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Craft With Conscience: Sarah Strickland

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: Sarah Strickland

Sarah Benning

Sarah Strickland // Illustrator and Designer // Melbourne

Sarah is a illustrator and textile designer living in the creative hub of the inner northern suburbs of Melbourne. She works mainly with gouache on paper and has been painting for as long as she has been able to hold a brush. Sarah's work focusses on close observation of the everyday stuff around her. Lush
colour give her paintings an otherworldly feeling, that seeks to draw the viewer in, so they can calmly observe as well.

Check out her beautiful work through her Instagram or Website.

Sarah Strickland Portrait.jpg

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 ones’ own visual vocabulary. The internet is an ever growing fixture in many artist’s lives and businesses, could you talk about the role the internet plays in your artistic and professional life?

The internet is probably a much bigger part of my life than I give it credit for. I know that I have had many successes by being able to easily share my work with the world and reach across oceans to people who like what I do. Something I can't even imagine would have been possible for me if I were doing what I do pre digital age.  For someone like me who finds it very hard to actively promote myself, the internet is a wonderfully easy and minimally stressful way to do this as well!

I use the internet everyday to communicate, research and inspire and for all it's pitfalls, it really is an amazing thing.


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

My work is all about observation and spending a lot of time with those inanimate objects that don't often get a lot of attention, so I really try to slow down and just look around the space I'm in for inspiration and draw from life. I often find little scenes that I had never fully appreciated before. I try to honour those objects as best as I can by painting them into a lovely picture! Having said that, I do find images (photos I have taken or images I find) that really resonate with me and I will try to capture the feeling that the image gave me, in a painting.
I use these found images as a base from which to build my own imaginary world.

When it comes to composing the colour within a painting I go through all my collected bits and pieces, wherever I have them stored and try to put together a palette that I find really sings. This is the part I labour over the most, so I will take inspiration from wherever I can!

Having said all that I usually begin my process by scrolling through my very healthy Pinterest and Instagram accounts! Often just looking at the abundance of imagery makes me want to get up and actually create something myself (can also have the reverse effect!). The internet is really a great tool for finding imagery and information you might never have access to, which might spark an idea or help to flesh something out, but it is just a tool. I do try to find inspiration from as diverse a field as possible, I still even go to the library! In the end I want my work to look like I did it, so I really do just treat the internet as a tool, along with my box of paints and brushes.

Window Seat Web.jpg

 

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?

Fortunately I have not had to deal too much with copies of my work as an illustrator, which speaks to my level of exposure I think.

In my professional work as a textile designer, I have encountered what I would call a startlingly similar design to something I had done and I think my first reaction was a kind of bemusement! I felt like I was finally a real designer - my design was good enough to be copied!

Levity aside, I am extremely conscious of the murky history of copyright infringement within the textile industry and creative world generally and therefore I work very hard to create unique and original designs. I have no interest in creating something that already exists. I am also lucky enough to work for a brand that really prides itself of on being a unique product so I am never put in an uncomfortable position where I am asked to copy something (which does happen!).

I guess I would also like to add I know how easy it is to subconsciously end up reproducing something - I know I have had to scrap designs altogether when I realised I have done this. Given that we are all looking at the same images on Pinterest and Instagram, we are all fed the same "creative ingredients" if you like. It makes sense that we will be creating very similar recipes. That's why I think it's really important to get away from the screen and find inspiration from the incredible world around us!

At the time I found one of my textile designs being appropriated, the design I had created was no longer for sale so it did not directly impact the business I work for. If this was not the case I think the best approach is to contact the person/business directly and privately. I know this may not always be successful, but I have witnessed a few instances where these feuds have played themselves out on social media and it can turn very ugly. I think this is where knowing your stuff about copyright laws is essential and some public education is definitely needed
here.  

Sarah Strickland Workspace.jpg

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

My advice is to find your own voice. I think this is an ongoing, work in progress for me, as we are not fixed beings, but I certainly feel much closer to this the more I make. It is what makes the work so satisfying as I am creating my own truth and also I think, what resonates with the world. Your own voice is your greatest asset!

Back-Door-View-WEB.jpg

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

I have been following the work of artist Camilla Engman for years and used to religiously read her blogs every week! Now I am more of an Instagram fanatic. I love that I can have a glimpse into the creative worlds of the people I admire, I especially love those that share really interesting insights on how the hell they go about trying to exist as a creative person! I follow way more people than I can ever keep up with, but here are a few accounts that I love;

I love with a passion the work of Miranda July and her Instagram account! Her work is full of humility and nuance and humour.

Deserted in Parisis a wonderful Instagram account by Tal Spiegel who is a pastry chef with an incredible shoe collection, living in Paris. It's no good to look at if you're trying to quit sugar (not me!) but the creations he shows are true works of art! Talk about colour inspiration!

A Floral Frenzy is a rich source of just mind blowing, beautiful floral arrangements. So much colour and beauty to be found here.

I love reading Sight Unseen for staying up to date with what is going on in the design world.


Finally, it's super cheesy, but the most inspiring artists to me are the ones I know as mates, as I have seen their work progress and fly. A great example is my husband! We studied illustration together when we were just babies (pretending to be grown up) and have been each others greatest cheerleaders and critics for the last 14 years. He is a really incredible comic artist whose passion and commitment to his creativity are awe inspiring! I consider myself a lucky person to be able to witness this every day. He sporadically posts to his Instagram
@andy_monstercomics_isaac.

All images courtesy of the artist.