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Craft With Conscience: Lise Silva

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: Lise Silva

Sarah Benning

Lise Silva Gomes // Fiber Artist // Bay Area CA

Lise Silva is an artist living in Oakland, CA, working from her studio in Berkeley. Strongly influenced by meditation, mysticism, classic film, psychedelic illustration, surrealism, and art deco design, her obsessions include:  dream sequences, secrets, waking, sleeping, dreaming, and the fourth state. She explores the power of symbols through her work with Sacred Knots creating fiber jewelry and wallhangings with handmade cord entwined in knot designs that serve as a metaphor for life experiences, dreams, and deep desires. Through her artwear she loves creating custom pieces for weddings and other ceremonial events. She has taught traditional knotting techniques through in-person workshops and created an instructional booklet on knotting called Knot: A Book.  As an extension of Lise's exploration in symbology, meditation and visualization are a tool in her creative process. She leads guided meditations as a tool for manifestation, lucid dreaming, mental/emotional balance, creativity and relaxation.

Check out more of her amazing work on her Website and Instagram.


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?

When I began sharing my work on Instagram, blogging, and discovering other artists’ online, the platforms were pretty new and had such a different feel from today.  Things felt fresher, more personal, and less formulaic than they are now. I think the challenge now is in not getting overwhelmed, desensitized, overly-influenced, bland and addicted to these platforms— and trying to stay grounded in your own creative practice.  While the ubiquitous DIY resources online today can be empowering, it’s frustrating to see so much compulsive copying and “content” generation, as opposed to intentional crafts and ethical sharing. Because part of my artwork extended to teaching traditional knotting techniques, the philosophical and ethical quandaries of teaching and learning arts/crafts soon surfaced, so I wrote a 'zine called Craft & Practice: Meditations on Creativity and Ethics to explore these things and hopefully facilitate more community dialogue.  The internet is now the main way I connect with clients and collaborators, but it’s less influential in my creative practice than it was in the early days when I was immersed in searching for new or old references, studying vintage fashion and illustration, scouring art and fashion blogs for inspiring design and discovering with other young women who also loved vintage illustration, clothes, and classic film.  Ten years ago, in my 20s, I loved developing an online community that I sought out but didn’t have in real life— of other young, creative people with my same interests— and sharing references and resources with each other. I devoured references and kept a spiral notebook of every good movie or book or album or visual artist of fashion designer I heard references by anyone and spent hours learning about them online and in books, making jpg inspiration files on my desktop.  I watched a classic movie or two every night and took thousands of screenshots of the cinematography, sharing them in Photobucket folders and on my blog. I went to the library and checked out stacks of cds and dvds for music and movies I heard name-dropped on TV, blogs, or radio. I am grateful for that coming-of-age time of my creative self, but when I moved into my mid-30s, I entered a phase where the studying has been done and I needed to turn inward to focus on my own perspectives and manifesting them.  I carry all those references in my heart but my heart is full for now and I needed to enter my cave and make my own work. While I still love to listen to podcasts while I work with my hands and scroll through Instagram to see what people are up to and use music streaming apps to set a tone while I draw and think of new ideas, the internet is more of a background facilitator and not part of my creative process. While it’s so important to my business, I don’t think the internet plays too much of a role in my artistic self now, though it did when I was still in my student phase.


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

I address my perspective on the search for inspiration more in-depth in my Craft & Practice 'zine.  I’ve come to believe that we all have these muses whispering to us if we take the time to listen. Most folks don’t carve out space to listen and instead prefer to copy the path someone else has forged because it avoids risk and failure.  But real creativity knows no blueprint or map— it is about entering the unknown, celebrating the possibility of failure, and taking the path to a mysterious, not guaranteed destination. Embracing the mystery and letting go of the end result is an important part of creativity.  Once you achieve that state of mind you open the door to discovering your true inspiration. Also, living in a way that sets the stage for your inspiration is important. Following your bliss, living your life to its fullest, and taking notes along the way of little moments that catch your eye or captivate you. Instead of drawing inspiration in a personal way from life and personal inquiry, many look at other artists’ work as the main form of inspiration, which creates an echo chamber.  I think the internet/social media can be great for research and education but it can a major pitfall for reductive inspiration and paralyzing in causing your comparison to others.

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

Hmmm I’m not sure.  I don’t remember specifically trying to find my voice because I’ve been invested in cultivating and maintaining it since I was little, but, I know when I feel empty and uninspired, I need to disconnect with extraneous voices, take time for reflection, surround myself with things I love, and only consume art, music, film that elevates me.  I think maybe my voice organically developed while I was such a relentless, obsessed consumer of music, books, fashion, illustration, etc. Taking time to be a student, being open to experiencing diverse art, and exercising a critical eye, you end up learning and honing your own perspective along the way.


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?

Yes, there is so much unethical and exploitative creative copying online. I have been copied and I think most artists deal with that at some point.  It’s a terrible feeling to discover someone or some corporation is copying your designs. You feel gutted, exploited, sad, and angry. I share strategies on dealing with this in my ‘zine too.  My way of handling it is to first think about your ideal outcome— does it require legal intervention? Does it simply involve the offender removing the content from their site/account? Does it require the offender to stop selling your design?  Etc. If this is something you can handle yourself, then reach out. Keeping your goal in mind, contact the person copying your designs to express your shock or sadness and ask for the restitution you need. Keep the tone sad rather than mad, because your vulnerability will disarm.  As a last form of recourse, if the copier is unresponsive, you may want to take it public, sharing to your community how you were exploited.

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

My advice is just to stay grounded in your own perspective as you take your work public.  Sometimes, exposing your work to flattery or criticism can negatively influence your relationship to your creative practice— as can selling or commercializing your work.  Maintaining a secret ritual, creative exercise, or meditation time on a regular basis can help you stay connected to your creativity. Working for, or being mentored by, a more established person in your field/medium is also really helpful.

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

I am so inspired by my artist friends who are out there pursuing their visions and balancing money and creativity in a healthy way.  My collaborative partner and friend Mary Evans inspires me to no end— she creates tarot decks like Spirit Speak, Iris, and Vessel that serve as introspective tools when I need to look deeper for inspiration and creates beautiful work in just about every medium.  Elena Stonaker’s work fills me with joy and vulnerability and calm and aliveness and longing— she taps into timeless archetypes that feel ancient and present and futuristic at the same time. Monica Canilao and Xara Thustra are two prolific artists that weave community action and beauty and deep emotion and politics in such a seamless way.  Seeing them so connected to the community, living and breathing their work in every color in the rainbow, gives me life. Xochi Solis and Alex Steele inspire me with their use of color and shape— they both have such a strong, unmistakable aesthetic which is something I really admire. Meghan Shimek has been such a kind friend and an inspiration for how to explore the limits of unconventional materials and make beautiful, impactful, large-scale work with soulfulness. Yetunde Olagbaju inspires me with the beautiful vulnerability and deep exploration of their work.  Sarah Harris and Shari Elf create clothing and performance that inspire me with their humor, fun, and sweetness.  Last, but not at all least, my friend and mentor Janet Lipkin is one of my favorite artists ever and has been creating innovative wearable art for six decades.  I am excited to have launched a site called Wovenutopia in September devoted to celebrating her and other fiber artists across generations with studio visits and interviews.

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All Images Provided by the Artist.