Friday, January 19, 2018

An Interview with...Ute Nawratil


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
Ute here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
It can be nature, it can be something in my surroundings that catches my eye, it can be a song text ... but mostly, I get my inspiration from yarn. I never get tired playing around with different color combinations and textures. I'm usually not an esoteric person, but I guess I'm one of those annoying knitters who will tell you: "I wait until the yarn tells me what it wants to become". On other occasions, I suddenly have a certain picture in my mind out of nowhere. Then I have to face the challenge to find ways to replicate this picture. 

What is your favourite knitting technique?
It changes. What I like most, is variation. I get bored when I have to do a sequence of similar things. Also, each technique has its limitations. Mostly, my preferences come and go in waves. For example, last year, there was a period of time when I was very obsessed with mosaic knitting. Right now, it seems I can't think about anything else than the combination of brioche and double knitting. If I had to choose one, I would say I'll always come back to two-color brioche because i never get tired watching the process of interweaving colors.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I had those concerns when I started publishing my designs. I come from an academic background (I taught at universities for many years); therefore an accusation of plagiarism would be the worst for me. But I soon found out that my mind works differently. It never says "I want to knit something like this." Instead it says: " I want to do something I've never done before." And it's nearly impossible to ignore the work of others, anyway. I don't look for it, extensively but, of course, I get to see it in blogs or magazines, on Ravelry and Instagram. By now, I can admire it without fearing that I might imitate it, inadvertently.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?
I don't have a fixed number of test knitters. I knit each sample myself, at least once. After doing so and writing down the pattern, I call out for test knitters. Or more often they ask me if they can test a certain design. I'm not secretive about my designs; I usually share whatever is on my needles on Instagram, and there is almost always someone who says "I want to try that." I don't consider the test knitters "working for me". It's more like an exchange. If they like a pattern and would have bought it anyway, they get it for free and before publication with the only condition that they have to notify me of any errors. 

Did you do a formal business plan?
Who? Me?
Do you have a mentor?
Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
No. I'm very much not a business person. I'm not even good at marketing. To me, any kind of business plan would involve a calculation like this: I'd have to publish x patterns per year and I'd need at least y buyers for each of them. To get those y buyers, I would have to think about what would please lots of people. This kind of thinking would completely destroy my creativity, and my own fun. I knit the things I like and I'm happy when other knitters like them, too. Knitting is my pleasure space. 

Do you use a tech editor?
No. At the point of publishing, each design has been knitted multiple times. I don't see in which way a tech editor could improve it.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?
I never understood this differentiation. Since work is an integral part of life, I never was able to make that separation. In retrospect, I would say that I always choose jobs that were an interesting challenge. And I dismissed boring ones, even if they would have guaranteed a higher income. So, my recipe for balance is to do what I like, most of the time. Except for household chores which I find really annoying!

How do you deal with criticism?
It depends on whether I consider the criticism justified or not. If not, the critics get buried under counter-arguments. If I think they have a point, I'm extremely grateful.
Criticism doesn't seem to be an issue in the knitting community, though. There, it's more about helpful hints. If people don't like a certain pattern, they don't feel the need to trash it. They just ignore it. 

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?
With knitting? I'll tell you when I get at that point. So far, I have to earn my bread and butter elsewhere. But at least, selling my designs helps to finance my yarn addiction.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?
Go and ask someone with business skills.
What’s next for you?
I really have no idea. But there's lots of beautiful yarn in my stash. So, inspiration might be just around the corner ...

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