Friday, August 6, 2010

An Interview with... Mercedes Tarasovich-Clark

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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 Mercedes here and here.

It’s probably been said many times before, but *everywhere*. But when I’m really jonesing for some fresh material, I check out fashion magazines and websites, I cruise Flickr for interesting photos, or I just head to the mall (a rare occurrence!) to see what’s on the mannequins. I keep my iPhone camera and sketchbook handy, because you never know when a great idea will sneak up on you!

What is your favourite knitting technique? I usually tend toward textures like cables and lace, but my current obsession is two-color brioche rib. Ever since reading Nancy Marchant’s Knitting Brioche, I’ve gone down the rabbit hole with this technique and just keep coming up with new projects to play with it. The possibilities for color and texture, and combining to two, just blow my mind.

What is your favourite dyeing technique? I love dyeing subtle multi-colors and semi-solids, both of which I make using a handpainting/pouring technique. Since I use so much texture in my knitting, the really wild multi-colors have had less of a place in my work, and the subtler color changes really work well with cables and lace.
How do you choose the fibers that you work with?
From a knitter’s standpoint, I try to use fibers and textures that I really LOVE to work with. Some are hardier, some more delicate, but they all have a place in my stash. From a businesswoman’s standpoint, I try to tailor the line down to materials that are reliable quality and that I can stock relatively consistently.

Do you look at other designers' and dyers work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their choices? I really can’t NOT look at other’s work unless I want to live in a bubble, so yes, I always try to have a clue what’s going on in my industry. But I do take that info and try to use it wisely, so that I can follow a trend without stepping on the toes of a colleague (who many times is a friend, too). If you have a clear sense of your own design style and color palette, you can be inspired and influenced by other designers and dyers without it all becoming homogenous.
How do you come up with names for your yarn?
A while back, I used to try to come up with super-clever, witty names for all of my colorways, which was fun when I only had about a dozen or so. But then, because I love color so much and was crazy about too many options to narrow it down, my offerings expanded to 50+ colorways. That’s when I decided to name them after people, both real and imagined. My husband always boggles at the fact that I can remember them by sight, and I always reply, “I recognize them because they’re mine!”
How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters? I’m not so sure it’s a real controversy; there will always be a place for simple patterns, both for new knitters as well as seasoned knitters that want something quick and easy. I started in this business with a brick-and-mortar yarn store at the height of the glam/fluff/glitter scarf craze 6 years ago, and watched many of my customers and students grow into very experienced knitters working with complex lace patterns, Celtic-style cables, Fair Isle, and the like. I think there’s a place for both, always.
How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
Currently, I do it all myself, but I think in the near future, I’ll need to find a few reliable knitters to keep up with my ever-increasing project load. I tend to work out the details of the project on the needles, so a lot of my designing is hands-on.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
To be perfectly frank, I often don’t. It’s something I’m working really hard on establishing, especially keeping my weekends as work-free as possible. But in reality, the flexibility of being able to take personal time in the middle of a M-F workweek often has to balanced out by a rush of work on a Sunday afternoon. But I have an understanding, sometimes-freelancer, husband, and no kids, so I can handle a little bit of crazy. Before someone jumps into this life and schedule, they should take a look at what their family and household can handle as far as weird hours and unpredictability. (side note- I’m writing this from my favorite café at noon, drinking a beer. A plus in my book, but not everyone can actually produce consistent work in this environment.)

How do you deal with criticism? I’ve embraced the concept of “right people”. As in, not everyone will get my work, not everyone will get me, but when I find the ones that do, that really LOVE what I’m doing and who I am, those are the people I focus my energies toward. I don’t have the brainpower and energy to spare on “converting” critics. Not everyone will love what I’m doing, and that’s ok; the ones that do make it all worthwhile and so incredibly satisfying.
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting or dyeing? #1, without a doubt: BE YOURSELF. Figure out what your vision is, who you want to reach, what you want to create, and do it.
Also, take the time to market. If you have an awesome product, you need to let people know, make it easy to find, tell them what it is, how to get it. Take to time to get out into the community, both real world and internet, and interact. And I don’t mean just shilling your stuff, but really make connections, and interact with others in your field. Those connections will not only provide moral support, but lead to word of mouth advertising. Go. Do.

1 comment:

  1. Mercedes is a friend and sometimes knitting mentor to me (probably more than she realizes!) and is a wonderful woman. She is undoubtedly herself and that is something I find admirable.
    Kudos to you for highlighting such an awesome knitter,businesswoman and friend.