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Craft With Conscience: Raven K. Dock

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: Raven K. Dock

Sarah Benning

Raven K. Dock // Fiber Artist // Central Florida

Raven K. Dock is a self-taught fiber artist based in the finicky weathered state of Florida who experiments with traditional stitches and cross stitch to transform her photographed subjects into texturized portraitures ranging for a multitude of sizes; from miniature to palm size with many possibilities in between. With hopes of exhibiting and selling her portraits, and soon to be prints, Raven continues to express ambiguity of emotion, one eye-less portrait at a time.

Check out more of her amazing work on Instagram and Etsy

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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 internet has exposed me to the craftsmanship of embroidery and fibers in general, I had absolutely no idea this medium could be manipulated or presented in such a way two years ago. Discovering embroidery was like a salve to my psyche, as I was going through such a disappointing and self-loathing period after being urged to drop out of high school, two months before graduation after a simple case of misguided confidence and miscommunication. To say I felt defeated was an understatement. But without these sequences of events I wouldn’t be the person and artist I am, or creating the work I am today. Part of me is somewhat grateful and proud of the person I’ve evolved into artistically despite the rough beginnings. On a professional level the internet has prepared me for the notion that not everything has to work despite it feeling so right at the moment and it not falling into place. Things don’t happen for no reason. I’ve been flat out ignored and not taken seriously in the early parts of my journey and I quickly realized, that is ok. Chances are, what ever opportunity I missed and whatever person ignored me, obviously weren’t right for me from the beginning. Although I had Instagram for such a long time, I was never really one to share my art as transparently two years ago. I’ve been stitching every single day for the past two years and I’ve done very little sharing due to my insecurities of not really knowing who I was in terms of being a fiber artist. It wasn’t until recently I decided to put my foot down on the fear and put myself out there more aggressively and make my presence known. The amount of feedback and support I’ve gotten recently is staggering and I feel like the more open I am the more likely I am to stretch the boundaries of my work and do things I would have never thought to do before. So thank you internet.

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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 find inspiration in what I find the most uncomfortable; raw emotions and feelings, which somewhat explains the lack of eyes in my pieces. The eyes are the most intimate fixtures of the human form in my opinion. Not that I don’t think my viewers are undeserving of intimacy it’s quite the opposite. I think they’re so deserving that they should be in control of the narrative and what emotions they think the subject may be portraying in relation to their current situations and lives. The mouth may tell a hundred tales, but the eyes speak a thousand stories and without them you’ll never know what a person is truly feeling and will remain a mystery. I find the process of stitching portraits to be a very brutal, yet a gentle experience. It almost feels like I’m being introduced to someone new and just around the time we’re nearly acquainted the portrait is done and it’s time to meet someone else i.e. starting a new portrait. Music has really impacted the nature and the naming of each piece I create, a simple word and melody can send me into a creative frenzy. Social media has made me more likely and aware of choosing subjects that are relatable, not overly modified and unachievable. But I actually find myself more distracted when searching for inspiration online in particular, sometimes I have to just close my eyes and pick an album and allow my mind’s eye to take over.

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

Although this isn’t my final “form” of my voice it’s nonetheless a lovely foundation. I actually have found a semblance of my voice as an artist quite recently and completely accidental, I in no way expected the work I am creating now to be something I ever imagined I would do. I needed a break from working with apparel and with sore fingers and a sense of curiosity my voice as an artist bloomed… Two years later.

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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?

As a 22 year old, I honestly cannot wrap my mind around Pinterest as a marketing tool, I just pin and create boards so I have rarely ever shared, but I do love me some pinning! Due to the fact that I’ve recently started sharing more intensively on Instagram I am sure there will be pieces popping up very soon that are eerily similar to my own, but fingers crossed this doesn’t happen. Why copy me when you can be great and create something completely original? I know there is watermarking and stuff but once someone sets their mind on wanting to steal your creativity and voice, is there ever really a way of stopping them? I try to reiterate that my work isn’t a tutorial and not to treat it as such. I am hoping if it does happen someone who is either a fellow artist or simply a supporter in the fiber and art community will alert me to it and ill deal accordingly, but I’m not completely confident on how I will react to it, wish me luck!

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

Stay hungry, whatever people say to try to diminish your dream, let that be a constant fire in your belly to decimate whatever negativity they attempt to send you way. Whatever project you’re beginning or skill you’re attempting to learn go hard, there’s no other option and create what YOU want to see in the world. And PLEASE don’t be silly like me and work for 4 to 7 hours straight, take breaks, rest your eyes and eat a snack. Being a shaky, jittery mess will not improve or benefit your art or business, trust me.

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

From the very beginning you were the first account I’ve encountered and blew my mind with the medium and started the obsession (you low-key got me into houseplants too).

Cayce Zavaglia showed me the possibilities of the medium and the drive to push limits that critics of embroidery, harbors against fiber artist. Danielle Kyrsa aka The Jealous Curator and her ‘Art For Your Ears’ podcast gave me the drive and proof that it’s possible and all worth it.

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All images provided by the artist.