Monday, January 11, 2010

An Interview with...Ann Kingstone

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.

Where do you find inspiration?
My designs all seem to start from a single point and build from there. However, the point they start from varies enormously. Some start with a beautiful yarn that is evocative of a particular theme or mood (e.g. my Luna’s Moonlight socks), some from an interesting stitch pattern for which I want to create a special application (Lórien and my Lady of the Wood mittens), some from a wish to experiment with an interaction of pattern and shape (e.g. my Durmstrang socks), and some from a desire to design to a particular theme (my other Potter sock designs). The rest of the process is just like a problem-solving exercise in order to best express the original thought. Nevertheless, whichever point they start from my designs inevitably meander through many other fields of inspiration on their journey to the fully expressed idea. These other fields always include my knitting bookshelves, and often also include a visit to the work of other knitters and designers.
What is your favourite knitting technique?
Whichever I’m currently working with. Clearly I am a fickle lover!
How did you determine your size range?
It depends on who I am aiming at with my product. For example, my Hogwarts socks for children are sized in three age ranges from 5 – 13. It also depends on the constraints of the design elements – the size of the pattern repeats in my stranded sock designs only practicably permit two different foot lengths within the standard ladies’ size range, whereas the calf circumference can be fully customized in half-inch increments.
Do you look at other designers work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Other designers are a great source of inspiration for me in lots of ways; the way they use colour; how they combine different textures; their placement of design elements in a garment; their construction methods; their garment shaping, etc… So, I deliberately look at their work actually hoping to be influenced by it!
How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
For my self-published patterns I knit the samples myself. I’m also working on a book though, and for that will be working with sample knitters as I’ve realised that it is too big a project to undertake alone. Recently I have also started working with test knitters via Ravelry. I find this is a wonderful way of working to improve the usability of my patterns before I publish them. Typically I take on ten testers for a pattern, and in exchange for some feedback about the pattern they get the pattern for free, including the final published version. The test itself involves ongoing open discussion in the testers' forum about the pattern and the testers' projects. It’s a fun process with lots of social aspects which make it a great way of working for me.
Do you have a mentor?
While I don’t have an official mentor, I get advice from other designers via the designers’ forums in Ravelry. There is a forum especially for British designers, and I think this is helping to foster a sense of community between independent British designers. There is a lot of goodwill, and the more established designers are very generous in sharing their knowledge and experience. In particular Pat Ashworth (of Woolly Thoughts), WoollyWormhead, and Fiona Morris have given me excellent advice. I am very grateful for their kindness.
Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
As I have noticed is the case with other designers, my own unique personality, interests, ideas, and ways of working are all involved in my manner of business. Consequently my business model has to be uniquely suited to me.
What impact has the Internet had on your business?
It is where it started!
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
There is no separation between them!
How do you deal with criticism?
I can use criticism to feel bad, or to grow. While I sometimes do the former I much prefer the latter. Consequently I work to keep myself conscious of that so that I can see the growth potential in any feedback I receive. I am fortunate to have done a lot of work with the Institute for Self-Actualization, and to have had coaching from Nigel Jardine. These have made a big difference to the way I deal with all kinds of things.
How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
::Laughs maniacally::
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Go for it! Of course, as with any other life plan, it will be necessary to manifest all kinds of qualities to make it work the way you want. I find that I constantly have to work on getting clear about what I want and on planning how I will create it.

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