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Craft With Conscience: Lauren Singleton of Yes Stitch Yes

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: Lauren Singleton of Yes Stitch Yes

Sarah Benning

Lauren Singleton of Yes Stitch Yes // Embroidery artist // Brooklyn, ny


Lauren Singleton is an embroidery artist living and stitching in Brooklyn, New York.  Lauren’s venture into embroidery initially started as an act of self-care with one solid rule “don’t make anything you wouldn’t hang in your own home” and turned into the business Yes Stitch Yes. Lauren currently focuses on floral work and whatever phrase is running through her mind.

Check out more of her amazing work on her Instagram and Etsy Shop

 Photo Credit: Caitlin Reilly

Photo Credit: Caitlin Reilly

 Photo Credit: Caitlin Reilly

Photo Credit: Caitlin Reilly

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 ones’ 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?

I’m a child of dial up AOL and I’ve always loved the internet.  I remember coming across the work of Alaina Varrone and Jenny Hart on Tumblr in 2008 and being completely blown away. Although my mother taught me how to cross stitch at a young age, I don’t think I would have started embroidery without seeing how other people were able to reinterpret the medium. I wouldn’t have been exposed to the changing look of embroidery without the internet.

The internet, specifically social media apps like Instagram, have helped me gain new customers and helped expose my work to different people which lead me to new opportunities.  Being visible has also helped me find my footing as an artist. I don’t come from a traditional art background and in the beginning,I always felt like an imposter saying “I am an artist” but the ability to see other artists working in all mediums gave me the ballsy courage to go ahead and call myself an artist and take ownership over what I am doing.

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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?

A lot of my work is florals so I tend to look at florist Instagram accounts, vintage botanical books, and pictures of flowers. For color inspiration, I look at everything: retro interior design blogs, abstract art, fashion. This is cliché but true I find inspiration in everyday life. I take a lot of photos of color combos I wouldn’t have considered before. Yellow tile in a subway station that someone scrawled "homer" over in a neon pink? Okay that could be interesting. Newly painted mint green bike line with orange construction cone? That might make a cool piece.

I started stitching because I felt like all I did online was consume other people’s content but never create anything myself. I’m wary of falling back into those same patterns of nonstop consumption. So, while the internet rules I try to step back and continue to ask myself “what is the true goal here/ what am I trying to do with this piece”.  Embroidery can be self-isolating and social media is great because it can give me validation for doing the work but the problem becomes how much of my self-worth or the worth I place on the work is wrapped up in how someone else feels about it? It takes time and energy to make things, is that time and energy wasted because the post didn’t get the “appropriate” number of likes? I wish I could say “I’m an independent woman I don’t need your validation” but I’m still working on that. I will say that after I stopped worrying SO MUCH about how the work would be received and just got back to my roots of making whatever moved me, my feelings toward my embroidery practice and business changed for the better.

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

I don’t know if I’ve totally found it yet. I still have dream projects and ideas I want to explore. I have a bigger vision that I want to express with embroidery that I haven’t achieved yet.  When I first started Yes Stitch Yes I wanted to make pretty things that said ugly things because I was having a rough go and wanted to dress up the hurt. As the *gestures around* world gets uglier and my time on the internet shows me more and more of the expansive depth of human suffering I still want to make pretty things but now I want to make things that are more honest. At least honest to me. My goal is as I do more work on myself, the more I can be honest with the work I present to the world.

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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?

My work being blatantly copied is a relatively new thing for me. When it first happened I was really angry! I felt like “everything isn’t a DIY project; how DARE they copy something I made!!!” A common response is “imitation is sincerest form of flattery” but we all know that’s bullshit right? The sincerest form of flattery is paying me for my work.  Another response is “community over competition” which is sometimes being used as a blanket statement in response to call outs about imitation. That’s also bullshit because that’s not true community. Embroidery Instagram (as I tend to call it) has brought some amazing people into my life, people who have given me advice, cheered on my successes, and helped me deal with failures.  THAT is true community.

Recently I’ve circled around to this: very few people walk into embroidery with a fully formed vision of the new thing they want to create. They are going to find “inspiration” from other artists.  I hope that they take the time to build a look and a style and discover what they want to do. I don’t want to sound soft of imitation, I’m not, I just can’t put the same energy into being enraged at someone trying to build a business off my back that I used to. I used to call people out. I used to reply to comments of people planning craft nights based on my work asking them not to. I used to expend a lot of energy dealing with that and now I don’t. I just block them and move on. I can’t control what happens to my work after I post it, but I can control my experience on the internet to see less things that send me into a rage.

I will say, every time I’ve been copied it’s forced me to zag on ‘em and move into something different.

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

Trust your own weird vision!  It’s so easy and frankly lucrative to think “I see this is popular I want to make it” instead of thinking “this is something I would like to see in the world so I’m going to make it”.  Say “no” loudly and often. Don’t do anything for exposure. If you’re making something and hating it the entire time you should probably raise your prices. Find good support and make sure they’re truly on your team.  

Instagram (a big company) is owned by Facebook (a v big company) and they don’t give a damn how you feel about the algorithm.

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

Brown Paper Bag Blog

@adamJK

@kliuwong

@dai.ruiz

@Metafloranyc

@flowersandweeds

@embroidery

@crayolamode

@linacaro

@asraigarden

@annstreetstudio

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