Sarah K. Benning is a featured presenter on the Arts Track at the Radically Rural Conference. A self-described rural nomad, she has found her place, for now, in Keene, New Hampshire! We’re so excited she is here with us, and we wanted to share a bit of her story with you.
Tell us a little about your art!
I am a contemporary embroidery artist. Though my formal training and background are in the fine arts (having attended the Baltimore School for the Arts and the School of the Art Institute of Chicago), I am self-taught in the craft of embroidery. I approach each piece primarily as an illustration, often abandoning traditional stitches and techniques in favor of bold shapes, playful patterns, and contemporary subject matter. I emphasize drawing, composition, and color choice over traditional stitching/needlepoint/embroidery techniques. My work is inspired by interior design trends, a love for Midcentury furniture and architecture, antique and global textiles, and my own potted plant collection.
Where did you come from and what drew you to the Monadnock region?
I am a brand new resident of the Monadnock region and a pretty new resident of New Hampshire. My husband and I just bought a house and moved to Keene at the end of February after renting a house up in Warren, NH last year (a tiny town at the foot of the White Mountains).
For the past few years I have been more or less nomadic, splitting my time between the US and Menorca, Spain and traveling quite a lot throughout the US and abroad to teach workshops and participate in maker events. I knew it was time to settle down a bit and we found a house that served all our needs here in Keene -- walking distance to main street, close to the grocery store and YMCA, and enough space for my husband and I to both comfortably work from home. Keene wasn't the only place that we looked, but it is where we ended up and still no regrets six months in!
Where do you find your arts community?
Because of the internet (primarily Instagram) I have had the incredible opportunity and privilege to connect with so many artists and creatives all over the world. The connection to other artists, facilitated by Instagram, has been invaluable to my studio practice/business. Seeing glimpses into others' studios and workflow is so fun and motivating and the sense of camaraderie is unmatched. Now, no matter where we physically live, we are connected to everyone everywhere and it is possible to find not only your audience for your work, but also your community of peers. And that is a magically thing. Every Wednesday I publish a 'Craft With Conscience' interview with an artist I admire. These interviews are dedicated to discussing how creatives use the internet as a tool in their studios and to promote their work. It has been such a pleasure to connect with artists this way and to give them a platform to discuss not only the positives of the internet and social media, but also some of the pitfalls and downsides.
What and who inspires you?
I am most inspired by the women in my life who have started their own businesses. When I was fresh out of college in Chicago, I immediately moved to Albany, NY where I lucked into an incredible community of women business owners--designers, makers, artists, shop keepers, etc. and I was so inspired by their ability to make it all work in a place like Albany, that on first glance is depressed and boring (a first glance that has shifted in the past 5 years thanks to the efforts of these ladies!). I still look back and cling to the lessons learned from them and it has been so rewarding to see how their endeavors have grown and shifted over the past few years. Here in New Hampshire, I was so relieved to find another entrepreneurial community and to be inspired again by more incredible women in business like Alyssa Van Guilder, founder of Apotheca in Goffstown and Deb Thompson, owner of Nahcotta in Portsmouth. I can't wait to more deeply settle in here and to meet more members of this incredibly community.
What else would you like to share?
If you want to try your hand at contemporary embroidery, I share my methods and designs in a monthly Pattern Program.