Friday, March 31, 2017

An Interview with...Raquel Oliveira

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 Raquel here, here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
I usually try to get a lot of reference in my mind from other designers, things I see in stores and by weirdly staring at strangers in the middle of the streets! It’s amazing how much staring we do, right? I also have stitch dictionaries where I actually gather more specific inspiration. I love to try a new stitch and see how that works in different types of yarn. Sometimes a pattern pops up in my mind and I know exactly what I want to do!

What is your favourite knitting technique?
That always depends on what I’m learning at a specific moment. I’m constantly trying new techniques and improving the ones I already know. Currently I’m navigating through lacy patterns and discovering a whole new world. It took me a while to get into it, I believe I was afraid, like many knitters are. It’s crazy how what we are afraid of becomes so comfortable and way “easier” then we thought.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I do study a lot of other designers’ work. I believe we can always learn something new and different from so many people. I love to have references in my mind and that helps a lot when it comes to creating your own design. It’s impossible not to be influenced but you also learn that you have your own style and it’s always very clear once the design is finished.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
So far
I’ve been doing the samples by myself, since it’s what I love the most. Getting to knit your own design is the reward for working so hard in designing the thing in the first place! I’m not ready to give that up yet! I love to knit, and to design, but to design without knitting is, for me, not as fun. Although I understand that eventually, if I want to get things done in a short timeline, I’m going to have to learn how to share! LOL. I’ve just recently started working with test knitters. For my first book, I did it all by myself, and now I’m looking for more test knitters to help me out with different sizes of sweaters for adults. There’s no way I can do that by myself and they will see things that can be improved, that I might not see.

Did you do a formal business plan?
Well… they (whoever “they” are!) tried to get me to do that, but honestly it was too much for me. I know what I want for my business, it’s here, in my mind. I hope that’s enough! Ha,ha,ha. Plus I think a plan, as useful as it is, might get more stuck than free. I always count on me changing my mind about the whole thing. So in a way I almost don’t want to be attached to a business plan, if you know what I mean.

Do you have a mentor?

Unfortunately, no! I wish I had someone to receive mentor-ship from. I had to learn everything by myself and it’s still very very hard. It takes way longer to achieve a certain level of knowledge when you have to do the hard work yourself. I had people in the field giving me tips here and there about a lot of things but all my questions and fallouts had to be dealt with by myself. Still do. I believe that’s one of the reasons I love to teach, host workshops, give private lessons, and I’m always available to my friends through email, social media or telepathy! Ha,ha,ha, I don’t want people to go through it alone.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Not really… I think I saw different people doing different things and I got for me what I connected with the most. I believe my business is a mix of a lot of business models I admire. I mix designing, teaching in person and through video tutorials. My main focus is designing but I like to teach in parallel, specially when I turn a non-knitter into a knitter, or even crocheter. I just love how they quickly get addicted, just like me! Ha,ha,ha.

Do you use a tech editor?

You know what? I don’t, but I definitely should. One of the things I want to change this year. I believe I’m slowly adding more and more professionalism into my business. It all started as a hobby and just recently it became more professional.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I have a 4 year old at home and between motherhood, taking care of my home, being present as a wife, I also manage to have some time for my business. Luckily, my daughter goes to preschool full time, and I have week days to work, and night for teaching when my husband can be at home with her. Of course that sometimes she gets sick and I have to drop everything for a week and be a full time mom. It’s the main reason I gave up my full time job out there to be present in her life when she needs me to.

How do you deal with criticism?

I try to understand their reasons and learn from it. I also try not to take it personal or get my heart broken! He,he,he. It’s always hard to receive criticism, but I also know that it’s impossible to make everyone happy. So criticisms are expected and I have to just accept that.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Try to find someone who could be your mentor. Someone who’s been through what you want to go through to give you insights and shortcuts. Study a lot, not only the techniques themselves, but the field and other designers, you can learn a lot from observing what other designers are doing. Connection and collaboration are keys to build a strong community and they help promote your business. Don’t be afraid to reach out, talk to people and ask questions. More often than not, people will be happy to help and lend you a hand. We’ve all been there and some of us are still going through it. Don’t think you are bad when you see other people’s work, you have your own value and style. Do what you love only, don’t try to be someone you are not! I can’t stress that enough. What works for someone might not work for you. Be present in social media. Think of what you needed the most when you were learning how to knit or how to read a pattern.

What’s next for you?
I’m working on my second book now and I hope to get a lot of great connections this year. I might slow down a bit next year to focus on another child, but I won’t stop teaching or designing.

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