"I want to try EVERYTHING": Q&A with Lesley Anne Robinson
If you have any interest in brioche, you've almost certainly noticed Lesley Anne Robinson's designs over the past year or so. Colourful, playful and very very NOW, they make you itch to grab the most colourful skeins in your stash and make magic happen. And if their intrinsic beauty isn't enough to charm you – hard to imagine, but let's pretend – you might be won over by the references: a homage to Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia; an exceptionally pretty variant pussyhat.
1. You’re a work-at-home mom with two kids (how old?) – how do you manage your time? You’ve been super productive in just two years of self-publishing, I need your secrets!
I love being a work-at-home-mama (WAHM)!! My kids are both boys, my 5 year-old is now in Kindergarten, and my 3 year-old is still at home. It has definitely gotten easier this year, with my oldest in school! I also feel extremely lucky because my husband is a college professor with a very flexible schedule. So we sort of split the week with work time, as he only has to be on campus certain days, AND has so much time off with holidays and summers! I would say that has really helped me to stay productive as a WAHM, having extra help with the childcare. When I first started designing, my husband was actually home all the time, doing pure research. This helped so much when both boys were home.
What are my secrets!! Well, I am constantly knitting, and I always have multiple projects on my needles. I like to have different projects going for different moods! Most of them are usually some form of brioche knitting, but I also like to have non-brioche projects so I can take little brioche breaks. Even when I am taking care of my kids, I have my knitting with me. It’s so portable, and easy to pick up and put down. I usually take all of my pattern notes in a notebook as I’m working out a new design, and then transfer it to the computer whenever I get a free moment. That way I can take it with me anywhere, even to the park or swim lessons, or the school pick-up line! I also love having selfish knitting projects going as well as new design work, whether it’s something for my own wardrobe, or a gift for a loved one. Since moving down to a sub-tropical climate, I rarely get to wear a lot of my own design samples. It has also affected what I want to design!
2. What motivates you?
I design because I MUST. That might sound weird, but what motivates me the most is that when I have an idea, I NEED to create it. Does that make any sense? [RW: Yup... yup, I'm familiar with that!] I am inspired by so many different things, and have sketchbooks full of ideas and new designs. I actually went to college for Interior Design, but fell in love with the fibre arts while I was there. It is my true passion, and I think that love is what motivates me the most.
3. You have a very coherent brand – colourful, quirky but not contrived, fun. And of course lots of brioche! Did you always have a clear vision of your design aesthetic? Is the brioche trend here to stay?
Thank you so much! Before I started publishing my designs, I knew I wanted to have a brand name that would be funky and different. Knit Graffiti actually came from a spin-off of my first Etsy shop, which I created when I graduated from college: Pink Graffiti. I actually named my first published pattern as a sort of homage to that shop. As far as aesthetic and brioche, they are one and the same for me! I actually started designing BECAUSE of my love for brioche! When I started publishing, there really weren’t very many patterns for brioche knitters in my style, and I needed more. I don’t know if the brioche trend is here to stay, but I know that I can’t stop knitting it. I want to broaden my brioche knitting horizons and try EVERYTHING! I am starting to experiment with new techniques, and I can’t wait to share my ideas with the world.
4. What did you expect to achieve when you first started designing?
When I first started designing, my only real goal was to share my art with the world. First and foremost, I design what I love and what I want to knit. It just makes me so happy that others want to knit my patterns, too! I try to stay true to this idea, and stay true to myself, always.
5. Where do you see your designs in five years’ time?
Right now, I am pushing myself to learn new techniques and broaden my knitting to garment design. I have a few garment patterns available right now, and I love playing with unconventional construction techniques. But I want to dive into traditional sweater construction, while at the same time adding some twists and funkiness… and of course, brioche. It’s all about experimentation for me, trying new things and getting out of my comfort zone.
6. What’s your fave of your own designs? Which is the most unfairly neglected?
Oh it’s so hard to choose a favourite! I think Sizzle Pop is my true favorite, as it was my first brioche lace shawl pattern that I created from scratch. I created the stitch pattern for Pop Fizzle, but felt very proud of myself for translating it into a shawl pattern.
The most unfairly neglected pattern? I would say any of my patterns that don’t involve brioche knitting! I have several, most of them were experiments, or patterns I created as gifts for family and friends. I do love all of them, but they aren’t nearly as popular as my brioche lace patterns. And that’s ok!
7. Do you find social media important for your marketing? What does it mean to you to have a “personal brand”?
Social media, especially Instagram, has been instrumental in the success of my business and marketing! There is such a wonderful community there, and I am so grateful to all of the knitters, dyers, and other designers who are so supportive there. I don’t know what I would do without them.
Personal branding is so important to me and my business. Even before I published my first pattern, I wanted to make sure I chose a business name that I loved, and that described me and the art that I want to create. Luckily I also have a husband who is my graphic designer, IT technical support, and sometimes photographer! I don’t know what I would do without his support. He especially helped me to create my logo, set up my pattern layouts, and keep it all cohesive with a modern look.
8. Have you participated in the GAL before? What are you most looking forward to this year?
2016 was my first year, and I was blown away by the number of people involved, as well as the organization of it. This year, I have decided to knit along with everyone as well!
9. What GAL patterns have caught your eye? Are you making anything?
I have been a huge fan of Erica Heusser for a long time, since I stumbled across her Instagram account. She is a fine artist, and her stranded colourwork designs are incredible! I hope to cast on her Wishmaker Mitts for the GAL, as a gift for myself. That’s ok, right? 😉 [RW: It better be – I'm making her Mayfield Mitts for myself!]
10. What haven’t you done yet (in craft, in business or in life) that you really, really want to?
My true dream is to travel the world and visit as many yarn shops as I can! I love meeting knitters, teaching knitters, and finding new yarns to love. Now that my children are getting older, I am feeling a bit more freedom to travel. I am starting to teach more, and I would love to be able to travel to more fibre festivals.