Friday, May 18, 2012

An Interview with...Mel Clark

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 Mel here and here. 
Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration everywhere: people on the street, nature, museums, textiles and books on textiles, fashion, my kids. 
What is your favorite knitting technique?
I don't really have a favorite. I like variety, although knitting a garment in the round is very satisfying, whether it's top down or bottom up.
How did you determine your size range?
It depends on the garment. Some lend themselves to a wide variety of sizes, and others don't. I do believe in making sizes democratic and accessible to people of all shapes whenever possible.

Everyday Cardigan from Knitting Everyday Finery

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I see other designers' work when I look through books and magazines. It's helpful to see what others are doing but I try not to let it influence me. I have favourite fashion designers whose work I look at.
How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I hadn't heard of this until you explained it to me. I don't see making patterns clear to the knitter as dumbing down. I taught beginners to knit in my shop in California for several years. Teaching makes you aware of what new knitters want in the way of detail. I try to strike a balance between providing enough detail and being concise.
Rowena from Knit 2 Together
How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I make most things myself but I do have a couple of knitters whose work is much neater than mine. They test patterns for me or make projects when I don't have the time to knit everything.
Do you have a mentor? 

Not really, but I do run things by my daughter whose taste and wisdom I admire.
Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
I do what I do because I love it even when I'm not earning very much. Most people in the regular business world would look at someone like me and think I'm crazy. There's not much money in it for the amount of time you spend working.
What impact has the Internet had on your business?
The internet has had a huge effect. Ten years ago I could never have imagined writing a blog. The fact that I can talk about what I'm doing, share my inspiration is a fantastic way to communicate with people. Then there's Ravelry, which has revolutionized hand knitting. The era before Ravelry was so different. It has democratized designing. Everyone can have a shot at it, and try selling their patterns. Patterns sold as PDF downloads is another huge change. I resisted it for a while, but now I've joined the crowd although I have just had a book published (Knitting Everyday Finery), so I still believe in print.
Do you use a tech editor? 

Yes, it's very hard to edit your own work. You need a second pair of eyes.

Lacey Hug-Me-Tight from Knit 2 Together

How do you maintain your life/work balance? 

Not very well. I'm always working, although is it really work if you love it? Some of my work involves knitting, so I don't know if that counts! If I'm not writing a pattern or knitting a sample, I'm thinking about it and working in my head, so it's safe to say it's a 24/7 thing. I sometimes wake up in the night thinking about a design and creep downstairs to work on it.
How do you deal with criticism?
I try not to pay attention to it and just do the best work I possibly can.
How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
It happened almost immediately back when I was designing ready-to-wear knits. There's more money in that. Making a living from writing knitting patterns is much harder.
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Make sure you have enough money to live on for a couple of years or much longer (or a supportive partner who earns a good living!) and make sure you love knitting enough because it takes extreme dedication. I would say, if there's something else you're good at, do it. There is not a lot of money in hand knitting and everyone works very hard.

An Interview with...Mel Clark

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