I've been absent on the blogging front for some time now, and the truth is that I've been having a sort of knit-design-related identity crisis. It's not that I haven't been knitting: far from it. I've been working steadily on several designs for the past three months or so, but somehow as each sweater or shawl begins to take shape, I find myself unsure of how it's turning out. It's not that the final product isn't matching the picture in my head—I know how to deal with that, which is rip out and revise. No, my problem lately has been that I'm just not sure whether what I'm ending up with IS what I want, or not. Which makes it really hard to get anywhere. Am I done, or just getting started? Is this a success, or a failure?
A little while ago I realized what's behind this lack of confidence: as is so often the case, the culprit is money. Specifically, it's the question of to what extent I want design work to be my "job" (or a job), and to what extent I want it to be an art project that satisfies other, non-financial requirements. Is it okay to have an art project that makes a little bit of money, but is not my main source of support? Do I want to try to expand Family Trunk Project into more of a full-time job— which would mean teaching more classes, getting loans to publish pattern hard copies or books, traveling to trade shows and trunk shows in order to sell said hard copies? And if I don't want to do those things, does that mean I'm not committed to my art form? Does it mean I should be working on pursuing some other career path—going back to school, or searching out a full-time day job?
Questions like these are challenging enough on their own, but they've also been directly affecting my design process because I haven't been sure what my basic goals are. Will a design be a success if I conceive a project in my mind, then realize it in the physical world? Or will it only be a success if it sells a certain number of copies? If the latter, what is the magic number?
What's more, these questions were giving me designer's-block because I've been feeling conflicted about the TYPES of design concepts I should be generating and pursuing. The other day I made a sketch of a design that was very exciting to me—the kind of challenge I'm not entirely sure how to execute, but feel 90% sure I could crack. My brain started humming with all the different approaches. Then I thought about trying to grade it for my normal range of sizes, and got a sinking feeling—the cardigan yoke isn't modular, so while I might be able to figure out two or three sizes, my normal ten or twelve was out of the question. Combine a small number of sizes with a fairly advanced pattern, and would anyone buy it? Did I care? Since I didn't know whether I cared or not, into the hibernation pile it went. Like I often do when stymied in my fiber-related life, I knitted blanket squares instead. Knit, knit, knit on the blanket squares.
The other night, though, a conversation with a friend got me thinking. He has his own creative project in the works, and he's looking for a way to finance it so that he can take his time, not cut any corners, concentrate on doing his project right without worrying about money all the time.
It occurred to me that what he wants is exactly what I already have.
I have a day-job I genuinely enjoy, which pays me enough money to pay my mortgage and all my basic expenses. I'm done by 12:30 every day. Sure, we could all use more money, but basically, anything I make on top of my paycheck is icing on the cake. At the same time, I have my afternoons free to work on whatever art project I want, however I want. If I can't take the time to explore complete artistic freedom now, when I have arranged the time and money to allow myself to do so, when WILL I be able to?
Anything could happen in the future—I might decide to go back to school, or have a baby, or move to another country, or open some kind of shop. Who knows? But for now, I have a precious space to delve into what most interests me about making things with my hands. So, an early New Year's resolution: throughout 2011, I will prioritize experimentation and personal interest level over any concern over a pattern's popularity or financial profit. I will still work with test-knitters and make my patterns the best I can, because that's only fair (and continuing to improve my pattern-writing is a personal goal as well). But if I end up putting out a pattern in only a few sizes, or an idiosyncratic design that is likely only to interest me, so be it. This is my time to explore my own creativity. Hopefully other people will find the process interesting.
Experimentation! If not now, when?
Photos feature squares from my slowly-progressing Barn-Raising Quilt. While cogitating on all these weighty Life Issues, I've been knitting squares and joining them together. I now have 31 total, sixteen of which are crocheted together. I think I'm shooting for a final total of 80 squares, but really—who knows?