Friday, August 16, 2013

An Interview with...Cindy Garland

Once a week I post interviews with interesting people about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry.  I’ve noticed that every one of these individuals makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the Knitting world.

You can find Cindy here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration? 
Everywhere!  I am really drawn to mid-century modern architecture and artwork.  I really like clean, crisp lines and color blocking but done in modern color palettes and bold combinations.  My husband and I recently spent a day at the Chicago Art Institute and I came away just bursting with ideas and designs spinning in my head.

What is your favourite knitting technique? 

As boring as it sounds, I’m extremely partial to stockinette stitch.  The smooth surface and the even stitches are so much more light and airy in a finished item than the texture and weight of garter stitch.

How did you determine your size range? 
Since I mostly work with accessories, it isn’t so much a factor.  But I do try to keep in mind that even with a shawl what looks just right on one person may appear too tiny or too large on another, so I try to make all of my patterns in a variety of yarn weights so people have the option of up or down sizing them to fit their wants.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs? 
I appreciate other designers’ work and I do enjoy seeing what’s out there.  I don’t worry too much about being influenced by other people’s viewpoints.  When I was very young my mom, who is an interior decorator, told me to do what you love and it will always go together and look good.  I have found that to be very true for designing.  If I follow my inspiration and do it in colors that make me happy, it will be unique to my point of view and look good.  The reverse is true too.   If I try to force something that I’m not quite sure about or a color I don’t love, it often doesn't turn out well.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters? 
As a designer, I understand both sides.  My viewpoint is that our society wants instant information, and knitters are no different.  There are a lot of new knitters and some experienced knitters that are branching out into new techniques.  They want all the information in one place.  I don’t think that means I have to write out every single detail, but I do include links and sources to where they can find the needed information quickly and efficiently.  Most of my customers seem to be very happy with that.  As a designer, it can mean more work on the front end of pattern creation, but it does cut down on the questions and emails over the life of the pattern.  It also makes for a happier (=repeat) customer.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself? 
I currently work with about 6-8 test knitters.  They are excellent at time management and are always honest with me on what is confusing/lacking in my written instructions and charts.  I honestly could not do it without them.  I try to rotate in some new testers on each project just to get a new perspective and add some new eyes to each project. 

Did you do a formal business plan? 
My husband and I have owned several successful businesses, so I have some solid business experience and treat designing very much as a business.  I have an affinity for spreadsheets and numbers, so there are definite goals and milestones that I track and am always aware of working towards.  I am also very mindful of the accounting requirements and tax ramifications of my sales.  As far as a formal, written business plan, I haven’t written down all the details that typically encompasses, but I do believe that I am mentally cognizant of my business plan in all my decisions. 

Do you have a mentor? 

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

What impact has the Internet had on your business? 
I don’t think I would be a designer without the Internet.  I always knitted to relax and then I realized I wanted a more creative outlet.  I only considered designing as a business due to websites like Ravelry, Etsy, Patternfish and Craftsy.  Without them, I don’t know that I’d have the audience to have a business.

Do you use a tech editor?
Yes.  I firmly believe you cannot proof read your own written work.  Your brain just doesn’t see the mistakes.  A good tech editor is a hard to find and I’ve been through a few.  It is very much a matter of finding someone who “gets” your way of communicating and also is meticulously detailed every time. 

How do you maintain your life/work balance? 
My husband also works from our home and we jointly home school our 10 year old special needs son, so our days are probably not typical by most people’s standards, but we love it.  I do my computer work during early morning hours and breaks during the day.  Knitting is usually done while working with my son, riding in the car, and in the evenings while my family watches TV or plays games.  They know it’s my “job” and are supportive, but I also try to be sure I’m not overly focused on knitting and neglecting other things in my life. 

How do you deal with criticism?
I’m not a fan. ;)  I’m sure most people aren’t overly fond of criticism, but I try to find the good in it.  I feel there are two types of criticism; helpful and spiteful.  Helpful criticism is when someone finds a typo or problem with formatting, etc.  They have a right say, “Hey, this is wrong.”  Spiteful criticism is typically governed by opinion, like when someone negatively bashes a pattern because they don’t like the colors it is made up in or they’d rather it have this edge over that edge.  Everyone is entitled to an opinion, but when you anonymously state it in a mean or derogatory way; I have little patience for that, which unfortunately has become all too common online.  That doesn’t mean I don’t like hearing other people’s opinions on my patterns.  I love to see the modifications and color choices people make.  It often opens my eyes to new ideas and techniques I would never have thought of.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself? 
I just started publishing my designs about a year ago and through a lot of hard work, I am now at the point where it is a very lucrative business.  I am fortunate enough to have other sources of income, but this is definitely my favorite.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
First, find your voice.  What do you want to put out into the world?  If you stay true to your design aesthetic and love what you put out there, you will draw like minded people to your designs.  Don’t try to design what you think people want.  It won’t come off as genuine or unique.  Design what you’d want to wear, see and make. 

Second, spend time on the details.  Make sure your written patterns are easy to follow and complete.  Have your patterns tested and edited so you don’t have to send out multiple revisions. 

Third, set achievable goals and deadlines and always try to beat them.  Written goals and deadlines make me a better, more prolific designer than I would ever be without them. 

Fourth, don’t sell yourself short.  Designing is hard work even if it doesn’t always feel like it.  Your time, experience and creativity deserve to be compensated.  

Finally, as with any career, it has its good days and bad days, but if you love it enough to enjoy even the worst days, you can probably make it a success.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. Is always great to hear some of the back story on designers.