Friday, May 15, 2015

An Interview with ... Vladimira Ilkovicova

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 Vladimira here and here on Ravelry. She is on Tumbler here.

Two Button Cardigan

Where do you find inspiration?
I get inspired by the yarn itself, when I can feel it and work with it. Many times I find an inspiration in bed, when I'm falling asleep.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
It's hard to say; I like almost all of them (except ribbing). I usually use one color. When working Stockinette stitch, I prefer the Combination style of knitting and knitting in rows with a circular needle because it's faster and my hands are not stiff after long hours of knitting.

How did you determine your size range?
I use the traditional four sizes S - XL or six S - 3XL, depending on the design or the request from yarn companies I work for. I follow the Craft Yarn Council size charts.
Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I do all the time, but not with the intention to copy them. I think that in the age of the Internet, it's not possible not to be influenced by other designers' work even if you don't want to. I'm obsessed with anything about knitting and fashion photography. It can be seen on my own Tumbler blog full of knitwear pictures from other designers.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I think there are skill levels to determine how detailed patterns should be. It wouldn't make sense to "dumb down" the pattern which is intended for experienced knitters.

I learned to knit as a child in Slovakia. My grandmother taught me just knit and purl stitches - I knitted intuitively and followed almost no patterns. I learned to sew at a very young age as well. Before I started designing professionally, I had to do a lot of studying, mostly American patterns. I admit that some of them seemed maybe unnecessarily detailed to me at first, but it's always better to be more detailed to avoid knitters' questions after the pattern is published.  I try to adjust to the American market, but I include selvedge stitches in my patterns which is not common in the US. 

Bulky Jacket

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I do all the sampling by myself and so far I've been able to handle it as my designs have mostly classic construction. I can't imagine having the first sample knit by somebody else, as I often change the design in the process. Knitting is my favourite part of the designing. 

Did you do a formal business plan?
No, just short term planning.

Do you have a mentor?
No. Internet and magazines are my mentors. I learned a lot from Internet groups of professional designers.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Not really.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
Huge. Without the Internet, I wouldn't be able to do what I do.

Do you use a tech editor?
Yes, I've been working with quite a few and it's been  very helpful.
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Work is my life. I don't mind if I have to knit for whole day.

How do you deal with criticism?
So far, I haven't had severe criticism. Knitters who contact me are usually polite, even when they find an error. Without the feedback I wouldn't be able to grow. When I started the business, I feared criticism, because knitwear design is not just about knitting and pretty pictures, but it turned out well.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
It was more off and on than gradual change. My original profession is a teacher of Art and English, but I worked in other fields such as decorative painting, fabric design, illustration or in the office.  I started to work as a freelance knitwear designer about 7 years ago before I moved from Slovakia to Canada. In Canada, it was impossible to make a living as a freelance designer right away.  When I came back to Slovakia, I designed Christmas lights for one year. Now I'm able to support myself thanks to designing for yarn companies. It works better for me than self-publishing, because as a self-publisher you have to be more out here and I'm quite introverted person. But I still do self-publish and have my website redesigned.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Don't do it for money. Pay attention to every detail. Try more things to find out what works for you.

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