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Craft With Conscience: Nicole O'Loughlin

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: Nicole O'Loughlin

Sarah Benning

Nicole O'Loughlin // Multi-Disciplinary Artist // Hobart, Tasmania, Australia


Nicole O'Loughlin is a mutli-disciplinary artist, self taught in embroidery.  She is a printmaker by trade but turned to embroidery as an easy 'pick up and put down' art form after the birth of her son.  Nicole's embroidery work combines pop culture with religious iconography and kitsch embellishment to create witty works that address the role of worship and gender roles in society.

Check out more of her amazing work at  www.nicoleoloughlin.com, or her Instagram

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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?

The role of the internet in my practice mainly focuses around Instagram and my website. I have found a huge support for my work through Instagram and knowing that there are people all over the world seeing my work is rather refreshing, as I live on a small island at the bottom of Australia with a small population.  Being able to connect with others online has also been important for me as a new mother, both being an artist and mother can be isolating roles so being able to get my work out there from the comfort of my home has been fantastic. Through my Instagram account I have encountered opportunities that I may have not had access to other wise and in general I find the community to be incredibly supportive and giving.  I find motivation in sharing my works in progress as the work takes so long when I receive positive comments it encourages me to keep stitching.

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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?

The initial inspiration from my work really comes from song lyrics (I get songs stuck in my head very easily).  I then will develop the idea through sketching out ideas, then using the internet to source reference photos. My works collage different images together to articulate the initial idea I have. I am aware in this current body of work I am re-hashing other peoples photos of celebrities and art work, therefore I make sure that there is my spin on it.  I also find a lot of inspiration in art books, movies and visiting art galleries and opportunity shops or simply by taking a walk.

I think that the internet has made it easier in terms of research and sourcing imagery.  However, sometimes it is too easy and my imaginative drawing has probably suffered from all the accessibility to imagery. I think that being connected with other creatives online has expanded my ideas and I find such inspiration in other people making beyond what I am able to access here in Australia.  The beauty of the internet is that you can see someone over the other side of the world and what they are making that you may not have otherwise seen.

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

I think I am still finding my voice and it shifts and changes all the time.  I love the phrase 'visual vocabulary' and you can see there are particular artists that they have a very specific visual language that they use. As I am self taught and embroidery is a new medium for me I am still developing my own creative voice, I have a style but I am already envisioning where I want to explore next.  I think development for me in my overall practice comes from journal keeping, be it written or drawn notes and making, so much making. Being an artist is like being a child and playing with materials and from those experiments you discover new things. I also think by focusing on what you have to say helps to sharpen your style and ideas, someone else may make draw, paint, or stitch something a particular way and I may admire it but it is something personal to them and not something I could (or want to) present in the same way.

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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?

Pinterest and Instagram are visual rabbit holes, and yes the original artist can quite often get lost with re-posting and pinning.  I think it is a shame when the original artist doesn't get acknowledged as a lot of the time such thought, skill and effort (and student debt) has gone into a work.  But this is the digital age and a problem that we face as artists. I haven't seen any direct copies of my work, but I have had people make comments on some of my Instagram accounts tagging their friends saying they would re-make the item for them. I try to be as diplomatic as possible and explain that this is my career, and I wouldn't come an take their pay packet for a month. It's hard to say how much this gets through.  And it is so prevalent. I work in an art shop and we quite often have people come in with Instagram pics wanting to make another artists work, but this sounds horrible most of them fail even if they try because they are trying to learn how to make something in 5 minutes and as I said above don't have that artists voice so it doesn't work out the same. What make me more upset is when big companies do it to artists, designers know better and they shouldn't be allowed to get away with stealing artists ideas.

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

Draw, take notes and play with materials. Be inspired by others but try to develop your own unique voice as no-one can see or represent the world like you can.  It is an up and down journey, it has its peaks but also its down times, but stick at it if you can. If you are limited with time just set yourself small pockets of time everyday even if it is 10 minutes to make something, once you start then it will lead to other things and I think that from making comes more inspiration and ideas.  Oh and also, document your work...you don't know when you may need a picture of something you made years ago.

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

I love to listen to The Jealous Curator podcasts whilst I stitch.  Such thoughtful conversations about being an artist.

The Instagram accounts of thefiberstudio, embroidery

Avant Arte for contemporary artworks and artists

I adore the work of Guimtio for the perfection in simplicity

Teresa Barboazo just keeps pushing fiber art and embroidery in interesting and diverse ways, a true master.

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All images provided by the artist