Friday, August 12, 2011

An Interview with...Jean Clement

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 Jean here.

As part of a cross promotion Jean will be posting a conversation with me at about 10 AM on her blog.You can find it here.

Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere! The colors and details of everyday life – the architecture of buildings – a word or thought, and sometimes the yarn, our world is full of inspiration.

What is your favorite knitting technique?
While I don't really have a favorite technique, I do like exploring the different ways any particular technique can be used. 

How did you determine your size range? 
Generally for my self-published work, the design determines the size range. I think some designs look better in certain size ranges than others might, although sometimes I do get comments from knitters outside the range I've offered saying they think the design would look good in their size too. Designs I do for books, magazines, and other publishers are sized according to their requirements, which I take into consideration before making a submission. 

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 – I am a knitter after all as well as a designer. I think every designer puts their own vision into their designs so I don't think seeing another designers' work has much of an influence on my own. If I do see another design that is similar to one I've been working on, I will revise mine or just not publish it.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
Well, there are two (or more) sides to every issue – this one included. It's a wonderful thought that every knitter will become skilled enough to work from a pattern that is more outline than detail, or have a family member or knitting group to help them along – but I don't think that is realistic. I think there are many knitters out there who are learning to knit on their own, via the internet, books and patterns that do have more detailed explanations. And there are knitters who can look at the garment photo and knit the project without referring to the instructions. It seems there is a place for patterns of all levels in today's world.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I am my sample knitter. Since I sometimes make design changes as I work it's been easier – although certainly more time consuming – to knit my own samples. I do hope to be at a point one day where I can have sample knitters in order to increase my pattern production, so I'm working on writing first then knitting, without making changes. 

Did you do a formal business plan?
I have an informal one. I know where I want to be with my designing and have an outline for getting there. My plan changes and evolves as ways of reaching my goals change & evolve.

Do you have a mentor?
Not a 'mentor' per se but I do have contacts with other designers who I can turn to with questions and for guidance. 

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
No, my business model is my own. Each designer has to decide for themselves what works for them. I think many designers have similar models though – with bits and pieces from others.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
Huge –  most of my business is via the internet. The internet has connected knitters in a way we could not have imagined 20 years ago.

Do you use a Tech Editor?
Absolutely! It's far too easy to miss a mistake in one's own work. I am fortunate to have found some excellent editors to work with. Along with checking for errors they will suggest different wording when it will improve a pattern. Having more than one editor to work with also means that if one is busy the pattern can be reviewed by another and stay within the time frame I've set for publishing.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
What balance? Kidding aside, it can be hard to 'balance' life and work when trying to 'grow' a business. Working from home helps – I do accounting for a local hockey organization & my husband's company, along with my design work. I'm an early bird so the hockey group & DH's company get the early hours of the day, with the afternoon reserved for designing. I try to keep evenings open for family – my elder, moderately retarded SIL who lives with us, our 5 dogs and 8 goats and of course my husband. Our son is grown and off on his own but we enjoy it when he comes over to visit. Even with the 'best laid plans' things can get a bit out of whack sometimes but I try to keep an even keel.
How do you deal with criticism?
I try to deal with criticism in positive light – look at the issue from the other person's perspective. If the remark is valid, I will take it to heart and fix whatever needs fixing. If not, I try not to dwell on it.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I have not reached the point where I feel I can say I am supporting myself with my design work. Luckily my husband is doing alright with his business and my design work contributes to the household income (as does my accounting). I am working everyday toward when I can say I am supporting myself with my design work though.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
It's hard work – don't ever forget that. You will spend many more hours on the business & marketing end than you think, more than on actual design/knitting work. Have a goal to be focused on – know what you want to accomplish. Develop a group of people you trust for guidance and questions, or have a mentor. Join organizations that are important for reaching your goals. Don't be afraid to try new ideas, they might work out really well. And most of all remember - The future belongs to those who believe in their dreams.

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