Sunday, February 24, 2008

ISO: Stimulating, creative and deadline oriented...

Nothing so sweet as a warm spot, in a patch of sunlight, in February. My office is the smallest, warmest room in our house, lined (of course) with wool insulation, a spinning wheel in motion, and a productive heating vent. The dogs, the professor and I have perfected the art of finding the warm spot lately.

Second only to the literal warm spot is the figurative one. Nothing makes me happier than to hear that my handspinning article might inspire some to try spinning, to go back to spinning, or just--do more spinning and knitting with handspun. This was great to hear!

This week was busy, and I'm thinking about what my particular freelancing niche means. The book is in the stage where I write little, but review detail-y technical things--a lot. I can be detailed oriented in reviewing patterns, but it causes me to be googley-eyed with concentration and...possibly irritable. I'm looking forward to finishing this stuff so I can go back to writing and designing more, and editing less.

I do this detailed stuff because I dread any negative responses when the book is out. Gasp, the remote..possibility of a pattern mistake. Confronting these issues has led me to think about knitwear design more. I usually design beginning to intermediate patterns, I aim to avoid mistakes, and turn in my work on time. I like to review the editor's revisions, just to catch any possible ambiguities that arise. I focus less on being an "artiste" who designs, and more on being a designer who does a businesslike job. I want my finished designs to be functional, hardwearing, and useful. This is what works for me.

In doing my book, which has so many designs in it that I couldn't possibly do them all myself, I've discovered a whole range of (apparently successful?) designer responses. I'm working with 15 designers. These are composite descriptions of my experiences...

-There's the highly competent --crochet-- designer who updates the writer/editor (me, in this case) frequently, meets deadlines with ease and jumps to respond to emails.
-There's the laid back person who I didn't hear from much, but who turned in an entirely functional design--early to on time.
-There's the incredibly creative sort who has delays (which I only hear about when I ask, politely, what's going on over there...) and
-the incredibly creative sort whose sample was on time, her concepts are incredible, but she missed a whole line of math. (it happens.)
-The consummate professionals
-The enthusiastic beginning designers who need a helping hand...and everything in between.

(There are folks who make this kind of experience a joy, and even folks who decided, at the last moment, that they wouldn't submit to the book...some for personal reasons, ok, and others? because of ideological ones. No kidding.)

These are variables that could tear a full-time editor's hair out, or on the other hand, make her day a perfect dream.

I get it. I had sympathy for knitting mag. and book editors before, now I have empathy. I see why I don't always get to review my patterns before publication. If the deadline is tight and the designer isn't available immediately? No review. Or, what if the designer feels this isn't part of her job? If enough editors hear that, they no longer offer a review. (review of the pattern is just one example, there were a lot of examples I could dream up here..sizing, schematics, charts, formatting, whatever.) I did schematics, gauge measurements, formatting, all sorts of things to shape these works of art for publication..and I'm not even the tech editor. I try to make every email to a designer be positive, professional & friendly. Not everyone's positive in return.

None of the positive responses necessarily correlate to the most successful designers. I've been overwhelmed by the talent, creativity and energy I encountered--but sadly, professional affiliations, amount of publications, or other things do not indicate professionalism, an ability to meet a deadline, or answer an email. In the end, I wanted functional, creative design that met the deadlines and answered questions with prompt ease. The editing of this portion of my book has been harder than I thought, and I have a great tech editor helping.

Why am I mentioning this? Many knitters somehow set knitwear designers on a pedestal. Everything they produce must be perfect, and often, immediately available. Designers should be instantly available to resolve any crisis that any knitter might encounter...even if it's knitter error that made this happen. More to the point, the compensation for doing all this is very low. Many design ideas never sell...and designers are pressed to do other things to make a living. There are even knitters who blast these patterns online before asking for help--thus sullying the pattern and designer--even if the pattern is functional. None of this is news, but it bears repeating. Pssst. Designers are people, and none of us are perfect!

So, in this light, I always hope for knitters/crocheters/spinners/rughookers,etc. who are thoughtful, creative, problem-solving folk who can appreciate a good design, even if it has a flaw in it. We should all be able to do grade school math on our own. We should ask for help, if we need it, with manners. We need to experiment, create, and walk a mile in someone else's felted clogs before creating a fuss... 'Cause the world is unhappy enough these days. Let's try to make peace, solve our (pattern) problems, save this fibery space for something positive?

Just my two cents. In the next post, I might post an artiste design idea of my own, or talk about my trip to Nashville last Friday. Or maybe? I'll just take some time to knit.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had someone declare on my pattern page on Ravelry that my pattern was wrong, whereas it is not and I could see where *she* had made a mistake and corrected for it on the next row and not even noticed it! Ah, the joys of creativity... (I wish she'd sent me a note first!)

Good luck with it all!

February 24, 2008 at 10:02 PM  
Blogger SueJ said...

Its really encouraging (& not suprising) to read of your profesional approach. Some of the knitting pattern books I own run to 3 A4 pages of errata!

February 25, 2008 at 2:59 PM  
Blogger cyndy said...

What could be better than a spot of sunshine in February? I love every minute of it!

Where is your article on handspinning? Did I miss it?

Thanks for writing about experiences with designers! I found it to be very interesting ;-)

February 26, 2008 at 7:17 AM  
Blogger Deborah Robson said...

Thank you for saying this. . . . Writing from my own deadline-driven corner. . . .

February 26, 2008 at 12:52 PM  

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