Friday, November 24, 2017

An Interview with...Alla Saenko

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
Alla here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
My inspiration mostly comes from yarns. If the yarn attracts me in some way, I immediately think what can I knit out of it. I often buy a skein or two just to try the new to me yarn out. Design ideas may come while I am playing with the yarn, trying different stitch patterns and observing how the stitch pattern and the yarn interact, or how two colours look next to each other.

What is your favourite knitting technique?
My most recent favourite knitting techniques are magic loop for knitting in the round, and Italian cast on to start the ribbing in bottom up hats or cowls. Usually I don't bother with fancy techniques, my motto is the simpler the better, but there are a few ones I just cannot live without. 
Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I had a fear before that seeing the other designers' works will interfere with my own creativity, and for years I've been simply refusing to look at other designs just for the sake of keeping my mind clear. On the other hand, I realized that I cannot isolate myself totally from what is going on around me. You need to know what is trendy and what is popular with other knitters, that you can offer what the average knitter is looking for. By saying this I don't mean a designer needs to copy others to fit in the market, but observing others' works rather helps to stay up to date with hand knitting trends. 
How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
All my samples I knit by myself since it is necessary for me to check and tune up the pattern before I will hand it to the test knitters or a tech editor. I wish, I had someone close to me to knit a sample, but it has to be someone who can understand and feel my way of thinking while I've been creating a particular design, or at least be able to communicate in real life. If it's a simple design, like a hat or a scarf, I can ask someone to check the pattern for spelling and typos, with more complex shawl designs I would call for test knitters.
Did you do a formal business plan?
I don't have a business plan, as I still consider my designing work as a hobby. Putting myself in a fixed time frame or loading myself with obligations, like achieving a certain set of goals, doesn't give me a freedom to create.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
I can say, that my current business model is very simple - to publish patterns and run promotions regularly. It keeps me busy enough at the moment. My current goal is to master pattern writing skills to such a level that I would have more time to invest into the creative and technical sides of the design process. 
Do you use a tech editor?
Even the best test knitters cannot replace a tech editor's work. When I feel, my pattern needs professional attention, I use a tech editor's services.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
Maintaining the balance sometimes is not an easy task. I do not consider my designing work as a work, it is rather the most enjoyable and satisfying hobby for me. Whenever I have a spare minute, I would rather spend it knitting or sketching a new design. This is how I relax. 
How do you deal with criticism?
Living in Canada I discovered that Canadians are the most polite people in the world, and very generous with giving compliments. When it comes to my main hobby, they make me feel like I am a knitting queen. And while I really appreciate such a kindness, I am longing for healthy constructive criticism. There is always room for improvement. 
What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Even though it becomes a career to you at some point, it is still an art, and you are an artist who is trying to express yourself through it. Make sure you continue to enjoy the process. First of all you do it for yourself, and when someone else appreciates your work, that's a bonus! Remain true and genuine, and people somehow catch that vibe through your designs.

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