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Craft With Conscience: Laura Berger

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: Laura Berger

Sarah Benning

Laura Berger // Painter // Chicago, IL


 Laura is a visual artist living and working in Chicago.  Featuring figurative imagery and dreamlike, minimalistic environments, her current work is centered around themes of self understanding, interconnectedness, and our collective search for meaning.  She has exhibited her paintings around the US and abroad, and also does editorial illustration work, murals, ceramic sculpture, and animation.

Check out more of her amazing work on instagram, facebook, or her website.

Photo Credit: Marta Sasinowska

Photo Credit: Marta Sasinowska

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 plays a huge role in my professional life.  It has allowed me to connect with people from all over the world, for people to accidentally stumble upon my work, and has served as a way for me to link up with interesting projects and exhibitions.  It seems crazy to think about how different the promotional approach is for artists now as compared with the past. I think it's much more streamlined, but perhaps also more overwhelming and random.  I also sell my work online both through my own website and through the websites of the galleries I work with, so the internet is a fundamental part of me being able to make a living and support myself.  I'm very grateful for it.  It also drives me insane, as I know it does all of us.  Sometimes I don't always feel like sharing what I'm working on -- the whole creative process feels somewhat intimate and vulnerable, and it can take a degree of bravery or detachment to post your work publicly and jump into that immediate feedback loop with strangers.  That being said, it can also be very useful to do so.  It's a complicated relationship for sure :)  but overall extremely beneficial.  I feel lucky to be working in a time when we have this tool to help carve out our own little corners to share our work and build connections.

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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?

For me, inspiration comes mostly from random little moments.  It's usually nothing earth-shattering but rather subtle things like a pattern on a brick wall, the texture of something, or a color combination that can be the spark of a new idea.  Travel is a huge source of inspiration for me, I think mostly because it gets me out of my comfort zone so I'm noticing things in a more mindful and engaged way than normal.  I follow travel, architecture, and fashion accounts on Instagram for the months when I'm pretty much stuck in my studio for 14 hours a day - at least I can still see new things that I've never seen before.  I also tend to get a lot of ideas in quiet moments or spaces between things, when I'm not thinking at all.  I use the internet for research when I want to know what a specific plant looks like, for example, or the shape of a particular kind of building.  Since my work isn't super realistic, that's usually just a jumping off point for me but it definitely helps with the process.

 3. 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?

  Inspiration can be a tricky thing -- we're in a new era with this as we're all constantly ingesting so much visual information and we're also now so much more keyed in to what other people all over the world are doing creatively --  there's inevitably going to be some overlap just because of trends and everyone drinking the same internet punch together.  I'm sure in the 1800s there were artists doing similar things in different parts of the world and they didn't even know about it.  I try not to get overly hung up on all of this as everyone has their own voice and style, even if there are similar elements or themes.  I figure I'm likely on to the next thing and hopefully moving forward creatively by the time someone would be potentially copying something I've done in the past.  It's obviously a huge concern if someone pulls your work and does a direct copy of it for some kind of personal gain -- that definitely feels awful.  Something that I find troubling with the internet sharing of images lately is how companies will pull artists' images and use them to promote their business or product on Instagram without permission.  They may tag you, which I guess makes them think it's ok.  It's a definite challenge and a huge frustration when the artist has no say in how or where their images are used, and for what purpose.  My images have shown up on the craziest stuff and it creates a correlation that I had no intention or interest in making and that feels gross.  The second piece of this issue is that illustration /art / design are actual professions and the professionals deserve payment just like a plumber or an electrician does.  No one ever asks their electrician to work for "exposure".  When companies are pulling content for free to use for promotional purposes, this really devalues the illustration industry.   That's a big concern for me, as I know it is for many other creative industries as well right now.  I'd like to do a PSA about this. Is this my PSA?

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

I think I could always use some advice myself haha.  But if I were to say advice, I would say: work really hard and all the time and keep making new work and trying new things.  I think persistence is key.  Not that I know the key because there are challenges all the time when you're working for yourself and I'm always finding myself in a new confusing place.  I've recently come to a realization that I'm never going to "figure it out" and it's probably never going to feel easy.  I think at one point I thought that would eventually happen, but it's kind of a relief to let go of that and settle into understanding that this is just going to be a perpetual hustle :)

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

Is everyone following chillwildlife on Instagram?  It's my favorite.  I feel like animals are keeping me going right now with all of the madness in the world.  They're like the one pure and real thing we can count on to always be just pure and real, and I mostly want to spend my whole life looking at animals.  If they're being chill, even better.

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Images provided by the artist