As many of you will know, I’ve hit a few rocks in the river of life lately. I thought it’s about time to write a little from the heart about what is going on chez Kiwiyarns, and give you a few more insights into what will be happening over the next 12 months or so.
I often think that life is like a river, and we are in a canoe going down it. There are smooth bits and rough bits and bits where you turn the corner and go ‘whoa!!’ (in either a horrified scream or delightedly excited shout). It helps to be observant of the landscape as you travel this river, and take clues from it about what you’re going to encounter next so you can try to paddle the right way. It also helps to try to plan ahead to have the right gear in order to survive.
When I was made redundant late last year, I thought through all the possible scenarios that could occur down the next branch of this river, and made plans to avoid the very worst one: ending up on state “benefits” after my small redundancy pay ran out. This was not the place I ever wanted to be ever again after the unfortunate experiences of trying to find a job during the global financial crisis. The prospect had me lying awake at night in terror at the thought of being in that awful situation.
To avoid this scenario and because I’ve been thinking of doing something like this for a while, I enrolled in a full-time programme through distance learning. The idea was that if a job came along before studies commenced, I could opt to learn part-time, or even park the idea for a while. Doing this enabled me to be mentally prepared to go with the flow, whichever way events took me (and seal off the branch to that dead end called “Solo Parent Support”.) If I ended up a student, with the prospect of a better future after graduation, that would be a much more productive and positive place to be. I knew that all my self-confidence, resilience, life joy and my child’s health and quality of life would be drained away through the sanctions imposed while trying to stay alive under the enforced poverty that is state assistance. I would also have to suffer all the associated negative impressions people have of others who are on the ‘benefit’ as it is called here.
As it is, I’ve hit a few rocks that were anticipated: a job has failed to materialise. I don’t have public sector work experience, and about 90% of the advertised work I have seen in my field lately is in this area. I’m also concerned about the negative connotations of redundancy.
Potential employers often suspect that a redundancy is a soft firing. In my case it was because of the financial situation that my former employer found itself in after it was slapped with a requirement to pay back millions of dollars in over funding. I was one of quite a few let go at the time. I do feel quite bitter, particularly as I had only been there for just over six months. I feel that I am being unfairly punished for the mistakes of others that had nothing at all to do with me.
Although living in a semi-rural area has helped immensely with living costs, it has possibly also negatively influenced potential employer reactions (“she’ll always be late because the train is not reliable… will she be able to stand the long commutes every day? etc.”) There are always so many factors involved in not being selected for an interview.
This week, the river of life delivered me to education’s shores. I am now a full-time student, undertaking a Postgraduate Diploma in Project Management. It dovetails nicely with my current qualification in business management and my career skills (marketing/communications) and that should hopefully mean that by the time I graduate in a year’s time, I will have many more job options, and a new career path. I am looking forward to being in formal education again!
Living on a student allowance is going to extremely hard. What I get covers rent and food. And that’s it. I’ll need to find a part-time job to cover all life’s other essentials. Hopefully that kind of job will be easier to find.
Another positive in all of this is that I will have time to continue to design. Part of me is chagrined that despite cultivating a profile, designing is still very much a hobby. In analysing it though, I am aware that I haven’t exactly had much energy to devote to it in the past few years in between working practically full-time and attending to the needs of my children. It also hasn’t helped that I have no release from childcare responsibilities (my family all live a long way from here, and my son’s father lives in the UK) to be able to attend things like knitting events or even knit nights, where I could meet people and in doing so also raise my profile as a designer. So there is a bit of ‘why bother, you’ll never succeed in this area until those things change’ think happening.
The thing is, I like designing. I can’t help myself but create things that I like and want to wear. And then I think that I should share those designs with you because others might like it too. I have decided that I am going to keep on doing it, as designing gives me intellectual stimulation and challenge and a sense of achievement and joy to see the finished product. Seeing my designs being enjoyed by others it a wonderful thrill. This kind of happiness cannot be bought and is rare to find in the world of working. It helps to keep me emotionally balanced.
My definition of success therefore needs to be seen from a different perspective. It cannot be defined in terms of financial return. Until I am able to travel and meet people, and until I have dedicated time to devote to designing every day, I know I will never make a living from designing. And that is okay, because I understand the reason why, and it’s not the purpose of my work. Perhaps I don’t want it to be my job in any event. To design properly for a living and keep a constant source of patterns coming to keep up follower interest, you cannot knit for leisure. I am not ready to give up my fun knitting and turn it all into work just yet. Knitting for a living also requires you to supplement your income from designing with things like teaching. I don’t have the time for that either at the moment.
Some of you have already pointed out that I don’t charge very much for my designs and this could improve my income. This is a point of frustration for me. I know that my designs are worth more. I could charge “market rate” for them, because I know that they are quality work. I’ve always been on the side of keeping things affordable though, which is why I initially made everything free. Not everyone can afford to pay NZ$25 – $30 for a single skein of yarn, or over $100 for the materials for a garment, or NZ$10 for a pattern (at current exchange rates, I’ve even seen some patterns well into the NZ$15 mark!)
Knitting is not an exclusive activity for the well-off. It should never be turned into that.
There is a range of prices for yarn: you can buy very cheap and not very good yarn; you can buy good quality yarns at reasonable prices, or go all the way to paying high prices for luxury yarns. I’m not sure what is happening on the pattern front though. It seems that patterns are universally getting more and more expensive, which is unfortunate because it does contribute a lot to the cost of knitting. On the other hand, I am also painfully aware of how much time and energy it takes to get a pattern to release stage, and that effort does need to be compensated and recognised. As the market for patterns is heavily saturated, most designers usually only get one go at making a return from their pattern: at release. I suspect this is one of the reasons for the higher prices.
I may end up having to raise my prices, as I notice how ridiculously under market rates I am. That is not a good thing either: potential purchasers can be known to think, “oh it’s too cheap, there must be something wrong with it.” I also need to ask for more just so that I can afford to keep knitting (proceeds from designing will be the sole source of funds for yarn, tools and pattern purchases from now on until my financial situation improves and I can again make ‘capital contributions’!) From that perspective, I am glad and feel lucky that I am a recognised designer. If I didn’t have the small source of funds that I get from designing and if I didn’t have my well-cultivated stash, I would have to give up knitting.
So that’s it. Life for the next 12 months is very likely to be study, designing and part-time/contract work (the final piece of gear I need for this particular river branch). I’m crossing my fingers it all works out. It’s going to be full-on! I’m also very glad to be part of organising Yarnville – for once, I’m going to be able to attend a knitting event! Hoorah! And as an additional plus from my son’s perspective, he gets to come home straight after school instead of going to after school care.
I am very grateful to the very kind knitters from all over the world who took some yarn off my hands this week. It paid for the rent, and gave me the small bridge I needed between now and when my student allowance starts. Thank you all again! The global community of knitters is one that I am constantly thankful for in so many ways. You are awesome.
This week brought in the Chinese New Year. I wish you all Good Luck, Good Health and Happiness in this Year of the Monkey! May all your endeavours and efforts be justly rewarded!