Friday, August 27, 2010

An Interview with...Gwen Bortner

Once a week I post interviews with interesting designers about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry. I’ve noticed that every designer makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the Knitting world.

You can find Gwen here
and on her blog here

Where do you find inspiration?

Everywhere, but particularly in the classroom. I consider myself a teacher as opposed to a designer, so most of my designs are based on the desire to share an interesting concept, technique or skill.

What is your favourite knitting technique?

Entrelac has been my passion since I was first introduced to it over 20 years ago and have just recently published a new book, Entrée to Entrelac on the topic. But honestly, I like all aspects of knitting because there is so much to choose from.

How did you determine your size range?

I have one good friend who is really petite and another who is rather large, so I try to accommodate them both as well as everyone in the middle. However, some styles just won’t work on some body sizes and some patterns (for any number of reasons) will not scale up or down to my preferred range. But whenever possible I strive for 5 – 7 sizes.

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

ABSOLUTELY!! And I hope to be influenced as I work with LOTS of really talented people and I hope some of it my rub off! Other designers help me think about alternative construction, garment details, stitch patterns and so much more. I don’t have a good enough memory to copy anything I have seen, but elements will mix as they float around in my head and hopefully my results are all the better because of it.

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

I feel different patterns should be accessible to different knitters. My Skill Builder Pattern line is specifically designed to give knitters the tools to learn new skills while working through a project. But there will also be prerequisite skills listed as well. Too many words can over complicate a pattern just as too few words.

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

I could never do all the knitting by myself (I am way too slow), but I also don’t have a large stable of knitters either. Right now I have about 5 – 7 that work with me fairly regularly depending upon what else is going on in their lives. Good test knitters are really hard to find, so when you find one, you treasure them!

Did you do a formal business plan?

I actually did write out a formal business plan, but now focus more on my marketing plan which I try to review at least twice a year. I am a planner by nature and a business person first and foremost, so it really made sense for me.

Do you have a mentor?

Not in any formal sense of the word, but I have sought and received advice from a number of individuals in the industry. Mostly now I have a network – a group that shares information in all directions.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?

My business was based originally on the Internet so it has had lots of impact. But trying to utilize it to its fullest extent is always a challenge. I think easy access to information is very positive for the industry.

Do you use a Tech Editor?

Of course!! Even though I also do tech editing, you cannot tech edit your own work. Honestly, I don’t consider a pattern to be professionally published unless it has been through a separate tech editor.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

I have the greatest husband in the world and his support and flexibility makes it possible to have this business. In reality, I need to do a better job of balancing, but I think that is true for most entrepreneurs. Any balance I do have is a result of having other activities and interests that also require my time including my church volunteer work and part-time ski instructing.

How do you deal with criticism?

I have always dealt with constructive criticism very well. It is the only way you can find ways to improve. However, general negativity and nastiness (often just for its own sake) I really have no patience for, so I easily dismiss it.

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

Figure out which aspects you really enjoy and focus your efforts there. Once I realized that teaching was my driving force, the business quickly became profitable and everything seemed “easier”. And know that very few people can support themselves in a life style they have become accustomed to in this industry.

1 comment:

  1. I did put your blog on a list of nice knitblogs. Hopefully many knitters will enjoy your posts! Thank you!