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Craft With Conscience: Shyama Golden

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: Shyama Golden

Sarah Benning

Shyama Golden // Painter // Brooklyn NY

Shyama Golden’s paintings lie strategically between the cute and uncanny, inviting the viewer to discover new details through multiple viewings. They are influenced by her scientist parents and childhood exposure to Buddhist philosophy. Her work has been published by The New York Times, The Atlantic, Wired, Washington Post, Chronicle Books, and Penguin Random House. She has a BFA from Texas Tech University and is based in Brooklyn, NY. She has an upcoming duo show with artist Mimi O Chun on Friday Nov. 30th, 6pm, at 198 Allen St. NY, NY.

Check out more of her amazing work on Instagram and her website.

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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 been an essential to my livelihood as I have yet to follow a traditional path. So far, I have never mailed a postcard, won an award, or been represented by a gallery but I would consider myself to be quite successful on my own terms. I am able to make a good living and have the respect and friendship of some people I truly look up to. The internet can be a democratizing force when you are doing something that perhaps those in power aren’t quite ready to recognize.


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

I do collect images from the internet and books but try to be inspired from things that are a few steps removed from what I’m doing. For example, I would prefer to be inspired by a set designer than another contemporary painter.

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

I have found my creative voice by leaning into what is weird about me--my point of view as a person of color, my parents being scientists rather than artists, my memories of living in other countries--but I am only at the beginning of the journey, having recently decided to put all of my time into it and never have a “day job” again.


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 have dealt with this. I think it’s good to make work that is difficult to copy, but when that fails I would recommend not spending too much mental energy on stopping it. It is draining and it’s more important to put that energy into new work and staying one step ahead of the copy-cats. For example I don’t recommend a watermark or visible copyright text on top of your artwork or sharing only low res work, this may stop some people from stealing it but it’s at the expense of showing your work at its best. If someone is making a lot of money off of your stolen work then certainly do go after them if you have the time.


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

Keep trying things you believe to be impossible. When you prove yourself wrong even some of those times, you will gain confidence to try bolder and crazier things that few others will be doing. Get used to feeling uncomfortable, if you always feel secure then you aren't reaching your full potential.


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

Mimi O Chun: She addresses some heavy subjects using soft sculpture that is a joy to look at but will leave you thinking about the dystopian implications. We also have a joint show coming up Nov 30 in NYC!

Shantell Martin: Watch her TED talk and follow her on instagram, she is truly an independent thinker and helped me look at taking creative risks in a new way.

Laura Callaghan: Her instagram is great! She often dissects how she thinks conceptually to arrive at her wonderfully complex images.

Amrita Sher Gil: A brilliant artist whom many have not heard of. She was born in 1913, but her work was certainly ahead of its time and has been properly recognized only after her death.

Alice Neel: An incredible American artist who was known for her depictions of ordinary women who were rarely seen in art.

Amy Sherald: An inspiration on many levels! I recommend reading about her life and how she continues to give back to her community.


All Images provided by the artist