Friday, January 27, 2017

An Interview with...Amanda Kaffka

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 Amanda here and here on Ravelry. Additional links are here: 

Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration everywhere: I see it in architecture, in nature, in people-watching, in movies, in TV shows, by traveling, from my friends, from the runways and magazines, from yarn to color to textures….

What is your favourite knitting technique?

I really love rhythmical knitting; like sinking my teeth into a stitch or pattern that might look complex but I can memorize pretty easily.

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

Of course, I look at other designer’s work all the time! I like to know what my peers are up to; I have my own style/aesthetic and I can certainly appreciate other designers while keeping true to myself and staying original. When I am not designing, I am knitting other designers patterns which gives me a bit of a break but also teaches me new knitting skills and pattern writing techniques; I think we can all learn together and through each other in this amazing community!

How do you feel about the so-called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?

To be honest, I never knew there was a controversy. When I write my patterns, I like them to be 100% professional and to me that means adding standard abbreviations list, including a gauge, needle size, schematics, measurements, and clear instructions. I also believe in great customer service. I answer everyone’s questions and inquiries promptly, I pride myself on that and do not get annoyed that someone has asked me a question that goes beyond the pattern. I learn from people’s questions on how to make my patterns better and other service I can offer in the future, like tutorials or videos. Last year I started a column on my website called “Dear Knitter.” Basically, anyone can ask a knit/crochet/craft related question to and I answer them publicly and I keep the answers up as reference.

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

I knit all my designs/and final samples multiple times. That being said, I get 3 – 5 test knitters per design. I like to see different point of views of knitters, knitting my designs. The feedback is invaluable!

Did you do a formal business plan?

No…I just started designing before I realized I was “starting a business.” I was working at a LYS so teaching and designing seemed like a natural part of the job. When I officially launched The Crafty Jackalope, it was too late to start over with a business plan! That being said, I do write out yearly and monthly plans/goals for designing and financials.
Do you have a mentor?

I do not have a mentor but I mentor other small businesses. The Crafty Jackalope was not my first business so I have a bit of experience and I help out where I can; I think giving back is so important!

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

Not really. I try not to compare my style of designing or running a business to other designers. I think process can be tricky and very individual. It took me a long time to embrace my style of designing and being OK with how I get to the end result or run my company. Of course, I am always seeking inspiration on how to organize, or to run a business, and get social media and promotional strategies but I am careful to stay true to my style; I usually find this inspiration through reading books and through forums and blogs.

Do you use a tech editor?

Nope. I do everything myself, from design, to knitting, to writing out/formatting the patterns, any graphics, schematics etc... this is an asset and a bit of a curse. I do however, have a fabulous friend that will edit my written content for major publications.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

This is a hard one. When you own your own business, it is hard to shut off or end work at 5 PM like the rest of the world; there have been many times where I choose work/deigning/teaching over socializing with my friends. My husband is a good reminder that I need to take breaks or I need to stop working at 12 AM…I am passionate about what I do and as a designer, my brain never shuts off. Traveling is a great way to relax and get me out of the office…which is my home. Also, cooking is another way I stop “working;” it’s creative, I don’t follow recipes which is liberating and my husband is amazing to cook for, he likes everything!

How do you deal with criticism?

If you put yourself out there you have to be prepared for some criticism. Luckily, I do not get a lot but my heart sinks a bit when I do. In reality, the criticism is more helpful to improve than the praises; I take the criticism and use it as a tool to get better, become more of an expert and to expand on my business.

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

After dabbling in-and-out of LYS and designing from 2009 – 2013, I officially launched The Crafty Jackalope in the beginning of 2014 independent of any other job. 

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

Pursuing a career in knitting is not the same as knitting for pleasure; 99% of what I knit is not just for fun or just because, it’s work. Having a knit career takes a lot of time and perseverance and because of the Internet, anyone can literally be a designer so it is up to you to go above and beyond to be recognized, to stand out, and to be able to make a living. If you have the passion, the time (whatever that means to you) then I would say ‘just go for it’ by testing the waters and start by posting your patterns to Ravelry, Craftsy, Etsy, Loveknitting and see if you, a) enjoy it and b) see what response you get. Don’t quit your day job until you put your designs out there and see how the market responds; you will know when the right moment is for you. It is a risk but I love what I do and ‘knock on wood’ I would never go back!

What’s next for you?

This year, 2017 is pressure packed! I am teaching knitting classes at the LYS and going into the Elementary schools, along with hosting private knit lessons around town. On top of the busy teaching schedule I am currently working on 3 books and 2 mini collections. I am also always developing new knit/crochet kits (yarn/pattern) which I feature on my blog and offer through my website. And, along with everything else, I am always finding new ways to develop, grow and expand The Crafty Jackalope. Phew, sounds like I need more hours in the day!

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this interview Robin, it was so interesting and entertaining to read! Good luck on your further designing career, Amanda!