Friday, September 16, 2011

An Interview with...Donna Druchunas


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 Donna here.

Where do you find inspiration?
Everywhere. I have so many ideas, I have a special notebook to record them all because I find that I get creatively blocked by having too many ideas, not by having too few. It's like a log jam and if I can't get it under control, it just overwhelms me. I get inspiration from yarn and nature and fashion and books and movies and travel ... you name it! I find life incredibly inspiring most of the time.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Hands down, lace. I became addicted to lace after I learned how to knit it during my research for Arctic Lace and studying more for Successful Lace Knitting. There's so much variety in lace knitting that I never get bored. And after I finally learned, I had to agree with the many knitters who told me "it's easier than cables." 

How did you determine your size range?
I size garments according to publishers' requirements. 
Pattern available here

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I love to look at other designers' work. Because most of my own designs are based on traditional knitting techniques, garments, and accessories updated for modern knitters, I don't feel threatened by looking at other designers' work. I feel that it feeds into my creativity and helps me know what's going on with fashion.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I don't do too much for beginning knitters. But I don't really understand the concept of "dumbing down". There are many different ways to present information and many different ways to learn. So I don't think one type of pattern is "dumbed down" more than another because it is more verbose (or terse), or has charts (or doesn't), or has extra information on techniques, and so on. I will admit, however, that I sometimes get frustrated when American knitters are timid about just diving in and figuring things out. In all of my travels around Europe, I have never found that same trait. European knitters seem less afraid to make things up, and more willing to just fudge and fix things as they go. 

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
Right now I have about a half dozen knitters helping me because I'm working on a book and I have some other submissions due. When I'm not working on a book, with 20-some projects due all at once, sometimes I can handle all of my own sample knitting.

Did you do a formal business plan?
Sort of. I have a "right brain business plan" ( which is much more visual than a traditional plan. But I'm working on growing my business now, and I will be developing a more formal business plan in the future. Mostly to help maintain my sanity. I find that I am much more relaxed when I have a plan on paper. (Even if it's a plan from which to deviate.)

Do you have a mentor?
Yes. Deb Robson at Nomad Press is my informal mentor. She's the publisher of several of my books and a wonderful editor. She also is a great friend. I'm fortunate to be able to work with her. (Hi Deb!)

Pattern available here

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Not really. I'm always learning more about how different authors, teachers, and designers run their business and I'm always open to new business models. In the past I treated my own business more like moonlighting, because I always had a full- or part-time job on the side. I recently got laid off and that spurred me to decide to take my business more seriously in the future. 

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
I could not do business without the Internet. In fact, I'm not sure I could live without the Internet any more. 

Do you use a Tech Editor?
YES! Any designer or pattern writer who does not use a tech editor is asking for trouble.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I don't. 

Pattern available here
For more help making these socks, a simpler color design of the same sock is covered in Donna's online Knit Sock Workshop on Craftsy, and people can get a 50% discount with this link.


How do you deal with criticism?
I don't. 
Seriously, I do appreciate constructive criticism from my readers and friends and colleagues, but I get terribly upset if I receive negative emails from readers and I don't read my book reviews on Amazon, etc. I get sick to my stomach and I have to take a day off and read a novel or get drunk. 

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
Quite a while. As I said, I've usually had a full or part-time job on the side. But for several years a while back, I supported myself completely with knitting related work. A big chunk of my income at that time came from tech editing. After a while that work got so stressful -- people email you years after you finish editing a book with questions - that I went back to my telecommuting day job in the computer industry for a few years.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Follow your bliss. Don't quit your day job (until you're sure

sure you're ready). Be sure you want to get into this as a business. Your passion does not have to be what you do for money and your hobby might be ruined if you turn it into a job. So if you're happy making money flipping burgers or writing computer code or seeing patients and you love knitting as a hobby, more power to you!

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