The Many Hats of Making a Living

Samples of my work from graphic design classes

Samples of my work from graphic design classes

Making a living in the fiber arts is tough. Everybody’s path is different, but mine seems to involve many different types of work. And it is interesting to see how things I’ve picked up along the way in my life, side explorations, even, are becoming useful.

Back when the discipline of software quality assurance was in its infancy, I worked for a company called Interleaf. It was a special place to work, so much so that people who moved on stayed in touch on a mail list called “Interleft.” One of the ways it changed my life was by exposing me to the world of graphic designers and publishers, to fonts and formatting, leading and layout, to indexing and tables of content and the list of effective pages.

It took a while for me to realize one of the things I loved about that job was creating test documents: trying to think like our users, and arrange elements on a page and within documents.  After moving to California, I took some graphic design classes at various UC extension schools, learning more about typography and principles of graphic design (aside: mash together Robin Williams’ memorable principles acronym and the advertising slogan for milk, and ask yourself: “Got CRAP?” ;-).

Photo of Real World Illustrator 7 by Deke McClelland

Deke McClelland’s book was my first guide to Illustrator’s features.

I also had to learn something about using Adobe Illustrator. It was fun, learning how to make shapes, cut holes in them, size and flip type on a path, and MORE! One of class assignment was to collect our work into a book, and get it bound. Fascinating…

But I never did anything with what I learned. I stayed safely in software for many years… until  the move to Fiber World.

I began working in the industry by teaching at the LYS. That lead to designing small projects for classes. Which lead to designing for publication. Which, because I don’t mind numbers, think spreadsheets are cool, and like thinking about ways to present information on a page (c.f. Interleaf experience), lead to tech editing.

When I started tech editing, my familiarity with Illustrator came in handy: I could draw schematics and charts for patterns.  But because I always want to know EVERYTHING about how tools work, I used my lynda.com subscription (which I got to learn iMovie (to make this video) and WordPress (for this site ;)) to learn MORE. Video being the new book, you see… (nice to come across my former “teacher” Deke McClelland on lynda.com; he’s as good on video as he was in print).

So, circling back around:

Near the end of last year I got a request for proposals from Coats and Clark, looking for projects to showcase their new Sizzle cord (it’s really cool). I came up with some necklaces created using twisting and plying techniques. Other designers used macramé knotting techniques to make colorful friendship bracelets with Sizzle.

And I was asked if I could create illustrations for the techniques. That’s a bit more than an intarsia chart or sweater schematic…

Hemstitch illustration

KLITCH hemstitch illustration

Could I deliver? Could I draw illustrations that were good enough? I’d done some illustrations for my KLITCH class that made me happy (after watching those Illustrator videos on lynda.com, ha ha). But this, this was for someone else. Did I know enough to do it the “right way?”

A very good friend and former colleague once told me, as he saw me hesitating, on the brink of starting something: “Beth, you already know what you need to know. Just do it.”

So I did.

2-ply Z-twist cord illustration

The end result seems to do the trick. I tried to keep it simple, not overcomplicate either the end result or my working process. I hope the illustrations help crafters learn how to knot and twist cord; I learned a lot in creating them.

And now I have another hat I can wear.

Split-Ply Darning illustration

 

2 thoughts on “The Many Hats of Making a Living

  1. Can’t wait to see it! And I wish I could hear the story in person, Thomas. Miss you, Anke and the Akvo crowd very much. A Skype catch up sometime, perhaps? :)

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