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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
6. Do you have any favorite blogs, artists, or Instagram accounts that you’d like to share?
I also love to see what others are doing. A great Instagram account to discover artists is @thefiberstudio
All images provided by the artist