Friday, November 25, 2016

An Interview with...Mari Chiba

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 Mari here and here on Ravelry. 

Where do you find inspiration?
I love ready to wear, Pinterest, fashion magazines, and in particular Anthropologie. Though I don't think I've ever shopped there, I think they have some beautiful and interesting design ideas! The Blue Columbine Cardigan from Interweave Knits Summer 2015 was based on some open back cardigans I saw on Pinterest...not sure who made it, but it was machine made lace. The Circular Tunic from Knit.Wear Spring/Summer 2014 was inspired by an Anthropologie top that was crochet. I take a lot of inspiration from ready to wear.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
I don't think I have one... I love knitting!

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I do! Part of my day job, working with Stitchcraft Marketing, is advising my clients on their upcoming pattern collections. I help with logistics, coordinating, and also discussing what's trending in the market. I obviously try not to design things that look similar to what other designers do, but at the end of the day what sells the best and appeals to most people are variations on a familiar theme. I just try to add my own spin and aesthetic.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I very rarely use sample/test knitters. I do most of it myself. When I first started designing I had a lot more time to knit, and I could churn out a fingering weight sweater in a week or less. Now I have a 1 year old, and as all the parents out there can attest to, I have a LOT less time!

Do you use a tech editor?
Yes! And when people ask me about becoming a designer, I always tell them to become a tech editor instead, or at least first. Tech editors are amazing, and although I've informally edited others patterns for style, I think it's hubris to think one can tech edit their own work.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
This is one I'm still working on. If you have any tips on how to manage a full time job from home, freelance design on the side, and be a good mom I'd be open to hearing them! I did recently hire part time child care, so that's helped a lot, but I still work until 9 or 10 pm most week nights and work at least one half day on the weekend.

How do you deal with criticism?
What criticism?

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I realized pretty early on that one revenue source wasn't going to be a realistic way for me to earn a living in this industry. Through hard work and good luck, I met Leanne Pressly, the owner of Stitchcraft Marketing at TNNA while working in a booth for a yarn company. That was more than 4 years ago. At first I started part time, and was also designing, working in a yarn store, and teaching knitting. I came to a point a couple years ago when I realized that although I love designing, and will probably always write knitting patterns, I really like my day job and the stability it provides. Now I rarely teach, spend less time designing, and spend a lot of time and energy on my career with Stitchcraft.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Get as many different experiences as you can within the industry. I meet a lot of designers who can't understand the yarn company perspective, because they've never walked in their shoes. Or other industry professionals who have no idea how much time and effort it takes to write and grade a pattern. I've worked in a yarn store, sold yarn wholesale, taught knitting to a variety of skill levels, and all of those experiences have helped me get to where I am, doing what I love.

What’s next for you?
This is a tough one, I'm not sure. I hope to eventually write a book, and I started a book proposal just as I got pregnant, and haven't looked at it since. We'll see!

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