matisse, Gauguin, Lautrec, etc. When it comes to finding contemporary artists, social media is key for me. I can spend hours going down a rabbit hole of artists on Instagram, saving dozens of photos along the way.

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

 My art was a result of my creative voice. I have always had a visual mind and clear point of view, my paintings are honestly just a way to focus and express that energy. My voice is, of course, always morphing and I find myself questioning it at times, but that creative voice is often the easiest part of painting for me. When it comes to refining that point of view and translating it to canvas, I do sometimes struggle. I’ll look back on a painting or series of paintings and wonder what I was thinking and not recognize myself in them. That’s when it’s time to take a break and reassess what I want my work to say!

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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?

 I haven’t, thank goodness!

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

 I still am an aspiring artist! If there’s any advice I’m qualified to give it’s to always trust your gut. Listen to advice or criticism and learn from it but never shape your work based on anyone’s opinion. It’s probably cliche advice, I just think an artist’s intuition is their most valuable asset.

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

 I have too many to list! Off the top of my head:

 Nationale— a small gallery here in Portland that is perfectly curated and always giving me new artists to stalk on Instagram.

 Nyssa Sharp—a visual artist I’m obsessed with. She does a lot of line figures but also paints insane oil portraits every once in a while.

 Ace & Jig—a Portland-based clothing line—their textiles and colors are so inspirational.

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All images provided by the arrtist