Getting a Grilling: An Interview with Lee Meredith a.k.a. Leethal
Lee Meredith is a blogger, crafter, knit designer, photographer, yarn spinner, recycler and inspire-er (thank you!) to name but a few of her skills! You can keep up with her amazingly creative life at her website Do Stuff! Be sure to check out her ‘Quick Knits’ monthly yarn/pattern club and her self-published e-book ‘Game Knitting’. Thank you Lee for this incredibly detailed and open interview…with your glass of iced coffee at the ready, dive in!
* Describe a typical day in your life.
Hah, there is no “typical” day! But, ok, I’ll try… I am a total night person, and my partner (Pete) works the late shift and doesn’t get home till 10:30 most nights, which puts us on a late schedule, so I usually sleep till 9 or 9:30, then wake up slowly with coffee and email checking, twitter reading, etc, and eat breakfast with Pete. Then he goes to work around noon and I get to work, whatever that means each day – could be knitting to work on designs, could be computer work (blogging, website stuff, bookkeeping stuff, etc), could be yarn-making or working on any of the projects I’m always in the middle of. So, the rest of the day is all up to whatever my priorities are; for example, the week leading up to my monthly club mail-out date is all focused on club stuff (making the yarn, designing the patterns, putting together the extras). If I’m really into a project, like a knit design, or a new item for my shop, then I could spend the entire day on that project. I’ll often take a walk to the grocery store or the post office or something in the middle of the day, to get outside and break things up. If my work is knitting or another kind of crafting, I’ll usually do it on the couch with some Netflix instant movies or bad TV. Then, when Pete gets home at night, we’ll eat dinner together and watch a movie or TV while I usually continue knitting (or crafting, or blogging, or whatever) until bedtime around 1. That was long and rambly, but that’s how my days are!
* How do you juggle the demands of working for yourself?
It’s tough… just today, like many days, I’ve been thinking a ton about what exactly I should be focusing on – it’s always a struggle for me, deciding what needs to be put ahead of everything else. I used to do much more freelancing work, with deadlines, making it easier – the project that’s due first got done first. So, now that I have a bunch of projects, and I’m super excited about releasing all of them, but they all need a ton of my time before they’re ready, I try to figure out what’s the closest to being finished? What will people like most? What will be most profitable for me (gotta pay those bills)? And then there’s all the more day-to-day stuff, like responding to emails (which I am not good at!), shipping out orders, trying to do blog posts a few days a week… so I’ll try to get those kinds of things done first, then focus on the big, long-term projects, but a lot of the time the long-term projects are the ones I’m excited about, so the little stuff will fall behind.
* How would you describe your work?
In all the different kinds of things that I make and design, I hope for there to be at least some element that is unusual, unique, or surprising – this could be the construction method of a knit design, or the materials chosen to make an object, or something having a dual purpose (like my connect-the-dots stitch sets being both an embroidery pattern and a puzzle!)… Color is also something that ties most of my work together – when people think of my designs and works, I doubt they think of black, white, or neutrals!
* Tell us about your favourite piece of artwork/craftwork at the moment.
Of mine? My favorite things are usually my most recent or things I’m currently working on… I love my Shapeshifter design because wearing it is so much fun!
* When faced with the dreaded ‘Blank Page’ how do you get started?
I’ll need to come to a starting point – usually my blank page is for planning my club each month… which is why I love giving each month a theme. The theme becomes my starting point, then I can go from there. If the ideas really aren’t coming and I’m stuck, then the answer is usually brainstorming with Pete – talking with him about the theme, or where I’m stuck, or what I have so far that I can’t turn into a solid idea, always helps me see new directions that weren’t showing before, or he’ll think of some solution I never would have thought of on my own!
* I’m very taken by your often unique approach to knit wear and design. What tips could you give someone who wanted to start designing their own patterns?
I was just improvising knit stuff, without writing anything down, for years before I started trying to actually “design” – there’s a big difference between just improvising something and developing it into a pattern that other people can follow and work from. I think that helped me a lot, to have a good grasp of how to make a thing without a pattern to follow, then eventually I could make a thing and write down what I did, and turn that into an actual pattern. So, I’m not saying that you should spend years before trying to design something, but just don’t rush into it I guess… If you make something you want to turn into design, test it out a bunch yourself, trying it different ways maybe, to see what works best.
* Where do you find inspiration?
The internet – browsing craft blogs, ravelry, flickr, etc – and flipping through craft/art books. Usually an idea will come to me out of nowhere, or emerge from a conversation, but if I’m feeling stuck and need to seek out inspiration, I dig into the online craft world or open a book.
* Describe your workspace.
I just moved, so my studio space isn’t in working order yet – I can use the desk and tables when I need to, but there are boxes everywhere and things aren’t organized yet, so I do most of my work in the living room on the couch. But, once it’s in order, there’s a big desk for computer work, a table for messy kinds of craft work, and another table for sewing and other related stuff, and tons of shelving and drawers. One side of the closet (it’s a converted bedroom) is filled with hanging shoe holder things, which are used to store yarn. There’s a record player, a CD player, a radio, and a cord for my computer or ipod (music is a must, of course!), great lighting (I chose the smaller bedroom to be my studio because it gets better light than the bigger room), and multiple magnet, inspiration, and dry erase boards.
* Who would play you in the film of your life?
Oh gosh, I don’t know… a friend of mine on twitter suggested Katharine Hepburn, if it doesn’t have to be someone living, but I don’t know about that… Maybe Drew Barrymore? I’ve always liked her, and she changes her hair a lot, like I do…
* How do you relax?
If I’m at home and fully relaxing – like watching a movie and doing nothing at the same time – I feel restless and not good most of the time, so my version of relaxing at home is watching a movie and knitting or doing something else at the same time. If I really need to get away from work for awhile, then I have to leave the house – go out for food with Pete or friends, go out to a movie (yeah, I like movies) or anything else out in the world.
* What do you consider your greatest achievement?
Leaving my day job behind to be self-employed doing creative work, and succeeding! When I left my day job over 2 years ago, I really expected to end up getting a part-time job at a yarn shop or something to make ends meet, but with a combination of freelance writing and teaching, and my own business and knit designing, I’ve been able to pay the bills every month – it’s not easy, and I’m lucky to live in a city with a relatively low cost of living, and to have a partner who can help me out if I’m cutting it close… but yeah, I still can’t believe I’m making it work!
~Pretty interesting or interestingly pretty? interestingly pretty
~Rolling Stones or Beatles? beatles
~Boxers or Y-fronts? y-fronts
~Abstract or Realism? abstract
~Blondes or Brunnettes? (or redheads?!) brunnettes
~Clooney or Depp? depp
~Classic or Modern? modern
~Custard or ice-cream? ice-cream
~World Cup or World Series? no sports for me
~What’s your favourite colour? I love all colors!
~When are you happiest? when I’m not stressed about something and I can appreciate how lucky I am
~Tell us a secret. I almost started a Carpenters cover band with my friend Abe many years ago, even though I can’t play any instruments or sing well.