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Craft With Conscience: Libby Williams

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: Libby Williams

Sarah Benning

Libby Williams // Mixed Media Artist // Luxembourg City


Libby Williams is a painter and embroidery artist currently based in Luxembourg City. She moved from Tulsa, Oklahoma in 2016 to Luxembourg, where she divides her time between making art, teaching English, and travelling as much as possible. In her work, she shifts back and forth between abstraction and representation, working with paint and embroidery, often combining the two. Her work explores the potential of color and shape to create expansive and beautifully complex spaces. 

Check out more of her amazing work at her website, instagram, or Etsy shop

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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?

I have found Instagram to be particularly motivating in terms of pushing me to continue making art. Since my day job as English teacher demands a lot of time and energy that is very separate from the process of art making, it can be all too easy to lose momentum on current projects or stop making art altogether. For me, having constant access to other artists’ creative processes is extremely motivating and helps push me keep creating. It also is a tangible form of personal accountability for myself. If I haven’t posted anything in a while, it’s because I haven’t been making anything! 

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

I have been drawing places since I was little, and like many, entered into art making via representation. It wasn’t until grad school that I began to understand that painting didn’t need to be about identifiable imagery, but could instead be about it’s own visual language. Once I came to this realization I jumped head first into abstraction, intent on developing my own vocabulary of color, shape and form. Eventually I became interested in representation again, but this time from a completely different perspective. I began to make landscape paintings from direct observation with an interest in compositional shapes and creating as much depth as possible on a flat surface. This ambition has followed me into my embroidered landscapes, where I continue to establish my own visual vocabulary by creating work with an expansive sense of space and complex compositional structure.

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3. Where do you find inspiration for your work?  In what ways has the internet and/or social media impacted your design process?

Living in Luxembourg, a country with three national languages, has certainly rejuvenated my interest in thinking about art as a visual language. Working as an English teacher requires me to deconstruct my own mother tongue so thoroughly that I have developed a deep fascination with the concept of language itself. I explore this interest most intentionally through an ongoing series of small gouache paintings where I establish rules, exceptions and visual logic through the use of color, line and shape.

Regarding the specific imagery in my representational work, I am always inspired by landscape, particularly in sweeping vistas, rugged terrain and the intersection of architecture and nature. Since moving to Luxembourg, I have definitely taken advantage of its close proximity to so many diverse landscapes and tend to seek them out when I travel. Some particularly inspiring destinations I have visited in the past year have been the Isle of Skye in Scotland and Cinque Terre in Italy.  

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

It goes without saying that every artist’s career path looks wildly different from one another’s. That said, the best practical advice I can give would be to pause whatever you’re doing and write down your end goal, followed by the steps that you know you need to take to get there. It sounds basic, but if you don’t identify your goals then it will be impossible to achieve them!   

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

One of my favorite things about Instagram is seeing what my other artist friends are up to. Especially now that there is an ocean between us and studio visits aren’t possible, I love dropping in on their IG accounts to see what they’re working on! Some of my favorites to check in on are @tsmith02 and @tarynsingleton

I love listening to podcasts and am particularly inspired when a story reveals any element of the creative process. One podcast I’ve been listening to recently is Song Exploder, where current musicians describe the process of creating one of their songs. I always feel very motivated to work after hearing other artists talk about what inspires them and how they bring an idea to life. I also love to watch Project Runway for all the same reasons!

Otherwise, I am totally obsessed with painting and love to follow blogs and artists who talk about it. Some favorites are: Brett Baker’s Painter’s Table, Jen Samet’s Beer with a Painter, Kyle Staver on Facebook and @eleanor.k.ray on Instagram. A few of my favorite painters (from past and present) are: Richard Diebenkorn, Édouard Vuillard, Pierre Bonnard, Frank Auerbach, Helen Frankenthaler, Fairfield Porter, Andre Derain, Gustave Courbet, Martha Armstrong, Kyle Staver, Stanley Lewis, Mark Lewis  and Allison Gildersleeve.  

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All images provided by the artist