Friday, May 12, 2017

An Interview with..Valerie Johnson

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 Valerie here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
All over the place. From magazines, television shows, movies, people at the office. My eyes are always open to new ideas wherever I go.
What is your favourite knitting technique?
I am a lace knitter! Which is hilarious, because when I started knitting, the first few lace projects I tried went horribly wrong, and I swore I’d never knit lace. But I guess I just love the look of it too much – because I kept going back until one project (a feather and fan scarf) and it finally “clicked”.
Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I’m always looking at others designers’ work – and I think it’s great to be influenced by them. I have no formal training in design, so I’ve learned new techniques by knitting projects others have designed.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I am mostly a one-woman show, but I have a few knitter friends who will pitch in a test knit if I’m in need.
Did you do a formal business plan?
Not at all. I didn’t really plan to be a “designer” at all. I just shared a few patterns I’d made, and it grew from there. Now I have 49 patterns available on Ravelry (with more in the works). But even now I don’t really consider it a business. I don’t really design for the sake of designing. My designs have almost all been to fill a need in my life (whether a garment I wanted for myself, or a gift for a friend), and I write up the pattern and share it. Whether I offer it for free or for a few dollars just depends on the complexity and how much work I’ve put into it.
Do you have a mentor?
That would be my Mom. She started knitting when she was pregnant with me. She taught me when I was four or five, though I didn’t really take it up until my 20s. She is an amazing knitter – perfect tension; there’s no technique she can’t execute! So when I have a question or problem… she’s always there with the answer.

Do you use a tech editor?
Again – that’s Mom. With almost 40 years of knitting experience under her belt, she’s handy to have look over your patterns. She’s also better with math than I am.
How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Admittedly, I am very lucky in that respect. I have a day job (I’m a sales writer).  So for me, the knitting/designing falls in the “life” side of that balance. I work mostly from home, and make my own schedule. I have a husband, but we have no kids, and he’s got his own hobbies to keep him occupied. It’s not usually hard to find time to work on my designs. Though I will admit, I probably neglect my housework more than I should… and I have been known to eat cereal for dinner so I can get back to the knitting.
How do you deal with criticism?
When it comes to my knitting, I haven’t had much (that I’ve seen/heard, anyway). But as I mentioned, I’m a writer… and I started my career as a journalist. Criticism is part and parcel of the field, and you don’t last long if you can’t deal with it. The main thing to remember is that no matter what you do (be it journalism or knitting), you’re never going to have everyone love you.  Someone somewhere will always have a differing opinion: Our diversity of thought is our beauty. And sometimes the critics are even right, so you can learn something new. And that’s always a good thing!

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
Oh how I wish! As mentioned, I have a day job. I am definitely a part-time designer. My design work mostly supports my knitting habit. I make just enough in pattern sales to keep me in yarn, patterns, needles, and notions – which to me, seems like a pretty good deal.
While I occasionally dream about designing full-time, I think I’d miss my day job too. I consider myself very lucky that I’m able to do both!

What’s next for you? 
I’ve got quite a bit in the works right now, actually.

I recently had to give up my car, so on the few days I do go into the office, I have a long train commute. Perfect for sock knitting though!  So I’m working on a series of sock patterns each named after a station along commute.

I’ve got a cardigan pattern which is mostly complete; I just need to work on the numbers for the additional sizes.

I’ve also recently started a new shrug/shawl design, which I’m very excited about.

No comments:

Post a Comment