Friday, June 29, 2018

An Interview with...Stephanie Lotven

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
Stephanie here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?

I find inspiration everywhere, but my daughters are really the heart of my inspiration. They love rainbows and unicorns and magic. As I grew up, society gave me the ridiculous idea that I was too old for such silliness. Having kids helped me to tap back into the things I loved as a kid. They brought out my joy. My girls are always helping me find the best, most honest parts of myself.

What is your favourite knitting technique?

I love short rows. Every time I work with short rows, I am astounded at their power to change the fit and fun of a garment. I’m really interested in playful shapes, and there is no better way to play with shapes than short rows.

Do you look at other designers’ work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?
I love knitting too much to avoid other designers’ work. There is so much incredible creation happening in the knitting universe. I want to be a part of ALL of it. In fact, I wish I had more time to knit other designer’s patterns. I think I would be doing myself a real disservice if I didn’t see the amazing things my fellow designers are creating.

How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?

I have one AWESOME sample knitter. Working with a sample knitter was a big move for me. It takes a lot of trust to put a project in someone else’s hands. There are deadlines, and expectations, and, sometimes, irreplaceable yarn. I’m so glad I have a sample knitter, because it has freed up some very valuable time for me. In fact, I’m on the look out for a second sample knitter for the fall.

Did you do a formal business plan?

Definitely not. So much of my journey has been guesswork. When I got started, I just wanted to get a design into the world. I didn’t know a lot about the industry, but I wanted to create something and share it. As my business has grown, I have added all sorts of lovely complications: knit-longs, collaborations, a website, social media, and on and on. My business has grown organically based on what my knitters want and need from me. I feel very lucky to be in an industry that allows for growth and experimentation.

Do you have a mentor?

Over the years, I have had many mentors. While I studied drawing, I spent a great deal of time with Frank Stack. He really molded my sense of color by challenging me to have a fearless palette. Devoney Looser, the renowned Jane Austen scholar, was an incredible mentor as I transitioned out of college and into adulthood. Her strong sense of female empowerment gave me the courage to take big risks and believe that I could achieve them. Now, I draw strength and support from my fellow designers. Each of them has so much to teach, so much to offer.

Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
No, I don’t. Much of my business has been built on aggressive experimentation. I am always working to find a new way of doing things that fits my life, and my style. 

Daisy Lady coming in July

Do you use a tech editor?

Yes! My tech editor is ABSOLUTELY crucial to the development of my patterns. Finding the perfect tech editor was a real gauntlet, but she was absolutely worth the search.

How do you maintain your life/work balance?

I wish you could hear me giggling right now. Balance is a constant conversation in our household. Currently, there isn’t much balance in my life. I stay at home during the day with my kiddos, and, when we are together, I like to be completely present. This means that all design work happens after they go to bed. I work hard at what I do, and so I don’t sleep as much as I probably should. I want to be available to my knitters, so I don’t take days off. In the fall, when my girls are both in school, I hope to have a more balanced 

personal/work life.

How do you deal with criticism?

I try to take all criticism seriously AND lightly. I think motherhood has steeled me against unfiltered criticism. The Internet is a place of vocal critics, just like a house full of kiddos. With two young daughters, I have lots of practice hearing about the things I am NOT doing right. When I get negative feedback, I take a breath, respond with patience, and try to solve the problem. Ultimately, I have to remind myself, you can’t make everyone happy all the time.

How long did it take for you to be able to support yourself?

It took me just over 3 years before I felt as if I was making a reasonable profit. Then, another 6-8 months before I felt confident in the consistency of my sales. So much of this business builds over time. You have to give your customers time to trust your patterns as you build your library.

What advice would you give someone who wants to pursue a career in knitting?

Ask questions! When I wasn’t sure how to write a yarn support proposal, I got on the Ravelry forums and asked how to do it until someone answered. When I started thinking about sample knitters, I emailed several designers whose opinion I respected. When I ask questions, I am always astounded by the generosity of the design community. If you don’t know how to do something, just ask.

What’s next for you?

I have lots of new designs on the horizon. I am very invested in sweaters at the moment, so there will certainly be more sweaters this year. I also plan to work on submissions for publications, and website development. There will be lots to keep me busy!

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