Friday, August 12, 2016

An Interview with...Ambah O'brien

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 Ambah here and here on Ravelry.

Everywhere! In the yarn itself, colour, nature, fashion, art, my home, other knitters. Instagram serves me up a daily dose of inspiration too - I am a visual person and love looking at everything.
What is your favourite knitting technique? 

I find it hard to go past Garter Stitch, my chicken soup of knitting, after that I really enjoy working with lace stitches and colour.
How did you determine your size range?
I like to provide options for versatility and to cater to as many as I can. I find myself predominantly designing Shawls and admittedly personal preference comes into play - I love a big, cosy wrap to snuggle into.
Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I love looking at other designers work, there are so many clever, talented designers out there and I love it when I have a little gasp of "wow" when I see something special. I'm not fearful of being influenced by other designers, I do try to keep my designs fresh and give them my own flavour. Looking at other designers work keeps me inspired to work hard on my own designs, to do my best work.
How do you feel about the so called controversy of “dumbing down” patterns for knitters?
I like to offer clear, concise patterns that are accessible and enjoyable to all levels of knitters, and am available to assist those who need support. I trust that knitters will be drawn to the patterns/designers they resonate with. Whatever works for the individual knitter is fine by me. 
How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I knit all of my samples, begging my Honey to help has not paid off yet, he is resistant to my suggestions he learn to knit. Most of my designs are worked out on the needles, so I'd find it a bit tricky to work with sample knitters.
I have many wonderful knitters who join in my Ravelry group for test knits. The patterns have been well Tech Edited by this stage, and knit by me, so usually a test knit is smooth knitting - occasionally a wrinkle or two to iron out. The test knits are usually fun, more like a KAL. I am very grateful for the support and input of the lovely knitters who join in, it is one of my favourite parts of designing, hanging out with with them while they knit the design in their colour/yarn choice and add their own flavour to it. I find this process very inspiring.
Did you do a formal business plan?
Errr, not really. I do plan to though.
Do you have a mentor?
I have had mentors, your question has me realizing that no, I don't have one right now and would like to find a new one (any mentors out there?). I find myself mentoring a bit these days too. 
Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
No, there is lots of trial and error. I do like to inform myself and attend live and online seminars, read material, chat to other designers, business owners and have been running my own businesses for my whole working life. I really enjoy this aspect of my work.
Do you use a tech editor?
Yes, absolutely. 
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I don't do that particularly well, I am a bit of a workaholic. Working from home does give me flexibility as a parent and I do appreciate that. It can also be tricky to keep the work/home boundaries clear. I am working on improving this aspect of myself. Meanwhile, I love my work!
How do you deal with criticism?
I appreciate honest, constructive criticism. Feedback is always important. I check in with myself and try to be honest about my reaction, not defensive. There is always more to learn and I am open to that. Sometimes the feedback is valid but not necessarily relevant to the way I have decided to work, I am not going to please everyone and that is OK too. It can be a rattling experience at times, luckily I have a great sounding board in my partner and he offers me excellent advice in these times.
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Gosh, where to begin! It all depends on the type of person as there are so many ways to approach this; self publish, work for publications, both! It takes lots of focus, determination and work. There are so many resources to assist a new designer, absorb all the fantastic information out there, work on designs that excite you and be persistent. 
What’s next for you?
I plan to keep working on the designs I am excited by, with the yarn that inspires me.

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