Meet the South African artists using Instagram to push their wacky works

Updated 30th January 2016
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Meet the South African artists using Instagram to push their wacky works
Written by Heenali Patel, CNN
Three artists making it big in the world of art have one thing in common: Instagram has been key in turning their hobbies into successful businesses.
Lorraine Loots has become an internationally recognized miniature artist, exhibiting over 700 artworks in New York last year. Ross Symons, turned his love for origami into a full-time job, while Danielle Clough continues to fascinate thousands of people online with her fabric art stitched onto rackets.
These South African artists have over 370,000 followers combined. Here they tell CNN about what pushed them to create art on Instagram, and where it's taken them since.

How did your art venture start?

Loots says her project began as a way to keep creating art between day jobs. "I wanted to spend an hour a day finishing an artwork every single day, and the only thing I could finish in an hour was something that small," she said. "As it became more important to me, I began quitting my other jobs and spending more time on the paintings. Now it's literally 8 hours a day!"
For Symons, origami has been a lifelong passion. "For years and years, making origami was something I did," he explains. "If I had a beer in front of me, I'd tear the label off and turn it into a crane. I'd always wanted to dedicate time each day for a year on a single project. So I decided to do a 365 day origami project on Instagram."
For Clough, a creative start came from talking with a friend. "A friend and I were chatting, and I started embroidering onto a mono-print. She suggested that I should do something with a racket! It was a mission to find out how to create it, because you're sewing into air basically. So this whole project started out just through good conversation really."

Instagram: was it a key player?

"Instagram made me a suggested user, and in the second year, they featured me," says Loots. "It (the following) was growing by thousands a day." Other social media have boosted Loots too, who said she's also posted to Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr. But Instagram, she says, has been great for interaction and suggestions, something crucial for her success.
Symons says the key to growing his business on Instagram was "just being so active" on it. He says: "I've spoken to a lot of artists in Cape Town and they all say if it wasn't for social media, particularly Instagram and Facebook, they wouldn't be doing what they're doing now."
"I ended up on the Instagram featured page, and my followers went from 2,000 to 5,000," admits Clough.

How does Cape Town inspire your work?

"The second year of my project was themed around Cape Town," explains Loots. "If you had to squeeze Cape Town into a 3 centimeter circle, what would you put in there? It was a great adventure. There's this very specific energy in Cape Town, and there's a lot of cool stuff coming out of here."
Symons agrees, adding: "Cape Town is as European as Barcelona or London. It's very creative, there's a lot of opportunity around the creative space and with artists."
For Clough, Cape Town was the perfect place to get encouragement from other artists. "In Cape Town, everybody is helpful and interested. The craft community is very supportive here," she adds.

How did your art go from local to global?

Loots exhibited her work at the Three Kings Studio gallery in New York last year. "I had a collection of 730 pieces and I thought it would be really sad not to show them all in one spot. We posted on Instagram, asking if there was a gallery that has a gap sometime in the year... It was incredible," said Loots.
"Towards the end of the year, I got a call from Christian Dior in France," says Symons. "Their whole plan was to use origami and stock-frame animations for a tour from Paris to Tokyo. That was the first time I got contacted internationally via Instagram." Symons has gone on to make displays and animations for numerous businesses since.
"I produced a bunch of work for Converse," adds Clough. "That generated a lot of interest on the Internet for all the rackets."

What's your favorite artwork so far?

"It would have to be the painting of our house that I did on our wedding day," says Loots.
"I always like the figure I'm currently designing the most," explains Symons. "So I'd have to say the dragonfly... but the zebra is a close second!"
"My favorite is one of my biggest portraits," says Clough. "It's fluorescent and on a backing board that's gold. It's bright and hectic. I sold it to this woman in the U.S. who teaches kids about cultures through fabric art."

And finally -- your best advice for building a business?

"The first thing is do a course that's going to teach you the practical realities of being an artists, because there's a lot of business involved," says Loots. Secondly, she advises artists to make their work visible. Lastly, be fiercely productive. "Even on a day that you are not inspired and you don't want to do anything, still do something. Even if it's just scratching on a piece of paper."
Symons adds: "If you have a product, I would say take a photography course to learn how to frame a shot. It doesn't have to look different, it just has to look good. I wouldn't be in a position I am in now, if I didn't take really good photos of the stuff I was creating. Don't stop until you're rich and famous!"
"Do it for your own personal love and get really good at what you do. Share what you're doing. Don't be shy!" added Clough.