Friday, 10 February 2017

After Six Months: My experience in the world of Pattern Designers

Well, I've been 'official' for over six months now.  It's been over six months since I applied for my business number and started honestly making this my job.  

The title's kind of vague this time, but it's the best way I can think of to explain this post today.  It's both about what I've learned and am learning, and what I want to say to you wonderful folks, my readers, creators, and followers.  So here goes.

Also, as I wrote, this post ended up being less of a post and more of a mini-essay, so, it's going to be a longer read.  I won't be offended if you don't get through it, I promise.

- - -

So I spent a lot of 2016 and early 2017 doing research on what it really mean to be in the world of designers.

You know what? There's still no real answer to that question.   So I'm still trying to find my own footing and my own way as one of many people on this fiber-y journey.

However; I have learned a few things that seem to hold true.

1) This is still a business. In 2016, I was witness to some fiber artists who got themselves into trouble by treating commercial design work like a hobby.  Patterns being paid for and released late, things not being edited/tested, or products being shipped late.   They didn't mean any harm, but they weren't thinking as a business owner, they were thinking as a hobbyist who (sadly) got in over their head.

This is now my job. And I've realized I have an obligation to treat it as such.   That would be one of the reasons why I haven't as of yet committed to specific pattern release dates or specific projects, because I'm still learning how long it takes to get a pattern from prototype, through the process of sample knitting, writing, photography, test-knitting and tech-editing.  If you read back through this blog, you may find my estimates of release dates, but those can change as I learn something new, or even as I discover that a yarn I worked with has been discontinued so I have to make a sample again in something else.  And from watching these experiences, it's taught me to try to hold to a much better schedule.  One of my new years goals, is to keep you, my readers, better updated on the process of various patterns.  You've got a question? Ask it! 

2) Fiber People are (generally) generous.  The idea I've heard from more then one designer is that 'we're all in this boat together.'  Is there competition?  Yes. . . but.

Yes, we're technically competitors, in that we are competing for your pattern and class dollars.  But the fiber arts are wide enough that there are different things that each designer can bring to the table.   Most designers are comfortable sharing what they've learned or experienced with other designers to aid them on their journeys, rather then walking solo and trying to best the others in the industry.

One of the questions put to me very early on in my business course was designed to counter the 'well, why should I pay for it? ' attitude that some people have, especially when there is a plethora of free content online.  My business advisor asked me to answer that question.   At first, I was speechless.  I stood there fumbling to come up with an answer.   But then, I stopped and thought 'well, what -do- I bring to the table that no other designer will bring?

I realized that I bring all of my experience as an advocate, community builder, librarian, adminstrator, knitter, crocheter, and so much more.

. . . ok, but, still, what does that mean for you, my reader?

Well, it means that I don't want to just sell patterns and give lessons in knitting.  I want to create a community.  I want to create a place where -anyone- can learn to knit, and that's not just marketing hype and hyperbole.

For my readers and pattern buyers, it means that I'm going to be here even if you think you can't knit, or can't do something, I can help you find resources to do the thing you want to do.  
It also means fostering a truly inclusive community online, where fiber artists of all abilities and skill levels are welcomed.  
It means creating accessible media by making sure my alt-text is functional, that videos I make have closed-captioning and/or transcripts available, and that I do my best to make my material available to everyone.
It means learning to properly size for diverse bodies (and then doing so), and throwing my full support behind those that mod my patterns to make them fit even better.
And those are just the start.

3)  I've realized that this is what I'm supposed to be doing.

Do I have doubts?  Absolutely.  There are days when I sit here and wonder if this will ever pay the bills.

But I can't imagine myself doing anything else, and any other job I take (barring an amazingly awesome job, of course) will be taken out of necessity, to pay those bills.  This is my -career- now.

That's both a terrifying and awesome realization.

But it's something where I can honestly say that I love my job (well, I'm not as fond of the bookkeeping side, but I can't have everything, right?).  It's something where I can honestly say that I can see myself continuing this job for 20, 30 years, and still be enjoying it.   And that's such a rarity in today's society; to me, that has more value the the money (or lack thereof) that I make. To not judge or be judged on my outward appearance of productivity has proven to be one of the best parts of this job.   And that's something I've come to treasure.
In conclusion (I hate that phrase, but I've always been terrible at closing essays and papers!)  I want to bring forward to you all that I'm here.  One of my goals is to be available to help, and accountable for my mistakes (because we all make them).  If you see something that doesn't work, I want to hear it.  If you see something that does work, please, I love positive feedback!  I really do want to create a positive place where absolutely everyone can knit; and can make things that look awesome for them and for their body.

So, if you have ideas on how I can do that, let me know any way you'd like.  E-mail me, post your ideas as comments to the blog, post to Facebook, or post to Ravelry.  I promise I read them.  Even if they're spam. (Actually, I really do love reading comments!  Most people are incredibly awesome  people in the fiber arts community, and I know I'm in a generally good space when I read comments.  And I have to read the spam comments to moderate them, so I do read those too, and usually they're worth a laugh.)

Well, I guess that's it for this post.  I didn't intend quite for this to be a mini-essay, but, that's how it turned out.  Until next time, folks!

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