Friday, May 27, 2011

An Interview with...Mary White

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 Mary here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
In my granddaughter’s desire to twirl and dance, the flowers that bloom in my garden, a stitch pattern that catches my fancy, designers that have graced us with their talents....Nicky Epstein and her wonderful ability to teach and write books, Neibling’s fabulous talent for putting stitches together to produce beautiful motifs, Marianne Kinzel’s incredible gift of circular patterns....Overall, my inspiration comes from my desire to learn something new which happens every time I pick up the needles and what I believe is my God-given talent to work with my hands. 

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I would have to say Lace...which started when I became bored with ordinary dishcloths and decided that making them in lace was not only interesting but thoroughly enjoyed by the recipients of my gifted dishcloths. They became swatch samples of what is possible with yarn-overs. Making them taught me the math needed to expand and manipulate the stitch patterns. I became bored with square ones so I mastered DPN'S and began making tablecloths in the round.  This led to my complete interest in beginning a pattern in the round and forcing the overall finished project to be square or triangular.  The possibilities are endless and only need the skill of my fingers.....and patience, lots of lead for the pencils, several, large erasers, a few hundred tablets for notes, calculator and some solitude!  

How did you determine your size range?
Generally I try to make sure that my pattern can be adjusted for size to suit the knitter. 

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I do look at other designer’s work but prefer not to knit them for fear that I will copy someone. I do pull out stitch patterns from books and guides and making sure that I am not infringing will manipulate the stitch pattern to suit my own design. 

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I like to write the pattern so that it can be worked by anyone. I learned how to knit by using written instructions because reading the words worked for me.  If I produce a pattern that isn’t understood then what have I accomplished? No I don’t believe in dumbing down a pattern but it shouldn’t have to be that way. Including complete explanations for abbreviations and detailed instructions should be carefully executed. Labeling a pattern as experienced or easy is kind of like placing a limit on one’s learning. If you think you can work a pattern, a label shouldn’t stop you. 

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I have used sample/test knitters but I’ve found that I prefer working them myself.  Occasionally someone comments and I can feel their interest and will ask them if they like to test knit a design. My drums quite often have a different beat so it is difficult to find a test knitter patient enough to work with my ever racing brain waves.

Did you do a formal business plan?
Yes, I did. Produce inexpensive, quality patterns, work quality samples. Fall down, pick myself up. Be available, teach new techniques, share my love of lace knitting. Build a pattern producing business that can be passed onto any grandchildren. That’s it, plain and simple. 

Do you have a mentor?
Several in fact! My mentors are those individuals that encourage me with their patience and friendships. You know, the “Irene’s” that are there with a decent cup of coffee and want to see what you’ve been knitting....the “Barbara’s” who have known you all your life and will open your bundle of samples and invite their daughters over to see which one wants to wear which shawl to church next Sunday...My mother who is a very talented crocheter...

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Not really, but I do pour over certain designers’ work and drool over their ability to sell patterns that are classic and constantly admired. 

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
The Internet is amazing and a wonderful communication tool. I remember having to physically go to a store to pick out yarn or peruse patterns. It has helped me tremendously in placing my patterns for sale and advertising their availability. 

Do you use a Tech Editor?
Occasionally because I like to know that my patterns, although quite different sometimes, are still readable and easily worked. 

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Like a champ! I work as a secretary and upholstery seamstress in my husband and son’s Marine repair business so I don’t depend on selling patterns as a sole means of support.  I do depend on my profits to help my business grow in advertising and sample making. I do support my pattern making and designs with pattern sales. Since the marine business is seasonal, I am able to knit and produce patterns at my day job during slow periods. I have my granddaughters every other weekend and I am an avid gardener so juggling is just part of the mix. 

How do you deal with criticism?
Constructive, polite criticism does not bother me, it helps me and teaches me.  I will email back and forth with anyone who requests my help or feels that I’ve made an error. I will even re-knit a pattern if necessary but I totally ignore and quickly dismiss anyone who pounces on me with their claws.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
As I’ve noted before, I don’t support myself with pattern making because I don’t do it full time but I’d hope that if it were necessary, I’d be able to do so with full time input.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Go for it! Surround yourself with talented, helpful people that will encourage you the whole way. Stay away from anyone that doubts your ability. Realize your expertise and develop that. Set goals, meet them, change them if needed and step them up. Believe in yourself, make a personal, doable business plan and practice self discipline! 

No comments:

Post a Comment