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Craft With Conscience: Meghan Bogden Shimek

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: Meghan Bogden Shimek

Sarah Benning

Meghan Bogden Shimek // Fiber Artist // Oakland, CA

 Meghan Bogden Shimek is a fiber artist living and working in Oakland, California. Meghan is inspired by loss, movement, healing and the acknowledgment of uncomfortable feelings. She uses organic movements to intertwine raw fibers to create abstract and textural wall hangings and sculptural objects.

Meghan has studied several weaving techniques including tapestry weaving, Navajo weaving, rigid heddle, and floor loom weaving. Meghan has been exhibiting her work and teaching weaving workshops for over 5 years across the world.

Check out more of her amazing work on her website or instagram.

Meghan Shimek headshot.jpg

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?

The internet has been instrumental in helping me to start and grow my business. I use Instagram on a daily basis to connect with other artists, makers and collectors all over the world. I didn't go to art school, and was never taught the traditional ways of showing your work, it is all a work in progress and I am constantly learning.


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

When I first began working with roving I was going through a tremendous amount of loss and the fiber spoke to me, being able to work with something so soft, unstructured and large helped me to move my body and the organic process of my work helped to heal the wounds. At the time I was living in a cottage in the woods and found so much inspiration from nature, I had hiking trails out my door and went walking daily, and a seasonal creek that ran under my house. Over the last two years I have become more and more interested in experimenting with sculpture and experiential art and that has to do with living in a more industrial area and being surrounded by people working with their hands and bodies. Whenever I am stuck, I go for a walk, I have almost always lived near some kind of water and that seems to be a pretty important aspect of my life. I don't think I would be able to successfully do what I do without the internet. I can be a bit of a homebody and social media allows me to show others what I am up to and create a gallery of my work to showcase to potential collectors and curators.


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

The first couple years that I was weaving I was learning. I took as many classes as I could, read books, and tried to learn as many skills and techniques as I could. I would often see other peoples' work and want to make something like it. It took me about two years to truly find my voice and start to make work that fully felt like my own. I found a creative stride, a material I felt at home with, and was creating (at the time) something that I hadn't seen any other artist create. More than anything, I was doing it for me and my heart. It was great that other people liked my work, but I was making it because it made me feel good.


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?

Oh yeah! I think we all have to some degree. I have also been on the other side where I have had artists that I love and respect that felt I created work too similar to theirs. I think 99% of the time it doesn't come from a place of malice, it is either a mistake, out of love for another's work, trying to learn a skill, or the fact that we work in fiber. Most of the time when I see people that have made similar work to mine, I try to stop looking at their work, but I don't say anything. I assume they are learning and trying out new techniques and will eventually find their own voice. The only person I have confronted was a person who took screen shots of my photos and told people to contact her for commissions. I also try to keep in mind that we all start somewhere. Someone who I may see as copying my work is probably just trying to learn the technique and may use it to inform their own work. All that being said, it definitely bums me out when I see someone, especially people I have interacted with, make work that feels very similar to mine. I think people sometimes either think that I am doing well enough that it is OK to sell work similar to mine or they forget that I am just one person, trying to make a life for myself and support me and my son.


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

When you are first starting out, say yes to as much as you can! You never know what you will love, hate, or thrive on! And then, learn to say no! Just because you are good at something, or can do something doesn't mean that you have to. Find your own rhythm and listen to what you need. I have learned that part of my creative process is having a lot of quiet and down time, I then counter that with staying up all night working! I have also finally accepted that I am not organized and I will always be slow in getting back to emails. I would love to be better about both those things, but I am currently trying to embrace that part of myself and figure out ways to make it work better for me.


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

Oh yes!

for visual eye candy I love @erinconger, @annaalexia, @erinlovesfun.

fiber friends (there are so many, I know I will forget some) @aleeeese @jacquifink @maryannemoodie @s.neubert @combedthunder @erinmriley @luposkitt @erikbergin @windychien @lisesilva

other artists @peopleiveloved @aleksandrazee @heatherday @merylpataky @martinathornhill

clothing/shoes @aligolden @allbirds @zouxou @kamperett @lacausa @thepalatines

 OK, I'll stop, I could go on forever!


All images provided by the artist