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The Prime Minister and Editor frequently have the same reaction to designs sent to Patternfish for posting. Our reactions? Awe, delight, desire! One design we were both speechless about (an admittedly unusual state for either of us) was the Bergere de France Trapeze-line Jacket featured as a Landmark Design in the July newsletter.
Response was so positive that we’ve decided to add the Prime Minister’s and Editor’s Choices of the Month to the newsletter.
In this issue ...
From the Prime Minister's Desk
Wherein Julia answers the question:
Every reason: genetics, work experience, social justice... but mostly because I wanted to use it myself, and it didn't exist; I had to make it up.
Patternfish was incorporated in October 2006-- almost a year to the day after my mother's death. She had quilted, tatted, crocheted, sewed, hemstitched, knitted, needlepointed, and done many other kinds of handwork for as long as I can remember. My mom wasn't a designer, but a superb executrix of patterns-- a very careful 'follower' with extraordinary skills. She's the only person I've ever known who tatted. Tatting is a series of very small knots. If you make a mistake, you can't take it out. She was very good at it. That says a lot about her.
My dad was a lifelong entrepreneur who had a degree in Engineering Physics from the University of Toronto, but as an Aquarius, he was only interested in starkly new, groundbreaking tech. He opened up Hewlett Packard's first office in Canada, but HP was so well-run that he got bored, and moved to Atari before going on to co-found Geac Computer in the 70's, and Intelex Corporation in the 80's. One of the great things about my dad was that every day was 'take your daughter to work day'. I got to see how he was always, always excited about the breakthroughs that were going on at his various companies. One of them, Geac, was the first Canadian company, perhaps in the world, to make bank transactions interactive and on-line instead of batch processing them overnight. He would say with great excitement, "Joob, these guys are doing some of the most innovative work in the world." That's what I grew up with, and it soaked into my bones-- an excitement and deep reverence for talent. Luckily I get to experience that at Patternfish every day. My mom and dad (both now dead) live every day in Patternfish, too.
In my work life, I spent ten years as a rep in Canadian yarn distribution and worked with scores of retailers. I also worked regular shifts as a yarn store clerk throughout that time and became familiar with the buying habits of end customers as well as retailers. I became an accomplished knitter, an executrix like my Mom, but also like her, not a designer by nature. But at Patternfish, we're about the designers/publishers.
Pattern designers have been, in general, severely underpaid in relation to their skills and the importance of their work to the industry. If the designer is lucky, he or she may land 12 design contracts a year each requiring 50 to 80 hours of highly specialized work. At the currently handsome rate of $600 US each, he or she will earn $7200 a year. When I discovered this as a rep, it made my blood boil. Designers can be responsible for many thousands of dollars of yarn sales. I thought that if they got paid on a commission basis, like reps, it would be a much fairer deal for them.
I also observed that really excellent designers were often lousy at self-promotion: often shy, sometimes inarticulate, and frequently far too modest. (Check out Katherine Matthews, Barbara Gregory, and Bernice Vollick-- there are probably scores of others too that I haven't met yet.) I, on the other hand, was a lousy designer, but quite skilled at promoting the great work of others. I tell you, my heart swelled at the thought of being able to help these talented people succeed and receive what they deserve-- and also be able to promote their work as classy and valuable. It was practically a patriotic duty. I still really actively love that part.
Next month: more about the early days of Patternfish.
Designer of the Month: