Friday, November 7, 2014

An Interview with...Sivia Harding

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.

You can find Sivia here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration? 
It could be anything... a reflection in a puddle, a flower, a tile on a building. Mostly though, I find it inspiring to look at beautiful things, whether from nature or from something that has been created. I try to keep a detailed design journal for those blessed times when the ideas are coming fast and furious.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
Oh that's a hard one!! Hmm, maybe Moebius knitting. I find it calming, fun, endlessly fascinating and yet, there always seems to be more to learn. Never boring!

Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs? 
That is a really, really good question. I don't think I am necessarily phobic about others' ideas implanting into my subconscious and turning up in something of mine because I have a pretty unique style, but I do tend to stay away from browsing new patterns on Ravelry. It's too anxiety producing to see the hundreds of new lovely designs coming down the pike every day and it makes me feel slow and inadequate. 


How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters? 
I honestly didn't know there is a controversy. I think patterns have changed hugely over the last ten years, because knitters have increased their skill set over the internet, on Ravelry forums and YouTube. I have noticed a certain skill discrepancy between older knitters who aren't as internet savvy and less likely to look up things they are not familiar with, and newer knitters who have seen and done a wider variety of techniques. The newer knitters tend to be much more fearless. As a result, I find myself not needing to explain things to quite the degree that I used to in patterns. From your question, though, it would seem that you are noticing the opposite. Very interesting.

It is a challenge to write patterns that everyone is happy with. It's a hard job to reach knitters at a common level and not be overly simplistic. That's why I love to teach. I think it is much easier to get things across in an engaging way in person.

Also, I find that I write differently for different audiences. I don't think this is necessarily dumbing down, however. For instance, I will condense as much as possible if I am writing for a magazine. In my own patterns and collections, I unapologetically use as much space as I need. I don't know if this answers your question or not. Probably, if I was getting complaints from knitters about my pattern writing, I might be more aware of the issue.

Harmonia's Rings Sweater

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
That number varies with my work flow. I try not to do it all myself, although I do knit everything I design once, either before or alongside whoever I have working with me. I like to have a group of testers all doing it together because they will notice different things between them. I admit that I have a terrible time keeping track of testers I have used, and I forget about them unless we work together consistently. I may be guilty of using certain ones over and over for that reason. It just takes less effort. A good test knitter is hard to find! And they are so essential to the process. 

Did you do a formal business plan?
No. I never have had a formal business plan.

Do you have a mentor?
I have had mentors, although now I probably have more peer support than mentor support.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
I am probably way too right-brained for that. There are certainly business methods and business people that I know and admire (and feel extremely lucky in that), but I know myself too well to try to emulate someone who does not process information the same way I do.

Do you use a tech editor?
Yes, absolutely.
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
It's very hard in this business! There is not enough time to do everything. I try to take days off, and it's easier to do that when I am away from home. I am learning to stay an extra day when I am traveling if it is possible, and just have fun. At home, I tend to work. 

How do you deal with criticism?
Not very well, I am afraid. Years ago in art school, I came up with the strategy of being unique and having my own style, and just working really hard in order to be more or less above criticism. I am critical of myself and that's hard enough! And yet, it seems to be getting a little easier over time to pick up and go on after an incident.  

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I didn't have to support myself until I had been designing for a few years, which helped take the stress off. Now, I think we all have to be more creative about marketing and special events like retreats and knitalongs to be visible above the sea of designers. There are so many. 

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Take the time to explore your own style, and don't expect knitters to come and find you.
Jo's Pride Hooded Shawl

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