Interview: Kim Werker Shares her Freelance Philosophy, the Importance of Yellow, and Ugly-ugly Crafting
It’s been way too long since I had an interview here on the Mochimochi Blog! You may not even know that I occasionally interview people here, but it’s something I like to do from time to time when I encounter a creative person who inspires me.
Today I’m talking with Kim Werker! Formerly the editor of Interweave Crochet, Kim is a Vancouver-based writer and editor (of six crochet books, among other things) who also does events and speaking on creative topics.
I’ve been following Kim on Twitter for a while now, and I finally had the opportunity to meet her at the NYC Maker Faire in September. Kim seems to specialize in getting people to think about making stuff in a new way, which is exciting to me. Her newest project is a DIY web series that is currently in its crowdfunding stage—definitely check it out after you read the interview!
Anna: You’re a writer, editor, speaker, workshop leader, consultant, and there are probably other titles I’m forgetting. What was your path to this career? I can’t imagine there are too many people with a similar job—is there anyone you consider a mentor?
Kim: My path was the kind that looks more like a deer trail than a major highway, and I have the scrapes to show for it. It took me a very long time to realize it’s okay that I’m unhappy doing a normal 9-5 job, and that even if that makes me different from someone else’s definition of “normal”, who cares? I do a lot of different things for my work, as you said, but there are some very dominant themes that tie all those activities together – exploring creativity, empowering other people to do the same, maintaining the flexibility and independence to pursue my own often spur-of-the-moment projects, etc. I love writing, editing, and speaking to and with people, so those are the skills I rely upon to pretty much make my career up as I go.
Though I have worked with and for many, many people that I’ve admired and learned a lot from, I wouldn’t say I’ve had a mentor, per se. I did see an utterly brilliant therapist for a while, though, if that counts.
Anna: What is Mighty Ugly all about?
Kim: Mighty Ugly is about freeing ourselves from the mean-spirited voice in our heads that tells us we suck at making stuff or being creative. In its most concrete form, Mighty Ugly is an exercise you can do on your own or in one of my workshops; the project is to make a very ugly creature—not cute-ugly, but ugly-ugly—in part because we’re never asked to do something like that and in part because the act of working toward this opposite-from-usual goal can be intensely rewarding. Don’t get me wrong, lots of people, especially artists and professional crafters, find the exercise to be very uncomfortable or even threatening (they always say it’s worth doing, though). But some people, the ones who are inclined to say they’re not creative in the first place, tend to think its intensely liberating to remove the pressure of perfection, or even the pressure to at least achieve mediocrity. By working very hard to make something that’s usually considered a failure, we can learn a lot about our usual creative practice (the fears and pressures we feel, the constraints we force ourselves into, our habits of thinking, etc.), and we can see an act of creativity from a whole new perspective.
Anna: You now live in Vancouver, but I take it you lived in NYC for a long time before that. What differences have you noticed in the crafting/ making scenes in the two cities?
Kim: I only lived in Brooklyn till I was ten, then Upstate New York after that. I didn’t really grow into my crafty self until I was living here in Vancouver, so I can’t really answer this question. I love visiting NYC now, though, as a crafter. There’s so much creative energy and so many fascinating, creative people to meet. It makes me love my native city even more than I already did. (Vancouver is a far more reserved place; it can be tough to dive into mind-blowing conversation with new acquaintances here; that said, those conversations happen amongst expats and transplants all the time. It’s an odd thing about this city.)
Anna: You were the editor of Interweave Crochet for several years, and you’ve written and edited many books on crochet. What drew you to crochet originally, and has your relationship with the craft changed over the years?
Kim: When I started CrochetMe.com in 2004, I was pretty new to the craft. What drew me to be so passionate about crochet was my discovery that it was (and in some ways, but less dramatically, still is) the underdog yarn craft. That didn’t make sense to me all those years ago, so I put some serious time and effort into trying to open people’s minds to crochet.
So obviously, my relationship with crochet has changed a ton over the years. First, I’ve learned so much about it, and about myself through my experiences with it. Beyond learning about how crochet works and how the industry works and about crocheters, in general, I’ve learned that I think double crochet is pretty ugly on its own and that I love crocheting dolls, and especially gruesome dolls. I’ve learned that even though I usually hate the colour yellow, it’s important to include it in books and magazines. I’ve burnt out on crochet and then rediscovered my love for it several times over the years.
After leaving Interweave Crochet, I worked very hard to move beyond working exclusively in crochet, and I’ve settled into a nice groove of recreational crochet. I still do edit crochet books and I still write crochet patterns every so often, and I’m developing a couple classes to teach knitters, specifically, how to crochet, but I make sure to leave lots of room in my professional life to focus on some broader themes and projects, like Mighty Ugly, and freelance writing and editing.
Anna: The internet and social media have revolutionized the DIY movement in many ways. What do you see as the next big thing in online crafting and making?
Kim: Ooh, tough question. I’m not sure if it’s the next big thing or the current reality, but online classes, for sure. There are more and more platforms for online classes, and they’re going to explode in popularity, I think. And I think that as 3D printing becomes increasingly mainstream, the online infrastructure that grows up alongside it will bleed into other DIY-related areas.
Anna: Tell us about Taco Hat TV. How did the idea (and the name) come about?
Kim: Taco Hat TV is a DIY web show my business partner and I desperately want to make. We’re short on cash, so we’re hoping to crowdfund the pilot season through Indiegogo, and then to build on it to create a solid business. Rather than following the expected formula of crafts TV—trying to put a full tutorial for a specific project into a very short segment—our show will focus on building skills and know-how related to all manner of DIY applications, from food to crafts to electronics to plants. We want our show to help people feel more confident and competent to apply their skills to any project, and to learn more on their own.
The name, which we started out using just as a working title, came out of a long meeting Ben and I had. It was near the end of the meeting, and we were hashing out what an episode of the show would look like. Ben described a succession of elements, then waved his hand in the air and said, “And then we show people how to make a taco hat,” and then he kept talking. Once he stopped, we both collapsed in hysterics about taco hats, and we ended up referring to the project as Taco Hat TV after that. When it came time to register a domain name and social media accounts before we launched the Indiegogo campaign, I used Taco Hat for lack of another name. We’ve asked people to help us come up with a better name for the show, but not one person has said anything other than, “I love the taco!” So it seems the title is here to stay. Speaking of, there’s only a couple days left in the campaign, so if you like the idea of a wicked cool web show that’s all about skills and know-how to empower your DIY mojo, please help us make it!
Anna: If you’re like me, you get inspiration overload from the web sometimes. How to you balance staying current with what everyone is making/ talking about and staying focused on your own projects?
Kim: I’ve learned to be okay *not* staying current with what everyone is making or talking about. Sometimes I just need to hole up and do my own thing, and trust that the online world will still be spinning when I check back in. I also trust the great friendships and work relationships I’ve formed over the years; when something comes up that I really should know about or have a say in, someone usually lets me know.
Thank you so much for the interview, Kim! I have a feeling that a few of us are inspired to go make something ugly now!
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