Wednesday, September 16, 2009

An interview with... Fiona Ellis

Once a week I post interviews with interesting designers about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry. I’ve noticed that every designer makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the Knitting world. This week it's Fiona Ellis

Where do you find inspiration?

Oh my gosh the question I always try to answer in a nutshell but find impossible to do so. The truth is anywhere and everywhere. And it's like falling in love or developing a crush: it can strike at any moment, usually when you least expect it, then it becomes like an obsession and over time transforms into a smolder like an old flame. My fave sources are nature, particularly trees and flowers, exotic locations (I love to travel), fabrics (woven not knit) and popular culture especially movies.

What is your favourite knitting technique?

Cables are my number one fave technique but I love to design with in all types of techniques. But I do go back to cables over and over. I guess when you get good at something it has a familiarity which is comforting. Plus I am asked for cable designs a lot now as the industry sees it as my signature.

How did you determine your size range?

I am usually asked to produce patterns in 5-6 sizes. I like to include larger sizes because that is what I would knit for myself.

Do you look at other designers work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?

I love to admire the work of others but I don't look to it for inspiration at all. When looking at other people's designs I do sometimes have those moments where I think...that's lovely I wish I had thought of that.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?

There is too much dumbing down in the world- TV shows for example, we should be raising the bar not lowering it. So I don't dumb things down, I know that knitters are smart and creative people and look for challenges.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?

I have a core team of 3-4 knitters but draw on several more when working on my books. I do some of the projects myself and I like to do the finishing...yes really.

Did you do a formal business plan?

No but I did take business courses in university so even though I don't actually write it down I do have an informal plan that I follow.

Do you have a mentor?

I have had several people whose wisdom I have drawn on over the years but none of them were/are knitting mentors.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?

It has opened up new outlets, but they work out just the same as print media for me. Although I like that you are able to get feed-back from knitters.

Do you use a Tech Editor?

Yes, we all need to have somebody to look over our work as sometimes it is impossible to see the wood for the trees.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

I don't always- it can be all consuming sometimes. But I do a lot of yoga and have many other interests which helps a lot.

How do you deal with criticism?

My work is a personal expression so I find it hard to take criticism, but I am OK with critique or constructive criticism. Plus I try to remember that you cannot please everybody.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?

If you love it follow your heart. People respond well to something that is done with passion and it in turn proves to be, not only successful, but very satisfying.

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