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Craft With Conscience: Vanessa Barragão

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: Vanessa Barragão

Sarah Benning

Vanessa Barragão // Textile Artist // Porto, Portugal

The textile industry is one of the most polluting in the world. In almost every process chemicals are used, especially when it comes to the fibers treatment and dyeing. All the machinery used requires tons of energy while producing a lot of waste and disposable trash. It is extremely harmful for our world and it affects all of its different natural environments, particularly the ocean which absorbs 90% of the atmospheric pollution, warming itself up to the point that so many species get threatened.  Coral reefs, which sustain so many other creatures, is one of the most endangered.

Vanessa believes in an upcycling effort towards the right way to fight against the kind of negative mindset described above. All of the materials used come from the dead-stock from several local factories which is first cleaned and then selected to recycle and reuse in her projects. Her production is completely artisanal and handmade by using ancestral techniques, like latch hook, felt, knitting, macrame and crochet, to create her artworks inspired by the coral reefs.

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


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?


As you say, the internet is an enormous and diversified universe. For me, I cannot say that is the best way to show my art work, because I believe that being in the same space and time of my work, being able to see, touch and feel it, is the best way to contemplate and understand the vision and message present in art. Even so, I must admit that the internet is a faster way to promote my work and myself as an artist, and, besides that, it's the most efficient way to do it on a large scale, understanding its power of reaching thousands of different people, all over the world, in a short space of time. As a verdict of my experience, Instagram was the "boom" for my art disclosure, even though I had started with Pinterest and Facebook, during my master degree in Fashion Design
in 2015. I never expected to reach so many people and to spread my work throughout the world, and when I sold my first piece of art, on Instagram, I was shocked, in a good way, and that gave me more reasons and will to keep going and keep working hard for my purpose.

canarias rug.JPG

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 was younger, I used to travel with my family through different countries and continents. Every time we visited Caribbean countries or more exotics and natural places, we always tried to dive into those beautiful waters full of life and colors. And those memories are my biggest and strongest inspiration. The feeling of being overwhelmed by those creatures, being an unknown and small living being in those universes, feeling the need to see those colors, finding out more and being surrounded by that life, are some of the feelings that I remember and that I keep in my memory and heart.

But time flies really fast and my memories are not as clear as they were back then, and that is where Internet comes into my design process, since I can search and find out different images of the deep sea. If I lived somewhere where I could dive easily, it would be really amazing, but since that is something really hard to do, diving into the internet is the only way to revive those memories. Besides that, looking through different photos and videos of complex structures of coral reefs, different creatures, and different seas etc. has helped me to get even more ideas!

Full Moon-VanessaBarragao.jpg
EARTH RUG-Milan Design Week 2017- Salon del Mobile.jpg

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

I use to say that I came from a family of artists: my grandmothers are knitters and do a lot of crochet, my maternal grandfather and my father are really skillful people and wood artisans, my grandmother used to paint and she is a knitter and a crochet maker too. So, since my childhood, I was in contact with artisanal techniques and different types of art work, that helped my artistic abilities and influenced me as an artist. Besides that, I always loved and cared a lot about art and, since I always show that interest, my parents always supported and motivated me to follow my dreams and my artistic vain. After so many years of studies, so many experimentations with different types of art, such as painting and sculpture, in order to discover what I really like to do, I finally found out my own way to express myself. I was studying my for masters degree in Fashion Design, when I met and got in touch with the wool process and the art of making textiles. And then, when I started to explore more about it, I started to discover, at the same time, myself and my essence as an artist, creating my own language, my creative voice.


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?

Those are some complicated and sad moments, and, unfortunately it has already happened to me. In my opinion, and being aware of human nature and the way we act and feel, I believe that when someone tries to copy a piece of art, the reason for that action is the need or desire to feel the accomplishment of something wonderful. As an artist, I do my art because it's the right way to express my feelings and my visions. If someone tries to copy one of my works, even if it hurts me, I understand that it may have not been to cause me harm, but maybe it was an attempt to admire my work or even to try to see what I see.

Even so, I believe that copying is not an honored action, and each one of us must be able to create our own unique artistic language in order to express ourselves and be faithful to our own essence.


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

Yes, of course. Even if we all are different and unique, having our own ways to act, feel and live, there are some tips and pieces of advice that transcend those differences. First of all, I believe that the most important thing is finding your own goal. When we have a really well defined goal, even if we are going through some rough times, the path to follow or the future actions to take will be much easier to decide, since we will always take in account the ultimate purpose. Then, I believe that it is really important to find out the best way to accomplish that end. And it may take some time, and we may miss, fall or even loose some battles, but at the end we will find out our true selves and our own "language".  After that, the dedication, the capability to keep fighting after a loss, the patience and the power of staying faithful to our selves and to our own beliefs, are some crucial points to our own business or art work, but also are what will help us define our selves and the uniqueness in our art.


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

 I follow a lot of coral accounts and one of my favorite is @coralmorphologic , and artists I love are @lizanfreijsen, an amazing textile artist and a big person, and @crossingthreads

tapestry coral 1.jpg

All images provided by the artist.