Friday, October 13, 2017

An Interview with...Susanne Visch

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
Susanne  here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
As with most things in the fiber world, it depends… Sometimes it’s a specific skein or color of yarn that triggers my creativity. But it can also be a stitch pattern that I encounter, a shape, a new untried technique or desires from family members. My mom has a fondness for the types of lace originating from Estonia. So when she claimed a particular gorgeous blue skein of fingering weight yarn as hers, it wasn’t a big leap to design something just for her, using traditional Estonian stitch patterns with nupps galore.

What is your favorite knitting technique?
While I pride myself for always including at least one new thing (for me) in each of my designs, I think it’s safe to say that lace is an element that can often be found in my work. Perhaps in another 10 years, I will have shifted my focus on, say, knitting cables. But for now lace in all it’s flavors, types and gradations of difficulty continue to excite me.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
Influence from others can’t be completely avoided. Nobody operates in a vacuum after all. That said, I don’t go searching for design ideas on Ravelry or Pinterest for example. For me, inspiration doesn’t come from the designs of others. When I get stuck on how to solve a particular difficulty in a design or how to write something down in my pattern efficiently and understandably though, I may look into other patterns to see how things are tackled there. Enabling someone to replicate a design through instructions on paper is really an art on its own.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
There is one lady who has assisted me by knitting the sample a couple of times. Other than that I usually knit my own samples. When we’re talking about testers: I’ve got a spreadsheet full of names from people who have expressed interest in testing for me. Whenever a new test comes up, I post the test information in my Ravelry group and earburn all people whose test preferences match that particular test. There is, however, a “core team of testers” consisting of people who quite regularly test my patterns. They are very important in the process because they often give feedback on making the pattern even better and easier to understand. I feel very blessed that they want to help me like that.

Did you do a formal business plan?
No, I didn’t. Designing crochet and knitwear started out as a hobby for me. And although I formalized being a business after awhile, I won’t be able to pay the bills with it for decades to come. Business plan or not.

Do you have a mentor?
No, I don’t. Though I would appreciate someone from within the fiber world to discuss things with and bounce ideas off each other. I am quite proficient in finding things out and looking for and finding answers, but I guess it’s not the same.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
Sort of... I have seen with the people that are successful in the fiber arts, that they usually have multiple income streams. In other words, that they don’t depend solely on what the patterns bring in. And I do try to follow that example. I’m not that good with people so teaching and giving workshops is off the table for me. I have found, however, that technical editing is a good match for my particular skill set. I’m still researching other types of related activities to add to my business.

Do you use a tech editor?
Absolutely! In my opinion, the review and feedback from a technical editor is really a necessary step in making sure the numbers are correct and crafters can replicate the sample you made for a particular design. For submissions for magazines I may choose not to test the pattern, but technical editing is a step I would never forgo.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
With some trouble! What it makes challenging for me, is that I have another profession than designing for 4 days in the week. That means that in the evenings and the 3 remaining days everything, ranging from family, friends to designing, fights for attention. I somehow make it work, which is a large part only possible because the act of knitting or crochet itself is very relaxing for me.

It does mean, that I only make my own designs. There simply is no time left for making anything else. I do try to make one exception: during the yearly Indie Designer Gift Along in November and December I make a couple of things from other designers. It relaxes the mind not having to think about making the numbers work because someone else already did it for you. Also, I really think it is important to see how other designers deal with certain intricacies in their patterns. Making the pattern as opposed to merely reading it, gives a much deeper understanding of why it’s written down the way it is. It’s a good way to ensure continued growth as a designer.

How do you deal with criticism?
I try to focus on the good intentions that must lay behind any expression of criticism and react to it in that spirit. If someone has taken the time and effort to approach me about something in one of my patterns, I better listen and take any suggestions in consideration. If errors are found in my work I, of course, correct them as soon as possible. It becomes a different cup of tea if there is criticism not on my work but on me as a person. Fortunately, I haven’t really had to deal with that kind of criticism yet.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
I’m not there yet, nor do I expect to be able to pay the bills with my designing and related activities sometime in the next ten years. It’s really disheartening to work so hard for so little monetary compensation. For that reason I have decided quite early on, to consider creative satisfaction as the main reward until I can actually support myself with my design and editing activities.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Start as you aim to continue: have your patterns tech edited and tested and pay attention to your photography, make it as good and consistent in style as you can deliver. Also, don’t expect to get rich: work in the fiber world is truly a labor of love, not a get-rich-quick scheme.

What’s next for you?
Finishing this lace design for my mom and then on to the next one. My daughter wants a textured cowl, so I guess that will my next focus!

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