Friday, November 30, 2012

An Interview with...Jane Slicer-Smith

Once a week I post interviews with interesting people about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry.  I’ve noticed that every one of these individuals makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the Knitting world.  Jane is a designer and teacher based in Australia whom I met at Vogue Knitting Live.

You can find Jane here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?

I am the kind of person who sees a pattern repeat in the wallpaper and carpet, then think about how I could isolate a section and how I could rearrange the pattern. I have a couple of images from a friend's books on Arabian horses, stone engraved from centuries ago, I’d like to work into a design without them being instantly apparent. She also had some great art deco pillows on her sofa. Designs in my book included fields from the sky (I spend a lot of time flying!) and also a dry river bed. I am presently in Palm Springs and the hills look so smokey, I’d need greys and blues to create the drifts of colour.

What is your favourite knitting technique?

Colour, most creative being Intarsia, most challenging Mitres. I can paint anything Intarsia wise onto any garment shape. Mitres I am always re-thinking the challenge, between colours and direction of the knitting to create vertical stripes – I would never believe garter stitch stripes could be so rewarding!

How did you determine your size range?

I sell 90% of my designs as finished garments as well as knitting kits. Large flowing styles like swing coats only need about four sizes and a couple of length options. The more fitted a design, the more sizes I need, sometimes 9 chest sizes. Sounds crazy but this means I don’t have to rewrite the pattern for larger or smaller sizes, for either a made to measure order or knitting kit.

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

I admire many designers' work, but I believe each designer has their own signature, and shouldn’t need to copy. There are style forecasting magazines which give designer direction from the catwalks of ParisNew York and Tokyo.
How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?

Never heard of this. I know magazines often have to reduce sizing options when they need to fit the pattern into a limited space.

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

I have 40 knitters who knit both samples and stock garments. Most designs that are for a magazine, there will be only one garment knitted from the pattern for photography. If required, a section of the garment may be knitted to check the larger sizes. When I design for my ‘Signatur Handknits’ range I send out four garments as samples and then see what changes I need to make to either the pattern or the design before this is sold as a kit.

Did you do a formal business plan?

I trained in the UK and graduated with a BA Honors in Knitwear Design. I worked freelance in the UK, designing for spinners and press officers; Debbie Bliss commissioned garments from me back in 1980, whilst I was still a student. After graduating I worked three years for the largest importer of British wool in Japan. At the same time I started Signatur Handknits, selling garments at a Sydney artisan market. Then Australia became ‘the’ country to visit. I had a team of a 100 knitters, creating ready made hand knits to high end stores in Australia. I was in the right place at the right time!

Do you have a mentor?

I wish I had! Trisha Malcolm editor of Vogue Knitting, also an Aussie, gave me some good advice my first visit to New York.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?

Diversify – garments, knitting kits, yarns, buttons and teaching! Listen to your customers, observe who don’t buy and see if you can work something to please all body shapes.

What impact has the Internet had on your business?

Positive, but I just need more hours in the day/week!

Do you use a Tech Editor?

I write my own patterns, and I work with a pattern checker. The last thing I would like to do is check another designer's patterns!

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

Not very well! But I enjoy my work and can’t imagine doing anything else. My husband will often join me and work at a show with me, so I am really lucky.

How do you deal with criticism?

Do people criticize me? Does that mean I keep my head in the sand?

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?

I started selling designs before I graduated. I never had an option not to support myself.

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

Phew! I think it is easier today, especially in the USA with magazines, yarn companies, plus individuals can sell patterns on line. Digital images are so every day too. Rowan was one of the first companies to credit the designer working for them. I doubt a designer today could imagine they wouldn’t get their names on a design! My grandmother taught me pattern cutting for my Barbie doll, so I knew garment construction before I was 10 years old - she was a dressmaker. This understanding of constructions allows you to design with confidence, so advice to a young designer is to do some dressmaking.  

No comments:

Post a Comment