These days I often get asked for career advice - presumably because I turned my passion for knitting and crochet into my job. I have my own story to tell, of course, but I also know a huge amount of inspirational women who have turned their talent and passion for making into a business. So, I have asked a handful of these fantastic ladies to share their stories with me. You'll see these interviews popping up on Fourth Edition from time to time under the "Making It Work" moniker. I hope you'll enjoy these blog posts.
You are Kat Goldin, the author of Crochet at Play, the creative soul behind The Crochet Project and Capturing Childhood, an established knitting & crochet designer, and a craft tutor among many other ventures. How would you describe what it is you do?
I think I am a story teller. A handmade item tells a story – it moves from the inspiration, the pattern or the yarn, how it was made, how it looks, and how you keep or give it. It is the same with photography, I use the camera to tell the story of my life, my children's lives, or the piece of hand knitting or crochet that I am photographing.
What is a typical working week like for you? I know you have a young family!
Its rather hectic, to say the least. I work every day. Usually I am up most mornings at 5 to work before the kids are up, then I stop for a couple of manic hours that involve chasing naked children and making an army's worth of toast. It can be extremely stressful, but I have a very hands on and supportive partner, so we make it work because we have to.
Because there are so many different elements to my work, I try to schedule things when I can. In Scotland, of course, one has the weather and light to take into consideration and this where the planning has to sometimes be flexible. If I am scheduling a photo-shoot, we have to either run the gauntlet or take a good day as soon as it comes and throw everything else out the window.
I often do phone calls and Skype with my other business partners in the evening when the kids are in other hands, and we even schedule working holidays together, so our families are all part of the business ecosystem.
As a female entrepreneur in the crafts industry, what has been the most surprising aspects of starting your own creative business?
Before I started my business, I worked in the civil service. I remember distinctly being unhappy and thinking about working for myself. However, I just couldn't see that I would have the discipline. I could barely get motivated to do my work when I had a boss watching me, so how could I be responsible for managing my own working life? Well, as noted above, this is not the case. I love my work and seem to have an endless amount of energy an motivation to keep going and growing. Not to say that there aren't often times when I cry in despair over just how much I have committed to!
It is also extremely difficult to make money this way and takes a lot of careful decision making and planning. Everything from the cost of yarn, postage, subscriptions, to childcare has to be taken into consideration and costed against income and the margins can be tight. It is not for the faint hearted, but if you have passion and commitment and good support from peers, you can definitely evolve a business.
Any advice for people wanting to start their own creative venture?
Do it! It can be scary and tough and a lot of work, but in the end it is so worth the risk!
Scotland is a really interesting place to work and live for anyone interested in the textiles and crafts industry. What difference does Scotland make for you in your work?
I don't know how one can live here and not be effected by it.
I live in Alloa, former home of Patons and across the street from the houses he built for his daughters. Textile history is all around me. Whenever anyone hears what I do for a living, I am immediately told about the mills and the jumpers their mothers used to make for them. I am the recipient of the entire neighbourhood's excess knitting paraphernalia and have been known to discuss shoulder construction with Grannys picking up kids from school. I don't think I would have that in my native Iowa where discussion was often about fishing or hunting.
Beyond that, I am hugely drawn to the colour palette that surrounds me here. I'd never really seen the sea or mountains until I moved here, and they have had an undeniable impact on my designs.
I want to ask about The Crochet Project - I think it is such a refreshing web-based showcase for contemporary crochet design. What prompted you to start it?
It was actually my co-editor Joanne Scrace's idea. We work phenomenally well together, so it really is a match made in heaven. We each bring different skills to the mix – Joanne has an incredible eye for detail and can really think through designs and make sure we have all of the technical details sorted, where I use my skills in photography to make sure the project makes a great first impression. We were bemoaning the lack of showcases for contemporary crochet design and she suggested we start our own.
There is no doubt that crochet design is a very different market to that of knitwear. I have always struggled to find many that are the kinds of things I want to make or give. I want beauty and drape and wearability. I want things that are beautifully photographed. However, there hasn't been much of that around, so we have gone forth to make our own. Crochet deserves not to be neglected and it certainly doesn't have to be ugly or lack purpose. I don't make egg cosies or doilies for a reason, I believe crochet can do more and better.
And now we are expanding our vision under the umbrella of The Yarn Project to include a similar showcase for knit wear design due to be launched in 2014 after the second edition of The Crochet Project this autumn.
What plans do you have for the future?
I am working on my second book with Kyle Books, the second issue of The Crochet Project, more photography workshops with Capturing Childhood and a couple of other secret projects launching early next year. My future is busy!!
A huge thank you to Kat for taking the time to sit down for a chat with me. You can find Kat on Twitter, Ravelry and Facebook.
Do you have a question you want to ask a craft pro? Let me know.