Friday, November 11, 2016

An Interview with...Christopher Salas

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 Christopher here and  here on Ravelry. 

Where do you find inspiration?
I find my inspiration in different ways. If I’m out and about, I may notice a structure or pattern in a building or in a plant and I try to see if I can make it work in a similar look. One time, I saw a plant while watching Jurassic Park or something, and the way the leaves looked on a prehistoric plant, I came up with what is my Athyrium shawl. I might also scroll through Ravelry and see a pattern with a certain technique I like, and I use that in some form for another design. Other times, I’ll just draw shapes, and fill in the canvas.

What is your favorite knitting technique?

I’m starting to enjoy a lot of lace designs lately. I chart out a few different patterns that I’ll swatch at another time to see what I like or how it can be modified. Also, textured stitched outside of regular knit and purl are fascinating to me. One of my favorites is the star stitch, because it’s subtle, but eye catching. Just anything that plays with texture in general.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs? A little of both, actually. I’m not afraid to say that I go to a lot of my favorite designers to gather some fresh inspiration (Melanie Berg, is my top favorite, so I always see what she’s released). At the same time, I make my work have my own touch to it, only because I’m worried that some may think I’m copying another designer. Once I feel that a design is something that has already been done, I abandon it completely and restart.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I think that the subject is different from each different designer. Personally, I’ve always written patterns the best I can for the knitter to understand, and if anyone needs help, I feel like I’ve been there. That’s really what any good designer should do: give as clear instructions as they can. At the same time, if I want a design to turn out a particular way, I won’t change it for the sake of difficulty. There are a lot of tough patterns out there. It’s just a matter of the designer to be clear on what should be done, and to offer help if they can.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I don’t necessarily employ test knitters. A lot of the friends I work with knit, and they are always looking forward to what I can design and are usually willing to make a new sample of mine. I will knit the original sample, and hand it off to another to see if anything may be off, unclear, or incorrect.

Did you do a formal business plan?
I had NO CLUE what I was doing from the beginning! When I first discovered you can sell patterns on Ravelry, it wasn’t even a way for me to be well known or anything. I just typed up a pattern in a fairly rough format and uploaded it. I didn’t think of anything from a professional standpoint until me and my friend (who also knits) were talking. The subject came up about my sales numbers, and she suggested, firmly but helpfully, that as it starts taking off, I need to make sure everything was in order. After getting some other tips, I found some good ways to organize, do my own financial summaries, inventory, etc. I still ask for help every now and then, but it’s definitely better than it was in the beginning.

Do you have a mentor?
Not truly a mentor, but some of the people that I always look to and learn from are Francoise Danoy of Aroha Knits for her social media skills, Sarah Abram (Sarah Bear Crafts), who is really good at making connections with other knitters, and Kyle Kunneke, for being a good friend, amazing colorwork knitter, and a person I can go to for help of how to make knitting techniques happen.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Not really, to be honest.

Do you use a tech editor?
My co-workers, who have knit and designed their own patterns, are great help. I owe them a lot, because they have always had faith in me with designing, and have always been willing to help me with the testing and editing. Sometimes, if a pattern is straightforward and simple, I don’t use a tech editor for anything major other than a quick edit on grammar and such.

How do you maintain your life/work balance? It’s tough. I have a full time job at Jimmy Beans Wool, which I enjoy very much. There are times when they want me to design for them, which in some cases, is a one skein project that would take no time at all (compared to other projects). In my off time from that, I knit, write patterns, make time for photos, and other things related to my business. I still knit when I’m at my parent’s house visiting, when I’m at a coffee shot or relaxing at home. Sometimes, I even go to a local bar near my studio, have a beer and knit. I even do it when I’m with friends sometimes. They’ve gotten used to it, but bug me if I’m ever going to make them anything.

How do you deal with criticism? I am always open to criticism in a constructive sense, especially from anyone who buys my patterns. One of my favorite moments was when someone said that I need to start including more close up photos so that people can see the work better. Now, I make sure that’s what I do. I’ve always taken constructive criticism from others. It comes down to a matter of whether it will work more me, and if it works for the whole group and not for one person’s benefit. Also, I’ve been lucky to not get any flat-out, mean comments or anything like that. If anything, I figure that that’s just ignored.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
At this point, I can’t financially support myself on designing alone, which is why I still work for Jimmy Beans Wool. Luckily, it’s an environment that is related to my passion, which makes it much more enjoyable. But in general, I was able to support myself since I lived in Portland with my friends (I live in Reno now). Even with roommates, I paid bills, had a job, took care of everything, but here in Reno, I am lucky to be stable enough to have my own place, pay for my necessities, and live a way that may not be luxury, but definitely comfortable.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
PRACTICE, and… PRACTICE! My first month of knitting was hell. Every mistake that could be made was made. But I still practiced when I had time. Also, don’t be intimidated by someone who can knit a whole shawl in a week if you are still halfway through a scarf after six weeks. They were at your level also. But they didn’t give up. They wanted to get better. You just have to have that same level of desire. Maybe even a higher level.

What’s next for you?
At the moment, I am working on a collaboration MKAL design for later this winter, and another MKAL for Jimmy Beans Wool to be released next month. After that, I am focusing a bit more on more shawl patterns that I am dying to cast on. One thing I am very excited for is that I will have a design in Vogue Knitting Holiday Magazine, which will be my first time I am in print. Once I knit a sweater I have queued after those, I am going to try my hand at actual garments. Next year, I am going to start networking more directly by attending more things like Stitches West and TNNA in Long Beach. As for designing, I also want to reach out to more publications and do more design submissions. It’s a road that requires a lot of work, but I love it so much. I didn’t think I would ever even learn to knit. Now, I can’t see myself NOT knitting!


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