I’ve seen a LOT of knit artists on Etsy but few have the pizazz and style of Lora from Bonnie’s Cinematheque. She’s taken her art form to a whole new level and as such her business is thriving. I knew you’d love to hear her story and advice.
Can you take us on the journey of your creative career path so far?
I think it won’t be something new and original if I tell you that I started to create clothing and invent images when I was a child, first for my dolls and then for myself. I think that all creative people feel their potentials at an early stage.
It happened so that I haven’t studied arts or clothes design but, as I realize now, I was always searching for something distantly creative. I studied history, specializing in “history of arts,” and informatics, choosing mostly seminars dedicated to web-design. But only after my second child has been born, and I again started to think what should I do for a living, I tried to transform my hobby into a main occupation.
But this hasn’t happened immediately. The couple of years I’ve spent at home with the baby, I was thinking it over: gathering information, trying various options, I even traveled to Vietnam, where a little collection has been made after my sketches (which taught me that I don’t want to refuse myself the joy of producing things with my own hands- meaning that I want to have an atelier where I myself should work too), I attended to some courses about how to start your own business.
My advice for everybody who’s thinking about turning their hobby into a real job to earn your living: don’t hurry, take your time – your dream won’t be fulfilled immediately anyway.
Gather as much information as you can, make a test-shop online, gain some strength and inspiration, and only when you feel that you’re ready – go on!
What has been the biggest challenge you’ve overcome so far in your business?
The biggest problem when you’re starting your business is to manage it the right way – so you can move on. Creating new models and new collections is a pleasant part, and for me it was also an obvious one. But the ability to know when it’s time to upgrade your production facilities, where you have to optimize your technologies so you don’t work at a loss, at which point it becomes necessary to hire people who should help you in certain processes – all that you learn intuitively, and normally you can’t avoid making mistakes. That’s the most complicated part in conducting a business for me right now.
What has been the biggest ‘fist-pump’/successful moment for you so far?
I can’t highlight a certain moment, there were quite a couple of them, pleasant and inspiring: an article in the American magazine Belle Armoire, an article in the ETSY blog recommending my shop, an offer to cooperate with a shop. There are all such sudden rewards you get for your work, they make you believe that things you do are really worth something. But every purchase at my shop is still an exiting moment for me.
Do you ever have doubts as to your future creative direction? Are there things you yearn to achieve, but haven’t yet found the time for?
In his book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft Stephen King gives a great example on how a book is being created. You watch some casual things happen around, they get somehow deposited in your memory, so you even not necessarily realize it’s happening, but at a certain point, you get some new observation, all the things from before fit together – and you know that this is it – the new ideal, the new image you’ve been looking for. And when the image in your head gets its form, then you don’t have any doubts whatsoever.
As for the ideas – of course, I have some of them stocked in my head, because I haven’t got time to realize them right now. But this could be a good proof too: not every idea you store for later proves to be that good after time passes.
I get some ideas as a ‘gift’ from my customers. I always pay a lot of attention to that. For example, I use some props for my photo session, without any second thought, (like putting real yarn-balls into model’s hair), and after I get a number of emails asking where can one buy it, I realize that it’s time to start producing them myself.
Are there times when your creativity and inspiration seem to disappear? How do you handle that?
Normally, exactly the opposite happens: I want to make something new, but instead, I have to knit one and the same sweater for the 100th time, because something fit together in the universe, and it suddenly gained immense popularity.
It makes me proud, of course, and it’s fun to think that I could go to NYC, Tokyo or London, and in any of these cities I have a chance to see somebody wearing my sweater. But on the other hand – it is the moment I mentioned above, a moment when you should think about hiring somebody to help you make these numerous replica of the old model, while you get your time to think of the new one…
How do you balance your work with the rest of your life ~ what does a typical day in your life look like?
I love my job, and I happily dedicate to it not only a normal 8-hours working shift, but every minute of my time. My husband is a screenwriter – it means he’s an artist with no ‘working hours’ too, so I don’t have to explain him why I can’t finish my work at exactly 5 pm. In this sense, we’re a perfect match: we can sit for 20 hours one against the other, doing the work we both love, stopping for a little chat once in a while. Luckily, we have a 3-years old son who gives our day a little bit more of a structure, and makes it look more like a day in a normal family.
What has been the best marketing move you’ve ever made for your own business?
Professional photography. Buying things online, one can judge them on the basis of one thing only: the visual. He can’t touch it, smell it, try it. Your item could be great, gorgeous, prodigious – but bad pictures give a client no chance to appraise it.
It is a matter of dispute, how ‘proper’ photos should look like: should an item be photographed with a clear background, so you don’t divert one’s attention from it and don’t bind it to a certain style, or you should have an integral image, where every detail on a picture helps creating it. I’ve seen a lot of beautiful shops using both clear and figurative photos, it’s the matter of taste and imagination only. But a photo absolutely must fulfill it’s main mission: one should immediately want the thing he/she sees on the picture.
What is one piece of advice you’d like to give fellow makers about running a successful creative business?
We live in a time which is rewarding and thankless at the same time. Internet and a lot of platforms (etsy, dawanda, zibbet) gives us an oportunity to tell the world about ourselves quite easily. But this easiness could be misleading – for at the same time it’s making the competition enormous. That’s why it is very important to think very earnestly about things you do.
I never allowed myself to take my job light-mindedly, I never thought of myself as an hobby-handmaker, one of the crowd who’s registered on some platform. From the first day on, I tried to work like every minute I could get a call from Gallerie Lafayette or Selfridges, asking something like: We are thinking about representing some new designers, could we see your work?
Where do you see yourself in 5 years time?
Gallerie Lafayette…J Seriously, a small niche-label, and customers who see the world a little bit the way I see it. This makes me happy now and it will make me happy in 5 years, and in 10 years too.
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