Friends at Camp

As a member of 2015's MATS Bootcamp, I've met lots of lovely people.  Some of them wanted to do a blog-share type thing as many of them are just starting blogs, re-booting their careers, and/or starting new careers.  I'm re-booting my illustration work, and thought it would be a nice thing to do.  I was nominated by Melissa Iwai for a Liebster Award which functions as a kind of internet chain letter, but with the intention of spreading the word on small blogs and the people behind them.  The Liebster Award asks that the recipient share 11 random facts about themselves, answer 11 questions, and nominate 11 other blogs with less than 200 followers.

11 Random Facts About Me

1.  I'm really short, but people who haven't met me in person often think I'm tall.

2.  My favorite dessert is Tiramisu.  This happened as a result of a neighbor telling me he tries it at every restaurant that offers it on the menu... and then I was hooked, too.

3.  Although coffee ice-cream is my favorite flavor of ice-cream, I don't drink coffee.

4. People are often confused about my accent when they hear me speak English, Spanish, or German.  It seems like people hear an accent in each language, but no one seems to correctly guess my origins. That's most places except my hometown of Miami, where others have a similar Cuban-American accent.

5.  I really love dancing.  I did Irish Dance for 3 years before the baby came, and have done all kinds of different dances - tap, jazz, swing, cheerleading, and even Mexican Folkloric ballet (see photo above).

6.  I'm kind of a silly person.  Okay, I'm just silly and I love bright, saturated colors.

me wearing everyone's hats, purses, and accessories at Oktoberfest
7.  I can type really fast (65-70 wpm).

8. My hair has been just about every length from pixie-cut-short to waist-length.

9.  I love making dumplings of all kinds (gyoza, bao, shumai, etc.).

10. I was filmed for a deodorant commercial, but it wasn't picked up and it never saw the light of day.

11. I love using ellipses... and ellipses ().

Melissa's 11 Questions:

1.  What are your art goals for 2015?
I would like to make more marketable art.  This includes trying to master pattern repeats, source packing materials for shipping my work, and opening an online shop of some kind.  I'd love to see my work on fabric especially.  It would be a real thrill to see my work in someone's quilt or on their clothing.

2.  What medium do you use?
I use pen, ink, color pencils, watercolors, acrylic, pretty much any mark-making tool within grabbing distance... and Illustrator.

3.  What is your process of late for creating a piece of art from concept to finish?
I research> sketch > refine > sketch > select > refine > finalize > publish on blog and intermittently share images of my process on various social media outlets.

4.  How did you come to be an artist? Did you do other things before this?  How did you know you wanted to become one?
I have been so many things while still illustrating.  I've been a classroom teacher, scenic artist, prop painter, knitting pattern designer, in-house illustrator, and so many little random jobs in between.  I knew I wanted to do something creative, and I've always loved working with my hands.

5.  Have you traveled much?  What is your favorite city, town, or place and why?
I have traveled a lot and have lived in a lot of different places across the U.S. and in the EU.  Fave places - Santa Fe, Innsbruck, and Park Güell (Barcelona).  All 3 places are surreal. They're real places that feel like a story book or fantasy become reality.

6.  What do you do when you get frustrated with your work?
Back in my theatre days, I used to angry-cry.  It's a term a friend of mine came up with to describe me when I was in set design during technical rehearsals and things went badly wrong.  These days, though, I don't angry-cry very often.  Usually, when I sense that something is stymieing my progress, I switch gears and work on something different and then come back to it with fresh eyes.  Often, I will switch from digital to hand illustration or vice-versa to keep things fresh.  My time is better spent taking a break than bulldozing a project into submission.

7.  How do you manage your time -- that is, how do you carve out time in your life to do your art?
I use Google calendar a lot.  It's on my phone and I also use the project management software Asana to help me manage my time.  I'm a full-time illustrator & designer, so I divide my time between designing for knits or graphics, and illustrating.  My baby is at home with me, so I try and work in chunks of time working around his daily routine (and non-routine).

8.  What is something you are grateful for?
I'm grateful for my relatively good health and that of my family.

9.  What is an inspiring quote that you'd like the share?
"The secret to getting ahead is getting started." --Mark Twain

10.  What is the best art tip/advice you've been given?
One of my friends told me to "Stop waiting for the perfect time.  There is no perfect time." And, they were/are right!  There's something to be said about timing, but waiting for the perfect moment to start following your dreams is a trap.

11.   What would you tell a child who says they want to become an artist when they grow up?
Do it.  Draw, draw, draw.  Paint, paint, paint.  Make, make, make.

11 Artists from the MATS Bootcamp:

Nadine G. Messier

11 Questions for the next takers:

1.  What are your art goals for 2015?
2.  What medium do you use?
3.  How do you keep your projects and paper-flow organized?
4.  When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
5.  If you could see your work anywhere in this world, where would that be?
6.  Where do you like to work?
7.  What are your favorite resources for learning new skills?
8.  Do you follow any other art or illustration sites?
9.  Are there any quotes or words of inspiration that you keep close when you work?  What are they?
10.  What do you do when you can't figure out the solution to a problem in your work?
11.  What advice would you give to someone who wanted to be an artist?

Indie Gift-Along Interview 2 of 2: Ambah O'Brien

As part of Ravelry's Indie Design Gift-Along, I'm interviewing two knitwear designers. In the first interview we met Sarah Jordan (PAKnitWit).  In today's interview we meet Ambah, ambahobrien on Ravelry.

Mirri Collection, Ambah O'Brien

Hello, Ambah!  Welcome to my blog.  Just in case people don't know who you are... Who are you? Where are you? 
Hello I'm Ambah, and I design under my own name. I am an Australian and live in regional Victoria - about an hour away from Melbourne, in a vibrant artistic community.

Sounds lovely to live in an artistic community.  How did you come to design hand-knits?
I am an artist and always making, knitting has certainly captured my imagination and it makes sense for me to make designs based on my ideas. Initially I made some patterns for fun, to try out ideas, encouraged by a positive response I find myself completely addicted to manifesting my ideas into designs!

easy knitted bangle (free pattern!), Ambah O'Brien

Mirri Cowl, Ambah O'Brien
I love your aesthetic, Ambah!  What inspires your designs? 
I am inspired by everything. A need for an item, for example I wanted to knit my son a hooded jacket. Sometimes a yarn gives rise to an idea - I designed my Dreamy Valentine shawl after inspiration from the beautiful Valentine colorway in some Dream in Color yarn I had. Other times I am inspired by fashion, art, nature - life in general really; ideas pop into my head and I go to sleep dreaming about how to make it.

Maroo Mitts, Ambah O'Brien
Do you find yourself working often in a specific style? 
Not really, I love variety. Though as a new designer perhaps a style will emerge.

Magine Shawl, Ambah O'Brien

What is your favorite part of designing?
I do enjoy the whole process...apart from when I am tearing my hear out over something! Its so exciting when I realize my idea is working.

Who are your design heroes? 
How can I choose, I really find something to admire in everyone. I am fond of Kaffe Fassett's amazing work, I love the creativity and energy of Stephen West, I admire Veera Välimäki's beautiful designs. Gosh that is just a few names when I could easily mention a 100 more!

What do you see yourself doing/exploring in 2014?
I have more color work ideas, as well as being inspired by texture - particularly lace designs. I have a cute child's sweater I am mid process with that I am looking forward to finishing and perhaps some ladies cardigans - a personal favourite garment of mine.

Dreamy Valentine, Ambah O'Brien
I can't wait to see what you come up with in 2014! Thank you for stopping by, Ambah!
If you'd like to see the Ambah's latest work, check out her website:

- - -

And, readers, as a thank you from Ambah, she's giving away one of her patterns which you can see here. So the winner of this giveaway will receive the pattern of their choice from Ambah's collection, but even if you don't win, check out her free patterns:  Tassel Necklace and Easy Knitted Bangle.  They'd make a lovely holiday gift!

To enter the giveaway, use the Rafflecopter Widget below and click to enter. Simple as that! The giveaway ends on Monday.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Indie Gift-Along Interview 1 of 2: PAKnitWit

Today I'm doing something a little different.  As part of Ravelry's Indie Design Gift-Along, I'm interviewing two knitwear designers. In this first interview, we get to meet Sarah Jordan also known as PAKnitWit on Ravelry!

Mint Chocolate Mitts, Sarah Jordan (photo: © Interweave Knits/Harper Point)

Hi Sarah, and welcome to my blog!  I'm a very curious person, and love to know how others came to this profession... So, I'll start with an easy one.  How did you come to design hand-knits?

I am, admittedly, an obsessed knitter. I learned to knit when I was about 7 years old and was spending a week with my aunt and uncle in Michigan. My aunt had knit for me since I was a baby, and I suppose I expressed enough interest in learning during that week that she put some straight needles and some squeaky orange acrylic in my hands and showed me the basics. I didn't knit much other than simple scarves and the occasional hat until I was in grad school in Philadelphia and lived about a block from Rosie's Yarn Cellar. I was in a pretty intensive grad program, so I started doing a lot of knitting to relieve the stress. I taught myself a lot from the Internet at that point.
After I moved back home and started work, I continued to knit during my evenings and weekends, and that's really when I got good and obsessed, particularly with sock knitting (I'm a self-proclaimed recovering sock addict). During the day, I'm an editor/proofreader for a marketing department, which doesn't have a lot of space for creativity, so I still see knitting as my creative outlet. I also started spinning about six years ago, which has only added to my yarn stash.
I started designing because I got an idea of something I wanted to knit but couldn't find an existing pattern for it. I found that I liked the process so much that I couldn't stop. Most of my designs come about the same way -- I'll get a very specific vision of a item I want to make but am unable to find a pattern out there that looks exactly like the picture in my head. I still wish I had more time to do it (in addition to my full-time job, I have a young daughter, so my time is really limited), but for now, it's something I do to keep my brain working during evenings and weekends.

Newlin Socks, Sarah Jordan

Scullers Socks, Sarah Jordan

And it looks like you've been keeping very busy! 
What inspires your designs?

Inspiration seems to come from everywhere. Sometimes it's from machine-made items that I see on people I pass on the street. Sometimes it's geometric patterns in upholstery or carpeting or wallpaper. Sometimes an image just pops in my head as I'm in that state of half consciousness just before falling asleep (and of course in those instances I have to wake up and jot down some notes so I can remember it the next day). In all cases, I design things that I would want to wear, be they garments or accessories. One technique I can't seem to get away from is stranded colorwork. I love how even with a simple pattern, the knitting looks so much more complex and involved when you add a second color.

Tiled In Cowl, Sarah Jordan
What is your favorite part of designing?

I think my favorite part of designing is starting with an image in my head and then seeing it come to life in yarn. A pretty close second is when someone else knits one of my patterns and loves the finished project.

Who are your design heroes?

I'm really inspired by many other designers, especially those who are so generous with their thoughts and experiences on Ravelry. I feel very lucky to be able to interact with designers like Julia Trice, Nina Machlin Dayton, Marnie MacLean, and Ysolda Teague as easily as I'd interact with a coworker or friend. Honestly, any designer who contributes to the discussions in the Ravelry designer groups is my hero because they're all helping those of us who are (relatively speaking) just getting started.

What do you see yourself doing/exploring in 2014?

As to next year, one of my big goals for myself is to figure out how to use my handspun more often, because frankly it's starting to take over my house! It can be hard to design with handspun because it can be inconsistent and often doesn't fall neatly into the traditional weight categories, so I can see this type of designing resulting in recipe-type projects rather than "normal" patterns. I also want to tackle the long list of patterns that have been on my "to design" list for way too long. I think I may be moving into a cable phase, because some cabled projects are at the top of that list!

Amberson Hat, Sarah Jordan

Sarah, thank you for taking the time and introducing yourself to my blog readers.  Good luck with developing your patterns for your handspun yarns!  Have a Happy Holiday!

Readers, if you'd like to see more of Sarah's work you can find it here on Ravelry, or you can read her blog here:

- - - -

Stay tuned because next week we're having a giveaway and meeting Ambah of Ambah|Knitting Design!