Making It Work: Kat Goldin

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. - Karie

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.

Careful With Words

Twitter sometimes gets a reputation for being Celebrity Central, but I frequently manage to have interesting conversations with people despite the 140-character cut-off.

Yesterday we discussed women's self-image and societal pressure to emphasise external over internal qualities. We covered a lot of ground: eating disorders, women's self-enforced ignorance as a feminist issue (Ellie's line and it's a great one), patriarchal/matriarchal gender politics and much more. Mooncalf pointed out that we should not conflate ignorance with body obsession. Miss M. wrote eloquently about how body image and a need to take control could collide. Later same night I logged back into Twitter to find a whole other discussion about women's bodies was taking place. It was a discussion I found downright scary by its very ignorance of how women's bodies actually work.

I think it is time to quietly take back that whole discussion about women's rights and women's bodies. I really enjoyed the thoughtful discussion I had on Twitter with other women (and one man) but I think we should be having that discussion off-line too. It is not a call to arms - I am not the militant sort - but it is a plea that we keep having these discussions, we keep having them in public and that we keep challenging everyday sexism. Odd how it can still be a revelation to some that women are people too.

Phew. It felt good to get that off my chest.

I will now return to my fluffy little world of trying to make stripe patterns align and figuring out why I suddenly cannot make PDF files with my word-processing programmes. Here are a few random links for your everyday perusal:

Garterstitch 100

Garterstitch100 seeks to celebrate the centenary of International Women's Day - and you as a knitter can help. The artists are hoping to make a blanket consisting of 100 million stitches. They need you to knit them a square or set up a public knitting station where knitters can come and knit. There are a myriad other ways that you can help out. I'll be lending a hand - will you?

The End of Something

nov09 034My autumn/winter mitts have been blocked and subsequently worn for several days with much pride. It is a stash-busting project too as I used partial skeins of Lett-Lopi and New Lanark DK I had left over from previous projects. What is not to love? Taking a decent photo of them, however, proved too much for my photography skills, and it wasn't until this afternoon that Official Photographer went for a walk in the rain with the camera, that an in-focus photo appeared.

The pattern is free, but be warned that it needs to be tweaked in order to work. As written, the thumb increases do not match up with the colourwork and if i were to knit these again, I would go down a needle size as the mitts are a smidgen too wide across my hands despite going with the smallest size. On the positive side I can fit a pair of gloves underneath these for extra warmth.

Now to something completely different.

I first read Schrödinger's Rapist - or a Guy's Guide to approaching Strange Women Without Being Maced a couple of weeks ago and it has been on my mind ever since. In a strange way, the blog entry manages to explain exactly what it feels like being a woman and make me aware that this is how it feels for me. Honestly, I do not think about my body or my gender most of the time. My body is just there as a vehicle for my brain and, well, I have never felt like I was part of any Special Sisterhood. And yet, that blog entry made me finally acknowledge to myself that being a woman is not like being a man. I'm in my early thirties and I finally admitted this to myself.

Deep down, though, I must have known and sought to protect myself. During most of my twenties I hid in baggy black clothes. At one point I even preferred being severely overweight to having a healthy weight and receiving attention. Today I wonder why, although I have some residual fear of walking on my own in remote places and I never go outside at night unless someone is with me. For someone who is not all that aware of her own body (and, believe me, having a body never ceases to confound and surprise me .. especially after I have walked into yet another door or stumbled), I do seem to be aware of the dangers connected to having one.

After reading the initial blog entry, I wound up reading the long Metafilter thread/response. Nattie's response was particularly thought-provoking and I found myself nodding to several points she made - and surprising myself by being able to nod. I need to think a lot more about this and work out my own response. Somehow this feels like an awakening.