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Success + Struggle

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!

Success + Struggle

Sarah Benning

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Last Friday I sent out a newsletter to my mailing list and I acknowledged some hard truths: this year has been a year of ups and downs and creative ruts. I am six years into my embroidery business. It's a business that I didn't really plan that has evolved out of my studio practice. (I didn't really plan for my studio practice to be embroidery based either, but that evolution is a story for another day!)

Most of the time I absolutely love what I do and I am definitely always grateful that it supports me (aka YOU support me and make it all possible). There are also other times when everything feels like a struggle and I feel uninspired or completely overwhelmed and lost about what's next. How will things change and grow--or shrink--in the next six years? I have no idea!

I have started the practice of identifying individual moments of success and moments of struggle in order to keep a handle on feeling and celebrating the progress and to try and analyze and move past the challenges.

So now I invite you to celebrate my little success and sympathize with my struggle this month: 

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I have made time for directionless experimentation. I find myself being so product driven so often that I have had to rediscover the joy of creation for creation's sake. I have made time to paint, carve a linoleum block for printing, and have stitched up that weird piece of fabric from my embroidery scraps.

I have struggled with maintaining a healthy work/life balance for the past few weeks--or really for the past six years! Does such a thing as balance even exist? I'm not convinced. But lately I have let my work load get the better of me and have foregone the gym and skipped out on social engagements in favor of hours behind the screen and holed up in the studio.

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I’ve been realizing lately that articulating myself to myself is so important, but I also thrive on a little accountability. So, this won’t be the last Success + Struggle acknowledgement and I invite you to share your own successes and struggles however big or small in the comments section. We can all share this space and support each other!