Category: Interviews

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.

kimwerker1Today 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.

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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.

kimwerker4So 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.

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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.

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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!

Interview: Hine Mizushima Shares her Secrets of Animation, Japanese Miniatures, and Working with They Might Be Giants

I am so pleased to share an interview today with Hine Mizushima, one of my all-time favorite craft artists!

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I had the pleasure of meeting her last year when she was in NYC for a needle-felting art show—she was super sweet and answered all of my eager questions as she was installing her pieces. Since then I’ve wanted to get a more in-depth interview with her that didn’t involve me interrupting her work at the same time.

Hine is a Vancouver-based artist and animator with a background in fine arts, which she studied in her home country of Japan. You may have seen her beautiful needle-felted pieces all over craft blogs and Etsy, and her work also appears in many gallery shows, including the upcoming Supahcute Dream Team Show “Art Too Cute For Words,” opening May 12 at Leanna Lin’s Wonderland in LA.

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Detail from one of Hine’s pieces in “Art Too Cute For Words”

Hine’s work has even starred in music videos for They Might Be Giants—videos that Hine herself also directed and animated! So you can see why I am eager to pick the brain of this superstar in the craft art world.

What I didn’t know before this interview is how much Hine’s current work came about through experimentation and chance—to me, her story is an inspiring reminder to be open to new materials and techniques (and technology) and also to be bold in sharing your work with the world!

OK, onto the interview! Read the full thing after the jump.

Continue reading “Interview: Hine Mizushima Shares her Secrets of Animation, Japanese Miniatures, and Working with They Might Be Giants”

Meet Cassidy Clark

I’m excited to feature a dynamic young knitter today! As a designer of adorable knitted toys who is just 15 years old, Cassidy Clark has wowed me with her talent, and after interviewing her, I’m even more charmed. I think you will be too!

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You may have seen Cassidy’s designs on Ravelry. If you’re like me, you’re just as impressed by her photography skills as by her knitting.

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Read the full interview after the jump!

Continue reading “Meet Cassidy Clark”

Interview: Lauren O’Farrell Stitches London, Battles Cancer with Yarn, and Commands a Giant Squid

I’m thrilled to feature one of my knitting heros on the blog today! Lauren O’Farrell is knitting up a storm in the great city of London, and her daring feats with needles and yarn are truly a force to be reckoned with.

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Lauren wears many wooly hats, including president of Stitch London, yarn graffiti artist (allegedly), and she has just written a book! Stitch London: 20 kooky ways to knit the city and more is full of patterns for knitted characters, wearables, and other practical and sometimes silly projects all inspired by you-know-where.

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I met Lauren in person last year when I teamed up with her to knit pigeons in London with the awesome knitters of Stitch London. It was a blast! Her new book has me wistful for that day of knitting in her magnificent city, and the book seemed like the perfect excuse to pick Lauren’s brain about her life as a Londoner and knitting maverick.

Read the interview after the jump!

Continue reading “Interview: Lauren O’Farrell Stitches London, Battles Cancer with Yarn, and Commands a Giant Squid”

Interview: Kristen Rask Talks Crochet, Craft Community, and Being her Own Boss

I’ve been thinking I should do more interviews on this blog. I love to learn more about the people I admire and have an excuse to ask them nosy questions. So I was very excited that my friend Kristen Rask just came out with a new book, which seemed like the perfect opportunity!

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Aside from being an author, Kristen is the owner of Schmancy, the super cool plush and vinyl toy store in Seattle. She’s also president of Urban Craft Uprising, curator of the Plush You! shows, and all around mover and shaker in the world of craft. For her new book, Yummy Crochet, she worked with a group of talented crochet amigurumi designers to come up with 12 crochet food projects! The book comes with a kit (perfect holiday gift for new crocheters, I should think!) and is now available at Barnes & Noble stores and at barnesandnoble.com.

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She even signed this copy for me—how sweet!

OK, here goes with the interview!

Anna: Congratulations on your new pattern book and kit out at Barnes & Noble! Why do you think people are so excited about making crocheted and knitted foods these days?

Kristen: Thanks Anna! Well most people love eating and I think food is such a focal point of all of our lives. Slap a happy face on something you already love and you have got some true love action happening there. Plus I think it’s great because both kids and adults can appreciate it. Kids might like it more because it’s like play food and adults can appreciate its charm. Win win!

Anna: This is not your first crochet book. How did this one come about?

Kristen: For this project, I worked with a third party who makes the book and then shops it out to a publisher. Barnes & Noble ended up buying the first one, Creature Crochet, and it sold so well that they asked to do another one. The funny thing is I pitched the food idea right after Creature Crochet came out, but it seemed like they needed to warm up to the idea of food and initially said no. A few years later they wanted to do it. But working with such a huge book seller means more rules I think, so they requested specific items. I suggested a few others that I thought would be great, but you do what you can, right? I really do think this one is super cute and I am really happy with the end result.

Anna: For someone (like me) who has done a little bit of crochet before, but is not so experienced, would you recommend any specific patterns from your book to start with? And do you have any basic advice about the best materials to use for amigurumi?

Kristen: I learned to knit way before I learned to crochet, and I had a hard time with crochet at first. The movement and tension are different, and it was a hard switch. After I finally gave up and signed up for a class, it came to me pretty quickly. I like the movement of crochet now better than knitting, and for a person that has tight muscles a lot, crochet is not as hard on my body. I think all the patterns are pretty much good for a newbie but I would suggest something like the cookies or donut to start with. You can figure things out a lot faster with crochet it seems. Not that I don’t love knitting still, but amigurumi seems easier with crochet and faster! I’m an instant gratification kinda girl. The other great thing is, cheap yarn, the acrylic kind, is actually best for this kind of work. A little note, don’t use beans to weigh down your amigurumi. Sometimes if they get wet they will actually sprout and that would be sad.

Anna: In addition to designing and making crafts, you also run an entire store in Seattle! What’s the toughest thing about owning your own retail business, and what’s your favorite thing about it?

Kristen: Toughest would be that you have to be there all the time and be responsible for it all the time. If I am sick, I often still have to go..unless I feel like I am on my death bed and then I’ll close. I haven’t had too many Saturdays off in the last 7 years, that kinda sucks. The economy blows, and you always wonder if you are on a sinking ship or if your ship has sailed and you just are living in denial about it. That kinda stuff is hard because I wouldn’t want to go out unless it was what I wanted to do. It would suck if it was the only option, you know?

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Best part is I am my own boss and I am not good at taking orders. I can be a few minutes late and it’s my problem. I can wear whatever I want. I can decide to be lazy and no one is gonna care but me…although then I feel guilty. If a mean person comes in I can tell them where to take their negative nancy attitude and no one is gonna yell at me. It’s all me, and as much as that can be challenging, I wouldn’t change it for the world. I hope I never have to write a cover letter or get interviewed ever again. Or at least I don’t think I do.

Anna: You must have a really interesting perspective on the current crafting climate from running your store and also from your position as president of Urban Craft Uprising, which organizes craft fairs in Seattle. How have you seen craft as a whole change in the past five years, and are there any emerging trends that you’re excited about?

Kristen: I think craft shows have gotten a lot more refined these days. There isn’t a whole lot at a show where people walk around and say “I can make that”…which is totally rude and if you do feel that way, please keep those comments to yourself. There are perhaps less birds these days, ha ha. I am really excited that canning and preserving seem to be all the rage! I love cooking and have rekindled that love since I have moved into a new apartment, so all that stuff is really exciting to me.

I honestly think the best part of being in the craft world is the community. I have made solid relationships with people who I mainly talk with on the internet or have met through a craft show. For instance, I met my friend Michelle (xobruno.com) at a local craft show about 9 years ago. She lives down in Portland and always comes up for Urban Craft Uprising. We have a tradition now of going out one of the nights after the show for drinks and food. I love seeing how she has evolved her work over these years and just think she’s awesome. It’s crazy to think that we became friends from a craft show…crazy awesome that is. And you! It’s fun to come to NYC and go get coffee or a treat…all because of our love for craft and our involvement in it. I can’t imagine a better community to be in and feel so happy to be part of it in any way I can.

Anna: When you have a moment to spare these days, what are you crafting?

Kristen: I am really honored/excited that I was accepted to Crafty Bastards. I have heard amazing things about that show for years and finally bit the bullet and applied. It seems like stiff competition, so I am really excited. SO I have been crafting up a storm for that. I have been making small magnets and pins, pouches, headbands and even ornaments. I am trying to focus on things that I don’t have to charge too much for. I am not a master crafter of any kind, but I do love the act of doing it and if I can make people smile and make a few bucks along the way, all the better.

Thank you so much, Kristen, for taking the time to answer my questions. You’re a great friend and crafter!

World’s Biggest Yarn Stash Update and Interview!

If you’re reading this now, it’s quite possible that the first time you came across my blog was due to a 2007 post titled The World’s Biggest Stash?, in which I featured my mother-in-law Bonney’s sizable collection of yarn. That post, with its five photos of Bonney’s yarn, has become the go-to link on blogs and discussion boards when the topic of stash size comes up, and it still seems to be the undisputed biggest yarn stash in the world.

Since it was three and a half years ago that I blogged Bonney’s stash, I thought it was high time to check in with her and see how her stash is doing. Has it shrunk a bit, or gotten even bigger? See for yourself!

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In addition to being very game for this photo (my idea, I admit), Bonney agreed to answer a few questions about her stash.

Anna: What has changed about your stash since 2007? How much has it grown or shrunk?

Bonney: Unfortunately, it has grown a bit. Not too much, but now that there are so many online shops that carry so many different lines, it’s hard not to be tempted by all the colors and color combinations.

A: If you had to guesstimate, about how many balls of yarn would you say you have?

B: Hmmm, this is a difficult one. Let’s say a few thousand. That’s probably near the ballpark.

A: What is your most prized part of your yarn collection? Is there any yarn that you would rather keep in “mint” condition than use for a project?

B: I have some buffalo yarn that has been in my collection that will be one of the first projects I do in 2011. There’s no yarn I’ll keep mint. I love so many of my sock yarns done by Yarntini and Three Irish Girls. I can’t bear to knit them into socks because I hate the idea of them wearing out. I’d have to say no yarn is off limits.

A: Be honest: Is there any yarn in your stash that you know you’ll never use?

B: There might be, but I was surprised that I used some yarn last year for a yarn bombing that was perfect for that use. [You can see photos of Bonney’s small-town yarn graffiti here.] That yarn might never have been used, but then an opportunity for it came up. I think it’s best to never say never.

A: You said to me that your New Year’s resolution is to knit only from your stash this year. What do you plan to knit?

B: I’m planning on making lots of small shawls to use the beautiful sock yarns and lots of mittens to use all the Cascade solids. I also have some Cascade Superwash to make baby blankets. They are so much fun to try new patterns with. I like having a portable project and tend to get bored with knitting that goes on for too long.

A: Are you hoping to reduce your stash in the long term, or are you just looking to save money on buying yarn this year?

B: My main focus is to reduce the stash. I also have a lot of fabric that needs some attention. It was all purchased because I loved it and I want to take the time now to enjoy it.

A: What started the whole thing? Do you remember your first major yarn purchase?

B: Most of my yarn purchases used to be from big box stores, until one day I stepped into a boutique yarn store for the first time. It was heavenly, and I acquired the first of my stash. I went home and donated four huge bags of yarn that I had from the other stores to the retirement home in the next town. I was hooked on shopping at the specialty stores!

A: Is there any type of yarn that you feel is missing from your stash and you wish you had?

B: I don’t think there’s anything I’m missing.

A: What is your favorite kind of yarn? Is there some material, color, or brand that is simply irresistible to you?

B: My favorite yarn is sock yarn, mostly because the colors are so beautiful. Combinations I would never think of combining are hard to resist.

A: You know that some people who see pictures of your stash think you must have a problem. What do you say to those people?

B: I think people are entitled to their opinion. I’m not too interested in what people say. I’m not hurting anyone and I love to knit for charity. I’ll be knitting some helmet liners for the military this year and some of the blogs I read have causes they knit for. I like to participate in those. Lastly, it’s my hobby!

Thank you so much for sharing your stash with me, Bonney, in more ways than one!