Friday, October 3, 2014

An Interview with ... Amy Gunderson

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 Amy here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere, all around! I tend to be very garment focused when it comes to knitwear. I love clothing as a method of expressing myself both stylistically, artistically, and as a means of conveying “who I am” in some ways. I am also all over the map with my own personal style, from conservative (tough to pull off with tattoos), to punk, girly, lazy, and everything in between. I definitely take cues on shape from current trends, in terms of hemlines and general shapes. I try to focus mostly on items that will look good on a broad variety of body shapes. In terms of knitting techniques, again, I'm all over the board; I love everything! I might do a lot of Fair Isle for a while, then move to twisted stitches, then dabble back in crochet, and so on.

What is your favourite knitting technique?         

If I had to choose one, it would be either fair-isle or intarsia. It's like painting with yarn.

How did you determine your size range?

I had only a few independently released designs before doing exclusively magazine work, and then onto my current role at Universal Yarn. Each magazine has their own requirements for sizing. My size range for the independent things was based on what I saw around in other patterns. As I mentioned, I prefer to design with every size in mind when possible, so I have almost always included sizes to fit from 30-55” bust.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?

I definitely look at others' work; I'm on Ravelry way too much! Every day I'm amazed by the innovations I see in the knitting world. I worry about being influenced only to a reasonable extent. This is a topic I see discussed frequently, and for the most part, I've gotten very bored by it! Especially now with my job at Universal, I have to produce a large number of designs for a wide variety of yarns. Coincidences happen with designs, especially those that are somewhat basic. If I think the best way to show off one of our yarns is to make a stockinette stitch v-neck raglan, I'm going to do it! And it's been done before! For items with more specific elements, I always go back to what my dear friend Sarah once told me. She said in reference to my work at that point, “I can look at these and know they're yours. They just have your “stamp” on them.” So if I'm going to sit down and design a fair-isle yoke sweater, even though there are hundreds or thousands of designs out there already, I take comfort in Sarah's words knowing/hoping mine will be “me”.

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

For Universal items, it depends. I do a lot of the stitching myself, especially for the more “experimental” items, and especially around TNNA time! We are often in a time crunch at showtime, and I just don't have time to arrange for sample knitters.

I still do independent work with magazines, and I stitch those all myself. I'm not speed knitter, but I'm reasonably fast and I have no life!

Do you have a mentor?

All the women who have generously shared their knowledge via the internet or books – they are my mentors. In real life, I didn't really know anyone who knit until I started at my current job. I can remember the first time I said “ssk” out loud. It was weird to actually have a conversation about knitting! 

Do you use a tech editor?

The honest answer is “usually”. Of course with magazine work, there is a technical team looking over every pattern they publish. With Universal, if we produce a paid pattern collection, if it is my pattern that needs editing, I hire a tech editor. If it is someone else's pattern, I will do the tech editing. With any of our free patterns, typically they get a proofreading, but not a full tech edit. There are limited resources and no one else on staff there has the capability of doing so except me.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

Poorly! My husband is understanding enough to drive anywhere we go together so I can squeeze in car knitting. I stay up way too late most nights working on a variety of projects. I did manage to paint my kitchen a couple of months ago which is really the only non-knitting activity I've done for some time! I also walk our dog every evening, and have an hour of dedicated non-knitting t.v. with my husband. Those are the only two times of the day I'm not breathing knitting. 

How do you deal with criticism?

Eh, you can't please everyone all the time, right? When it comes to aesthetic, there is no right or wrong. I just do what I love, and hope other folks love it too.

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

I feel extremely lucky to have my job as Creative Lead at Universal Yarn. If it wasn't for that, I don't know if I would be trying to support myself solely on a design income or not. It's so hard, so very hard for designers to make a living. I'm really glad I haven't had to go down that path (yet).

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

Make sure you like math, are good at it, and have a back-up plan!

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