28 Nov 2016

In the Company of Women

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I’ve been thinking a lot lately. It’s time to start doing morning pages again–putting down three pages of my first thoughts onto paper every morning before doing anything else. I need to get the stuff in my head out and, for me, that requires words.

Donna WritingAlthough I’ve been drawing a lot lately too, and I continue to design knitting patterns, sometimes my thoughts are too big or complicated to be included in a picture or a mesh of stitches. I’m reading a lot more lately, too. I go in cycles. It used to be *read, knit, write; repeat from *. Now it’s *read, knit, write, draw; repeat from *. I don’t do anything every day but I find balance over a longer period of time.

This year I’ve been drawing obsessively. I’ve filled seven sketchbooks since the beginning of summer. Now that winter is approaching, I’ve felt the itch to get back to knitting. And with everything that’s going on in the USA after the election, I am reading a lot more, too.

In the Company of Women CoverThis morning I needed some inspiration and comfort from the work of other creative women, so I cracked open In the Company of Women: Inspiration and Advice from over 100 Makers, Artists, and Entrepreneurs by Grace Bonney.

This book is a collection of interviews with creative business owners. I love reading about how other women approach and succeed in business. I feel inspired to answer some of the questions in the book myself:

What did you want to be when you were a child.

An astronaut. I was taught by my mother and my teachers that I could do anything I wanted to do and be anything I wanted to be when I grew up. Of course, in a way it was a lie because I am a woman. A woman still can’t be President of the United States, one of the things my teacher always told me that I could aspire to.

What was the best piece of business advice you were given when you were starting out?

Start an email list. I resisted this for so long! I thought gathering people’s email addresses and sending them messages was intrusive and annoying. I was so wrong! My email list is the best part of my business now. It gives me a chance to send updates to my biggest fans and I get to offer my regular customers special deals and products that I don’t make available to the whole world. It is the number one thing that keeps my business afloat and it is the number one way I get to share with the knitters and readers who love my work.

What is your favorite thing about your workspace?

It’s in my house. I don’t have to go anywhere. Sometimes I don’t leave home for days on end. I love that everything I have and need is all in one place and I don’t have to compartmentalize my life.

What is the biggest sacrifice you’ve made in starting or running your business?

Cutting down my expenses, living a simpler life. At the same time I was growing my knitting business and continuing to do contract work for tech companies, I was cutting back more and more on expenses. Finally my business and my needs were in sync and I don’t have to do outside work any more. It required moving from California to Colorado to Vermont, where the cost of living was substantially lower. I could now never go back in the other direction. But I wouldn’t want to.

What does success mean to you?

Success means that I can do whatever I want. Freedom. I’ve been thinking about my core values the last few days as I begin my annual business planning period. What values are most important to me and what values to I want to promote through my business. Personal freedom is always near the top of my list.

Name a fear or professional challenge that keeps you up at night?

I have dreams that I’ve gone on a cruise to teach and have forgotten to bring my knitting supplies. This has never happened to me, but I don’t find myself worrying about my business during the night. Perhaps it’s because I always have Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone playing quietly to distract me if I wake up in the middle of the night. I know the story so I don’t have to pay attention or get pulled in wondering what will happen next, but the sound of the audio book distracts me from my own thoughts when I’m not really awake.

At what point in your life did you first learn about your field of work? What called you to it?

I learned to knit from my grandmother when I was a little girl. I also had a lot of art classes in school. And I loved writing stories and poems, too. I didn’t think of doing anything I particularly loved for a job until a friend suggested it to me. I was working as a technical writer for HP at the time and I hated my job. When I was sitting in a knitting class one day, my friend asked me, “If you can write about how to install a hard drive, why can’t you write about how to knit?” I don’t know if I ever would have thought of that myself but that one question changed my life.

Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently when you were starting out?

I would have been more focused on quality and finding my own aesthetic and voice. When I first started writing and designing for magazines and yarn companies, I would do anything I was asked and I designed anything that popped into my head. I didn’t have  strong focus. I think that’s so important these days with such a big impact from photography, especially since Ravelry began. This is, of course, related to more of a focus on visual communication in so much of society. I think anyone starting out as designer these days should really try to hone their aesthetic by designing some things for themselves before they design for publication,


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