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Craft With Conscience: Mariana Baertl of Living Fibers

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: Mariana Baertl of Living Fibers

Sarah Benning

Mariana Baertl // Fiber Artist // Lima Peru/NYC


Hi! My name is Mariana Baertl and I'm the creator and artist behind Living Fibers. I was born and raised in Lima, Peru’s capital, surrounded by the countries’ traditional handmade trades, specially textile work.

I studied Fashion Design in Peru and later moved to Buenos Aires, Argentina to focus on Coolhunting, the study of “trends” and how it relates specifically to the fashion industry. I then moved to Barcelona, Spain to begin my work in Haute Couture and pattern making. My Haute Couture education taught me the level of patience and precision needed in creating handmade designs. Thereafter I got a post graduate degree in Fashion Business management from Pompeu Fabra University, in Barcelona. As soon as I graduated, I moved back to Lima, Peru to work as a fashion designer for a large retailer in Lima. It was at this company where I started experimenting with textures and textiles. I was soon in love with the art and began making fiber art pieces whenever I could find the time. After several years as a fashion designer, I decided to make a change and immerse myself into the fiber world.


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

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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?

The internet has impacted my work and career tremendously. I would’ve never started pursuing fiber art if it weren’t for social media. It opened my eyes as to how much you can create and express with fibers and how many artist have taken textiles as their medium. Social media has completely changed the art world and more importantly, it has changed how people are buying art and discovering artists. Best of all, it is a free platform where you can showcase your work and reach demographics that normally would be out of your reach. For example, when I first began fiber art in Peru and created my Instagram account, I started getting a following from supporters around the world, not just from Peru, which would have been almost impossible for me to do without social media. Through Instagram and other social media platforms, I gained instant validation for my art and received direct feedback immediately. You quickly learn what people are looking for and what they like.

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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 get my inspiration from all things natural and organic, often influenced by what I call “natural clusters”, which are various organic elements tightly arranged. An example of these natural clusters would be feathers, fossils or vegetation from a forest/dense tropical jungle. The ocean is also a major source of inspiration; from the shapes waves create to the marine life like coral reefs, I find the ocean to be full of details.

I usually get inspired and imagine concepts at night. Strange enough, I tend to be more creative in the evening when I’m tired. I feel that night time is when my mind is more relaxed, flexible and open for innovation. The next morning is really when I start the creative process with a simple sketch, and then I go right for the canvas. I need to see the fibers and feel them on canvas to start working. Usually my finished project ends up becoming something completely different from what I envisioned in that original sketch.

The internet definitely helps the creative process. Being able to see what other artists are making can be inspiring, which is a huge motivator. I always want to better myself and improve my work. Seeing other artist’s work online helps me do that and allows me to really think outside the box.

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

I’ve always loved textures and fibers, I studied fashion design so I’ve been surrounded by textiles most of my life. A few years ago, while working full time as a denim designer I started playing and creating with fibers. I made my own wooden loom and started weaving tapestries first in pastel colors and then I ventured into more detailed embroideries with bright colors and shiny textures, the complete opposite! I always remember that time as my “trial run”, when I was still discovering my own aesthetic and could experiment as much as I wanted with different techniques, colors, and styles. I loved weaving and embroidering equally so I started thinking of ways to integrate both in a single piece. So I came up with this technique where I embroider fiber onto a canvas, imitating a tapestry. It has the freedom in shape that embroidery gives you, but with the additional feel and volume of a weaved piece.

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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’ve been lucky enough to never have encountered an artist that takes my work as more than inspiration, so I’ve never had to deal with it. But I guess if I ever come across the situation, I would try to  stay positive and keep on creating and evolving. You  are always going to be two steps ahead of someone who is copying your work. So if you were creative enough to invent it, you are creative enough to produce more unique ideas.

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

Be true to your style. The internet helps you discover how much you can do. So many different outcomes can be achieved from a single technique or style, which can also distract you from finding your own creative voice. When you get too influenced by someone else’s aesthetic and try to imitate their work, it only serves you as a barrier. It’s like following a set of rules and parameters that will only help to repress your imagination and silence your own creative journey. Experiment and play as much as you can. Once you find your own voice, you’ll feel the creative possibilities are endless.

Additionally, practice is key, and there’s always a way to improve yourself. No one is born a master at something, the only way to become one is to create and create. Make mistakes and experiment, even if the piece is becoming something you don’t like. Never get discouraged if a project is not coming out as planned, every failure is an experience and lesson.

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

Some of my favorite fiber artists are @_jujujust_ , @crossingthreads, @himoart @vanessabarragao_work, @salt_stitches; I truly feel they have their own unique take on the medium. 

I also love to see what others are doing. A great Instagram account to discover artists is @thefiberstudio

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All images provided by the artist