Friday, June 15, 2012

An Interview with...Kirsten Gustafson-Kapur

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 Kirsten here and here.

Where do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration everywhere - in photographs, in textiles, in architecture, walking down the street, from my kids, watching movies, going to museums. . .
Yarn also inspires me. Sometimes just looking at a skein of yarn or swatching with it will lead to the design.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
It varies depending on my inspiration of the moment. Sometimes it’s colorwork, other times lace, and still other times cables. I am happy to learn a new technique if it gives me the ability to execute the design I have in mind.

How did you determine your size range?
I believe in including a large size range when designing sweaters. I usually try include about 12 sizes. Not every design lends itself to a wide range of sizes though and in those cases I limit the range.

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I’m on Ravelry all the the time so I do see other designers’ work, but I don’t worry about being influenced by others’ designs. Sometimes it works the other way, I’ve actually looked through the Ravelry database to make sure I’m not duplicating something that’s already out there. Even with the best efforts designers sometimes do duplicate one another. We all work from similar stitch patterns and there are only so many shapes one can create for a hat, mitten, shawl or even a cardigan.

Another reason to look at others’ designs is it’s important to stay on top of trends and be aware of what types of patterns knitters are looking for. For this reason I also look at current ready to wear design to stay on top of trends in that market.

How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?
I think making knitting patterns accessible to a wide range of knitters is a very good thing. Giving detailed, clear instructions allows beginning knitters to learn new skills and become better knitters which is good for knitting in general. Not everyone has access to local instructors or a family member to teach them new skills, if they can learn new skills in the patterns that they knit, why would that be a problem?

What impact has the Internet had on your business?
I wouldn’t be in this business without the Internet, so I’d say the impact is huge.  I started my blog over 6 years ago because I wanted to connect with other knitters. That lead to putting up a few free patterns. These freebies were well received, so I started designing more complicated patterns and charging for them and my business grew from there. When Ravelry came along it brought my work to an even wider range of knitters. Although I occasionally submit to print magazines and have been published in books, my business continues to be mostly online.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Balance? What’s that? My kids are my models, my work goes everywhere I do, and I work at all hours of the day and night, so I’m not sure I have managed to maintain any kind of a balance. Lately I am trying to make my health and fitness a priority, so I do take the time to workout, get enough sleep and eat healthy meals.

How do you deal with criticism?
I worked in the ready to wear apparel industry for years. You have to develop a thick skin to do that, so I think I am able to handle criticism pretty well. If the criticism is deserved, and sometimes it is, I try to take it constructively and learn from it. If it is undeserved, then I think of the majority of my customers who are kind, supportive and sometimes even take the time to send sweet, personal notes telling me how they’ve enjoyed my patterns. I can’t think of any other job I could do where I would get as many kind comments as I do as a knitting pattern designer. A few negative comments can never outweigh that.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I wouldn’t be doing this job if I didn’t rely on my husband’s income as well. The money I earn with my design work goes toward my kids’ college tuitions - I’m going to have three in college next year - but doesn’t come close to covering those tuition bills. This is not a high paying job. If someone is looking to make a lot of money they might want to try something else.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Do it because you love it. This job involves crazy, hours for not a lot of cash reward so you’d better love what you’re doing.

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