Saturday, March 22, 2008

Getting to know you - June Gilbank

If you like crochet and especially the cute dogs, sea animals, monkeys etc variety, then you must have come across June's work at some point or other. If you haven't you really must run over to her blog and have a look right now! But June's talents are not only limited to crochet, as you can see from some of the pictures below. She's so inspiring, and I hope you like her interview. Don't forget to leave a comment for June!

Your name
June Gilbank (aka PlanetJune)

Your website/blog/shop link – whichever one(s) you want included:
blog :: shop :: etsy

Briefly describe yourself and what you make
I live in Ontario, Canada, with my husband and our cat, although we're originally from the UK. I have diverse crafty interests including sewing, cross stitch and polymer clay modelling, but my main focus is crochet. I design crochet patterns to make cute and/or realistic animals. I'm very detail-oriented and enjoy writing, so designing and writing crochet patterns is a great fit for me.

Who or what inspires you?
My main source of inspiration is nature - I have always loved animals, and I always try to capture something of the essence of each animal in my designs. In my other crafting, the blogosphere is a constant inspiration. Every day, I see new ideas that I'd love to try, if only I had the time! I see the crafty blogosphere and sites like Craftster as a giant feedback loop - each person is inspired by the projects they have seen, they come up with their own ideas for things to try, others see these and are in turn inspired to more creativity, and it just keeps gaining momentum.

When / how did you learn?
I'm self-taught, all the way. I love to try new things and I find myself wanting to attempt almost every craft I see. When I first moved to Canada I had a lot of time on my hands, and I tried knitting, but it didn't really work out for me. Then I found a 'teach yourself crochet' book in a local craft store, and I never looked back!

If I see something new I'd like to learn, I usually just google it to find enough instructions to get me started. I probably won't ever be an expert at most of the crafts I try out, but it's fun to experiment anyway, and maybe discover some hidden skills.

Why do you 'bother' to make things by hand? Why is crafting good for you?
I find crafting beneficial on different levels. The repetitive aspect of, for example, repeating stitches over and over is very relaxing, and the creative aspect is exciting and fulfilling. I also love how much variety can be found in crafting - if I get bored with crocheting, I can always make something else until my crochet mojo returns! My crafting time is the part of the day where I get to decompress and relax and quietly enjoy myself.

What is your craft "philosophy"?
Make things to the best of your ability, make what you love, and enjoy the process. And don't be afraid to try new things!

How do you deal with crafty mistakes?
I am too much of a perfectionist sometimes - if I see a mistake in a finished piece, it will eat away at me until I give in and redo the part with the mistake, even if I know nobody else will ever notice it! If I'm partway through something and it's just not going well, I put it aside and work on something else. Usually, I'll eventually find the inspiration to go back and finish it, or modify it into something else, but I also have some 'in progress' works that I know I'll probably never go back to. Learning how to not beat yourself up about the stuff that doesn't work out is important too - there's enough stress in life already without worrying about crafty mistakes.

Do you have a designated craft space? What does it mean to you?
We recently bought our first house, and now I have my very own craft room. I don't always craft in my room - I am often found crocheting on the sofa in front of the TV - but every time I walk into the craft room, it makes me happy. I have the space to organise all my materials and equipment, shelves to display my finished work, and workspace so I can cut fabric or get out my FIMO without having to clear a space for it first. My room is still very much a work in progress, and it's also a perfect excuse to make more 'stuff' that I can use to decorate it!

Do you use a sketchbook or journal?
I have a small moleskine notebook that I use for ideas. In it I keep anything from lists of animals or preliminary sketches for my designs to FIMO colour recipes or detailed plans for sewing projects. It's useful to have a notebook handy - once, on a train, I planned and wrote out the complete instructions to make my crochet hook case. I don't always write everything down; but I do tend to plan most of a project out in my head before I begin - sometimes I can make something very quickly because I've spent an hour designing it virtually beforehand.

Is your craft a business as well? Any advice on running a crafty business?
PlanetJune is just a part-time venture at the moment - I sell my crochet patterns online. My advice would be not to be too over-ambitious with your time: figure out how much time you think you'll need to accomplish something, then double it to allow for mistakes, interruptions, and as a buffer so you don't constantly feel pressurized by your deadlines. Also, try to be flexible, and listen to your customers. Some of my most popular designs have been requests from customers that I would have never thought to create without their input.

What impact (if any) has the internet had on your craft?
I can't even imagine what my crafting would be like without the internet; the two are so completely connected. Before I started blogging, I had no idea of the sense of community among crafters online - I have made some amazing like-minded friends, and I find so much inspiration within the global craft community. Without the internet, I would probably never have tried to sell my first pattern, and I certainly wouldn't have continued designing until I reached the stage I am at today. I am so grateful for all the appreciation and encouragement that have helped me to build my business and to keep on designing.

Do you make art or craft? Is there a difference?
Until a few months ago, I would have said that I am a 'crafter' and not an 'artist', because I didn't feel that I was creative or artistic enough to be called an artist. I don't really feel that way any more. I think the line between art and craft has been blurred, and that's a very good thing. If I describe my designs as 'toys', they would be called craft, but if I describe them as 'crocheted sculptures', does that make them art? Ultimately, the name doesn't matter. The work should speak for itself, and if people like what I make, then I'm happy, whatever they choose to call it.

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