Amazon Aid Foundation Artists for the Amazon program is happy to welcome Katharina Tinkl, a visual artist and jewelry designer who likes to spread love and awareness through art.
How did you first become inspired by the Amazon?
The first time I became inspired by the Amazon was at the Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference in 2020, where I learnt about the Amazon Aid Foundation’s Cleaner Gold Network. When I then put together that the Amazon Rainforest is primarily under threat due to animal agriculture and because of illicit and unregulated gold mining, I realised that, as a vegan artist and someone engaged in the responsible-jewelry industry, I am in a position to bridge both those topics through my art. I now hope to educate people, who know me for my vegan art, about environmental issues related to jewelry and to inspire people in the responsible-jewelry movement to consider a plant-based diet, which has been shown to be the single biggest thing we can do for the environment, including the Amazon Rainforest.
How do the Amazon Rainforest and environmentalism manifest in your work?
Up until now, my main focus has been on vegan artivism from an ethical standpoint of “vegan for the animals”. However, the more I learn about the extent of what we do to animals, I am also realising the unfathomable impact all this is having on the environment, including the Amazon Rainforest. So, I am currently feeling my art shifting towards incorporating more environmental issues, too. Especially after watching films like The Need to Grow (2018), Cowspiracy (2014), Seaspiracy (2021) and A Plastic Ocean (2016), I feel fuelled to spread awareness on the issues these films look at. There is also a great episode of The Disclosure Podcast by Earthling Ed, called Can You Be a Non-Vegan Environmentalist? In Conversation with Jack Harries, that I highly recommend.
There is a whimsical element to your art – would you say that is a part of your POV as an artist?
The motto of my creations is “Spreading Love Through Art”, which is why I tend to focus on beautiful, pretty depictions of whatever I draw or paint. I hope for my art to move people’s hearts and souls through beauty – even when it comes to more serious and painful topics, such as the exploitation of animals or the destruction of the rainforest. I want my art to be as accessible as possible, so that people like looking at it and can take something away from it that they can then translate into action if they choose to.
How long have you been a vegan artist?
As soon as I became vegan (in early 2020), I began to integrate the topic into my art. Once you go vegan, you suddenly become aware of SO MANY things you didn’t know about or that you intentionally pushed to the back of your mind before. Art is a great way to express those realisations, feelings and thoughts.
How do you approach your work in terms of bridging activism with art? Is that more based on how you source sustainable materials or the message of the piece? Or is it a combination of the two?
It’s a combination of the two. Many of my pieces contain a message about what we do to animals and the planet we all share. In terms of supplies, it is important to me to source sustainable materials and to use as little plastic as possible (or none at all if I can). In terms of the materials I use for my jewelry, it is a bit more complex, as there are a lot of issues involved. But, I am continuously working on making improvements, which is why I am part of the Cleaner Gold Network, for example.
What are the challenges you see as a jewelry maker sourcing ethical and sustainable materials and what do you think would help in that as an artisan?
When I first started making jewelry (I simply wanted to make some pretty beaded necklaces and bracelets and don’t classify myself as a “proper” jewelry maker), I thought it would be a matter of simply asking suppliers if their materials are sourced ethically and sustainably. But, I soon realised that it wasn’t as simple as that. This is such an incredibly complicated topic that I don’t even know where to start. Once you start asking questions, you just end up with more question marks. One of the main problems is that responsible jewelry is still fairly unchartered territory. But, luckily, there are organisations and initiatives such as the Amazon Aid Foundation, Better Without Mercury, Christina T. Miller Consulting, Fairmined or the Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference (to name but a few) – and the responsible-jewelry community is growing. I think working together in this community, educating people on those topics and working on establishing formalisation and legislation in supply chains hold some of the keys to making responsible jewelry more the norm rather than the exception. Until then, I like the approach of trying our best within the restrictions we currently have to work with, having a clear sense of what our values are and always using that as a compass to navigate those issues.
Do you find that people are willing to pay more for something ethically and sustainably made?
I feel some people will be happy to pay higher prices for ethically and sustainably made products, but not everyone has the means to do that. So, there are issues to sort out on that front, too. Be it through trying to create a shift in customers’ mindsets or through, somehow, managing to keep prices compatible – or a combination of both. I don’t quite have the answer to that one, but I am sure, together as a community, we can come up with solutions.
Do you have any planned pieces about Amazon?
I actually have a few illustrations planned, yes. I definitely want to create some infographics, but I also have ideas for some other pieces. Watch this space! 😉
Please check out Katharina’s work: