Friday, November 19, 2010

An Interview with...Anne Kuo Lukito

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 Anne here and on Ravelry here.

Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere! Sometimes something just jumps in my head. Sometimes I hit "designer's block" and nothing comes to me. When I'm in need to find inspiration, I'll look at various things like the leaves on a tree, home improvement magazines, a piece of furniture, current events and fashion magazines. For example, Twister came to me during hurricane season when I was visiting my parents in Texas,  Spectacle was born out of inspiration from mid-century modern furniture design, and I was inspired by insects when I designed Cocoon.

What are your favourite knitting and crocheting techniques?
I can't really crochet. It just never "spoke" to me in the way that knitting does. I don't know if I have a favorite technique, but I do love the magic of it all. I love figuring out techniques that I haven't tried myself without referencing any books or tutorials. I love the magic of Kitchenering in pattern, the many ways you can work a reversible cable and figuring out unique ways to shape a hat or garment while keeping in pattern.

How did you determine your size range?
For garments like sweaters, I generally try my best to offer at least 5-7 sizes. For hats, I try for anywhere between 2 to 6. Sometimes I try to aim for more, but the design of the garment itself can limit the sizing range. Well, at least it limits the ease in which I can write the sizing.


Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
We're all influenced one way or another. Fashion recycles and people often think of similar things independent of one another. I can't honestly say that something I saw last year, while forgotten in my immediate memory, does not influence me on another level. I do get inspired by other designers whether they are designers from the haute couture fashion houses or indie hand knitwear designers. I do make a point though, when I'm in a design mode, not to do pattern searches or look at other knitwear designers' work. If I think of something I that I want to do or am trying to come up with a name for the design, I sometimes conduct pattern searches to make sure that what I've come up with doesn't absolutely replicate something someone else may have done even if the idea came independently.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters and crocheters? 
I don't think that there really is a controversy. I think it just depends on each person preferences and the designer's writing style. Who is the audience one is writing for? The beginner? The more experienced knitter? If a designer's pattern is aimed at the more experienced knitter, it may not be necessary to explain how to turn and work a hem or how to work intarsia. While it may be nice to have some techniques included as part of the pattern instructions, I don't think it's always necessary, and I think that entirely depends on the designer's preferences, layout space, goals, etc.

Using my own patterns as an example, while I try to be as clear and descriptive as possible, I don't include things like Kitchener Stitch instructions. The reason that I choose not to include something like that is because most of my patterns are for more advanced beginners and beyond and the Kitchener Stitch is a technique that can be found in most knitting references and glossaries. However, for things that are less common or more specific, such as working a Kitchener Stitch in pattern in something like Pfeiffer Falls, I include more specific instructions. And for techniques such as sewing a non row-to-row mattress stitch, as in the shirring in the Liberation hats, I try to write photo tutorials on the techniques on my website. 


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

I do most things myself. However, sometimes I do hire sample knitters. I currently have 2 that are more regular go-to sample knitters and and additional 3-5 that I've also used. Good sample knitters are a closely guarded secret by designers! ;) It's in their contracts that I always get dibs if I introduce and refer my sample knitters to other designers! ;)

Do you use a Tech Editor?
Absolutely! I think technical editing is a very essential part of putting out a knitting pattern, whether it's being published by a magazine or by myself. While we're all human and errors can still creep in, technical editors help really refine a pattern in ways that I would not be able to no matter how many times I edit it myself. It's always good to have a separate set of eyes to go over what you write. A newspaper does not go to print without fact checkers and editors reviewing the author's work, and neither should knitting or crochet patterns.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Let me know when you find the answer to that one! When you are working on your own, everything kind of blends in together. I try to stay off my email, Ravelry, Twitter and Facebook for a few days once in a while. Most knitters understand that I'm not at my computer 24-7 and are very respectful of that.

How do you deal with criticism?
Like a grain of salt. Constructive criticism doesn't really doesn't bother me that much. It's how I learn. If it is a mistake of mine, I'll feel really bad that it was there in the first place and fix it. I don't get upset at the person doing the criticizing. I recognize that there are different strokes for different folks. I know that my patterns aren't for everyone for whatever might not be some one's personal style, the techniques used might seem to fussy for the knitter or the type garment just won't look good on the knitter's body type.

That said, it is hard to swallow sometimes if/when someone makes a negative public comment about the pattern when it has nothing to do with the pattern design or pattern-writing (i.e. when someone complains that it doesn't fit at all and that it's poorly calculated when clearly the knitter didn't check or get gauge). It hasn't happened to me in a bad way yet, but when I see those kinds of comments, whether it's about my patterns or about the patterns of my designer friends, I cringe a little bit and hope that other knitters will look carefully and see that it was an operator issue, not with the pattern itself. But in the end, I do brush it off, laugh at it a bit and not really think about it too much after that.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?

Ha! What a funny question. I am certainly not making the big bucks with this design thing. Maybe one day, but it certainly is not happening right now.

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

It's a blessing to do what you love. However, think carefully first about whether you'd want to make your hobby into a career choice. It's fun, but it's also challenging and hard. If you are going in to design, be prepared for rejection (I've got tons!), criticism, wear 100 different hats, and speed knitting on a short deadline (for publications). Also, if you are serious, joining an organization like the Association of Knitwear Designers as an Associate Designer can be a helpful place to start. If accepted, ask for a mentor -- you can ask a mentor questions that you might be afraid to ask, or don't want to ask in a public forum like Ravelry.

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