Friday, February 25, 2011

An Interview with...Erika Flory

Once a week I post  interviews with interesting designers about their insights on their experience of working in the Knitting industry.  I’ve noticed that every designer makes their living in a slightly different manner bringing their own unique presence to the Knitting world. 

You can find Erika here and here on Ravelry.

Where do you find inspiration?
Like most visual designers, I find inspiration all around me: a stitch pattern in a passers by scarf, a color combination on a store mannequin, vintage clothing, stitch dictionaries, yarn itself---it's all out there. My best ideas hit when I'm not specifically thinking about designing.
What is your favorite knitting technique?
Knitting from the top down or any other seamless techniques.
How did you determine your size range?

When I was beginning my craft business, I sized my sweaters to fit my own children: I figured if the business didn't take off, my children and their friends would have sweaters for a couple of years. As the business grew, I "down sized" until my range was 6 through 24 months: I witnessed too many meltdowns in my booth at craft shows when a mother would ask her four year old to pick a sweater and the child couldn't decide. It was easier to have a size range that covered babies and toddlers. Now that I'm not doing craft shows and concentrating on design, I find that my size range is inching upwards again.
Do you look at other designers' work or are you afraid that you will be influenced by their designs?

Yes, it's much like being a painter and visiting museums and art galleries. I'm not afraid that I'll be influenced, as all design is derivative. I know that I learn and am inspired by what fellow designers are producing, and hope that they are inspired by my designs as well.
How do you feel about the so called controversy of "dumbing down" patterns for knitters?

I know that there are knitters who want to be challenged and knitters who want to be led through the process. I think that if we designers  give  knitters well written, clear patterns, they'll build the skills and confidence to take on more challenging projects and grow into being thinking knitters. As long as people are knitting and enjoying it, I don't think there should be a controversy.
How many sample/test knitters do you have working for you or do you do it all yourself?

I do all the sample knitting myself as I'm always tweaking and revising a pattern as I knit that sample. When the pattern is finished, I have a couple of test knitters who are a great help.
Did you do a formal business plan?
No, my business evolved from what my daughter at age 6 described as a "hobby job" into what it is today, and is still evolving as the impact of the Internet on the knitting world continues.
Do you have a mentor?
Not per se, but I have found support and encouragement from several people, in particular Alison Reilly at For the Love of Yarn webzine who published my first design; Kirsten Hipsky at WEBS; and Flo Carlisle at Pisgah Yarn & Dyeing who has been very supportive.
Do you have a business model that you have emulated?
What impact has the Internet had on your business?

The Internet has made my current business possible: when I stopped doing production work for the craft shows, I knew that the next phase was going to involve the Internet. It has also made submitting design proposals to publications much easier, and  has made self publishing possible in ways that weren't available just a few years ago.
Do you use a Tech Editor?
Yes: someone has to double check my numbers!
How do you maintain your life/work balance?

When I was doing production for craft shows, I was very disciplined: as soon as the kids were off to school, I'd be at my work space; often, that was 8:15. I'd work until they came home from school, and on the weekends when I had a craft show, we'd have a flow-chart worked out as to who went where when. Now that I'm not working on that tight a schedule, my knitting and designing is my life. I do try to do my designing or work knitting during the day and leave the evenings to my personal knitting. But it is all knitting, all the time!
How do you deal with criticism?
Criticism ranges from misunderstandings of how a pattern is written to an error in the pattern to someone not liking the design. I encourage knitters to contact me with any questions they have, so I'm able to address the misunderstandings and correct errors. I try not to take criticism of my designs personally.

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

It hasn't happened yet!

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

You need to be willing to work hard and to explore all the options out there. It's not a get-rich-quick field and it's a crowded field, so you need to find your voice and stay true to it. Most of all, enjoy it.

1 comment:

  1. As a great admirer of Erika Flory's designs for KIDKNITS,
    I am delighted to read this interview and learn some
    things I didn't know before about her career.