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Craft With Conscience: Lacy Van Court of Die Trying TX

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: Lacy Van Court of Die Trying TX

Sarah Benning

Lacy Van Court // Artist and Patch Maker // Austin, TX


Die Trying TX, headquartered in Austin, was founded by Lacy Van Court.  Lacy comes from a dusty, long line of West Texas misfits and ranchers that have been in Texas just about as long as Texas has been around. Growing up she spent the summers on her Grandparents’ ranch; where her Grandmother Billie, a Texas landscape painter, inspired a love of making things with her hands by teaching Lacy, among many other things, how to sew and paint. Lacy later went on to earn a BFA in painting from the The Maryland Institute College of Art. Her family history, those early summers, and her home state have always been at the heart of her work as an artist.

After working in a variety of creative fields and mediums, she was drawn to the art of chainstitch by its combination of craft, its deep roots in western American culture, and as a way to continue to express the themes important to her work. Using the same hand operated machines that were used to create traditional western wear, Die Trying TX offers a line of one of a kind pieces meant to be collected, loved and lived in.

Check out more of her amazing work on her website or 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 artist’s lives and businesses, could you talk about the role the internet plays in your artistic and professional life?

The internet plays a huge role in my work both artistically and professionally. Artistically, it’s a well of inspiration and a way to connect with other artists and makers; professionally it’s been key to getting my work out there and connecting with customers. Instagram in particular has been crucial in allowing me to be doing what I do full time.

The way people shop has changed so much and the internet has really allowed small businesses and artists to find a space to showcase their work (and be discovered by people from all over the world) without leaving their homes. The days of having to have a physical storefront or gallery are over and it’s allowed so many people, myself included, to pursue their creative passions in a way that would never have been possible before.

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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 draw inspiration from my background. Growing up in Texas, I’ve always been drawn to western motifs, landscapes, and traditions. I’m also inspired by contemporary painting, fiber art, ceramics, and country music. The internet is a key part of my design process because it affords such a great way to source inspiration and organize it. I especially love how Instagram has the new bookmarking tool that you can create different folders with. I keep files for all sorts of inspiration from landscapes to color combos. I’m also really into the new iPad pro and pen tool… It’s totally changed the way I draw and come up with ideas.

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3. 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’ve never had someone copy my work directly but their are definitely other artists using similar imagery. Those similarities are mainly in the use of iconic images that have been used forever… horseshoes, cactus… You can’t own those images and if your going to use images that are universally popular, you have to be cool with other people using them as well. If I create a design that is really specific, I will trademark it, but otherwise I tend to not worry about it. I think seeing similar imagery also just pushes me to be more inventive in my designs and broaden my artistic scope.

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

Connect with your customers and other artists. I’ve been so fortunate to connect with some really great chainstitchers and those connections have been invaluable both creatively and professionally. I also think that being generous to other artists is important. I always try to give as much information to people interested in learning chainstitch as I can. I firmly believe that the more chainstichers out there creates more awareness of the craft. More people engaged in the craft will ultimately benefit everyone working in the medium. I would also say it’s incredibly important to set clear goals and maintain a vision for your work. It’s so easy to get caught up doing what people want and filling orders that you can quickly lose the time to be creative. Figure out what you don’t want to do and be clear about it. It’s ok to say no. I tend to struggle with that but am learning that it’s really crucial to avoid burning out. The other key piece of advice is to just keep going, keep working, keep trying.  It’s not always easy and sometimes you make things that you don’t like or other people don’t like… but just keep it up. Everything takes hard work and time.

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

Some of my fellow chainstitchers:

@jasonredwood

@elpatchembroidery

@dressedneworleans

@bengoetting

@b.blakely

Other accounts I enjoy following:

@markmaggioro

@strangedirt

@thehinysquirrel

@jadeantoine

@baileyhrobinson

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All images provided by the artist