Sara Barnes // Artist and Blogger // Baltmore, Maryland
Sara Barnes is an embroiderer and freelance writer specializing in illustration, art, and craft. She has her MFA in Illustration Practice and is obsessed with finding the latest and greatest in the field, which she shares through her blog, Brown Paper Bag.
1. The way that we consume culture is rapidly changing in the modern age and the internet and social media outlets have become very useful tools that let artists promote their own work. Could you talk about the role that social media plays in your own business and if and how the internet has affected your own illustration practice?
I can't understate the importance of social media in my business and illustration practice. It is my only marketing tool and the way in which I connect with a community of makers and illustrators. I've gotten commissions because of my Instagram account, and for my blog, Brown Paper Bag, social media is the primary way that I share posts I've written. Unless one of my posts or artwork is posted on social media, I feel like it's just in some infinite Google abyss. Outlets like Facebook, Instagram, etc. are places where they can live.
The internet provides me endless inspiration. While this is helpful, it's also paralyzing at times. How does someone do anything original when so many different styles, techniques, etc. are being shared through social media? Because of it, I've learned the importance of getting offline and finding inspiration from things outside the virtual world—to live in your own mind for a while and see what comes of it; this goes for my artwork as well as my blog. For this reason, I find long plane rides helpful. You're without the internet and have time to think!
2. How do you source the work that you feature on your blog? Do you have a research process as to make sure you aren’t promoting a directly derivative or stolen works or designs?
I mostly use Instagram to look for artists, embroiderers, illustrators, etc. to feature on my blog—sometimes Pinterest and Behance, but I love the communities that form on Instagram. I don't have a formal research process to finding content, but it is important that I stay up on current trends so that I can identify who is producing authentic content and creations and who is just, at best, taking advantage of what's en vogue—and at worst, people who are ripping off hardworking creatives.
3. Sites like Pinterest and Instagram are popular places for artists’ to share their own work. They also act as public visual archives, do you ‘shop’ for work on social media? Have you encountered copies any of the artists' works you've featured on your site and how do you react to it?
I use Pinterest and Instagram as a place to get acquainted to new artists and makers, as well as to keep up with what my favorite people are doing. I wouldn't say I 'shop' for work; when looking for an artist or illustrator to feature, I look for pieces, techniques, or projects that I feel a genuine connection to.
Proper credit to the correct artist is so important—especially when social media is concerned. If I see an individual incorrectly attributing an image, I correct them by telling them who the actual artist is. Often, it's as simple as the person just not knowing who created it, and not taking the time to research it further.
4. Do you have any advice for creatively minded shops or blogs in regards to ethically sourcing the work that they promote?
Research, research, research. Be obsessed with whatever genre of art/design/craft you're interested in. Get to know the people in the communities and creative circles so you know the essence of who they are.
Also, don't be afraid to trust your instincts. If you see something and think "that looks like something I've seen before..." then it probably is. At that point, you've got to make the decision whether or not you want to promote that person or shop.
5. Do you have any favorite blogs, artists, or Instagram accounts that you’d like to share?
I love looking at embroidery Instagram accounts. Some of my current favorites are @yesstitchyes, @elizabethpawle, and @smeldridge. For illustrators, @ohkiistudio, @isabellefeliu, and @jordansondler (who looks like she's always living her best life). The House That Lars Built inspires me to make all the things, and Quipsologies has a great mix of design, illustration and art.
And @pearl_meets_world just makes my heart happy.