Friday, December 4, 2009

An Interview with....Joanne Yordanou

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.

You can find Joanne here

Where do you find inspiration?

I am a very visual person. I can be inspired by a lines in art or a great photograph. I am a complete magazine junkie and can be also inspired by a cuff or neckline off the runway. Also, home décor magazines are a great source for ideas. But my best work is born of the sub-conscience. I wake up with an idea and jot it down before it’s gone.

What is your favourite knitting technique?

I love to cable; very rewarding knitting. I also appreciate the easy stitches that give a big bang for the effort, such as slip stitch patterns. I also love to embellish. I will often challenge myself to add a little whimsy to a pattern, especially with children’s patterns, which is always fun.

How did you determine your size range?
I use Standards for sizing. I will offer as many sizes as is “right” for the pattern silhouette and suitable for body types.

Do you look at other designers work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I will always admire other designer’s work and will often think “ I wish I thought of that”. However, it is fairly easy to appreciated a beautiful project and not let it influence your own work. Often times, you are in a completely different head zone for designing, than what you may be admiring. For example, I saw a unique shawl collar pattern a few days ago that I was taken by (again wishing I thought of it). But I am working on an intricate scarf pattern now and working that out of my system, so it is more a case of “hats-off” to the other designer.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I was trained by the Patons Design Studio and the more info you can give a knitter, the better. I don’t want to ever assume the level of knitter, even though we suggest a level for a pattern. Really, if your instructions are informative, an intermediate knitter could do an experienced pattern. The experience knitters among us will easily scan the pattern and filter out what they don’t need. However, I will say that the pattern is simply that – instruction of how to knit the item. It isn’t a learn to knit book.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I always use test knitters as the more eyes on a pattern, the less error. I have many I have used that I met from my days at Patons or from Knitting Guilds I have presented to. I am always looking out for new experienced knitters in my area – just west of Toronto – in case you’re out there!

Did you do a formal business plan?
I do or rather I did when I started out. Now I just know what I need to do from years of experience. The plan changed over the years and I may insert a new idea or direction from time to time. But I highly recommend one to start out. It will maintain your focus.

Do you have a mentor?
Not so much anymore. One of my best editors and knitters lived 2 doors away – Joyce. She was a fantastic knitter and a stickler for details. She taught me to be a stickler too. I don’t assume anymore. I check and recheck, over and over. It is so easy to miss an error or typo. Joyce was for me, a mentor of editing. She passed away recently and I will miss her very much. But she left with me the habit of slowing down to be efficient with review.
Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Nope, just mine

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
Huge. I have been able to reach knitters all over the world. I get a kick when I hear from a knitter in Germany, Australia or other reaches of the world - some I have never heard of! Since I offer patterns on my web site, I have learned the value of sites like Ravelry and the strong connection of knitters on the www.
Do you use a Tech Editor?
Almost always.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I have a very busy family life. Both of my daughters are athletes and most of my life is spent in gyms. I recently gave up a part-time job to work on my next book. Carving out time for designing and knitting is always a challenge. I loves quiet days when I can devote a whole day to designing. It is even better when I can get 3-4 designs out of a weekend; patterns written. I am often knitting while my husband drives to games or tournaments. The games are too exciting to knit there! During the summer, I am at the cottage and there I have my favorite chair that looks out onto the water. It is my most peaceful knitting!
How do you deal with criticism?
The knitting community is a very friendly one. Once in a blue moon, you will read something or hear something that can produce a gray cloud above your head. But, it is water off a duck’s back. You have to move on from it.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
My husband supported me while I built my own business. I worked for Patons beforehand and then I launched Baa Baa Knits, which is now My husband always “had my back” on slow months. So, I wouldn’t say I ever supported myself. Rather, I contributed to the family.
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Think big! Believe you can and don’t take rejection too personally. Celebrate what you can.

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