Tell us a bit about yourself.
I am so elated to have the chance to introduce myself to all of you! My name is Elena, and I am the designer and knitting fanatic behind Tickled Pink Knits. I live, work, and create in NYC. My modestly sized living quarters are home to a lavish yarn collection, and just enough space carved out for my husband and me among the mounds of wool, heaps of alpaca, and bundles of cotton.
I am a city girl by chance and by choice, though, perhaps, not indefinitely.
I spent my childhood and adolescence in another country, and I have lived in the U.S. for the past 16 years, or just slightly over half of my life.
I studied psychology in college and literature in graduate school. Both, as it turns out, for quite non-utilitarian purposes.
Apart from creating things, what do you do?
When I am not knitting and concocting new designs, or daydreaming about knitting and new designs, I work in university administration. I also spend a fair amount of time wishing I had more time.
What first made you want to become an artist?
As is the case with some of the best events in life, serendipity is to thank for my adventures in knitting. I learned to knit as a kid from my Mom. As a teen I created a couple of elaborate projects, including a particular sweater and skirt number that I wore quite a bit in eighth grade. This was more out of necessity than eccentricity, as original clothing was hard to come by behind the iron curtain. A hiatus from knitting, at least a dozen years long, followed. I rediscovered knitting about three years ago purely by chance and fell head over heels in love. I spent close to a year knitting things for several charity organizations that donate hand-knit items to orphanages and veteran homes. I also pored over just about every knitting-related book in the New York Public Library collection. In the spring and summer of 2007 I created the first pieces for the Tickled Pink Knits collection, set up my Etsy shop, and the rest… has been magical!
Among the many things I adore about knitting is the ability to create with my hands objects of visual and tactile joy using some of the simplest imaginable tools.
Though it is somewhat on hold at the moment, my other passion is photography. I have been lucky enough to have had a few solo exhibitions of my work, to have it in a couple of art collections, as well as see my imagery on a book cover and in several journals. You can see more of my photography at elenarosenberg.com and in floralia, my other Etsy shop.
You may wonder what could have prompted the move from abstract monochrome botanical photography to clothing and accessories in every color. The leap is not as unthinkable as it may seem. In fact, common elements abound – texture, form, shape, composition. And as for color, well, what is fashion without color? 🙂
Finally, it is quite possible that my affinity for creating tangible objects of fiber goodness stems from my Jewish and Belarusian grandmothers, one of whom was a seamstress, and the other a weaver.
Please describe your creative process how, when, materials, etc.
The inspiration for my designs has many sources. I am enamored with the interplay of colors, textures, patterns, symmetry and asymmetry. I am fascinated by yarn and the nature of knitting itself – the ways fibers align and connect, and the ways stitch variations intertwine. New experiments and designs are often prompted by silhouettes spotted on the streets of NYC or inspired by visions and ideas provided by clients and fans of my work. Many of my most popular designs emerged from simply toying with needles and yarn and evolved from row to row. At any one time, plans for at least a dozen new designs are brewing in my mind.
I like knitting stitches that are relatively intuitive and patterns that have clean lines. I set pretty high standards for my work, and strive for precision and meticulousness. I am not a big fan of shortcuts that involve using bulky yarn and thick needles, and tend to prefer fairly intricate detailing.
I work almost exclusively with high-quality natural fibers, such as wool (especially the buttery soft merino!), alpaca, fine cottons, cashmere, and bamboo.
I am giddy with excitement from the many happenings and feats of the past year and a half! I have worked on several large-scale commissions, including bridal and bridesmaid garments; I have several knitting patterns for my original designs in development, and at least one pattern is slated for publication in a popular book series. I can’t wait to see what 2009 has in store for me.
(Knitters interested in my designs might like to know about AtelierTPK, my new original knitting patterns shop.
What handmade possession do you most cherish?
Not surprisingly, many of the things I cherish and adore are made by artisans I discovered on Etsy. There’s an enchanting pendant by monsoonartisans, a palm sized ceramic sheep after my own heart from MNSCeramics, beautiful screenprinted towels by nutnutgoods, and a stylin’ messenger bag by Uzura.
Also, though not anymore in my possession per se, the hand-sewn and hand-crocheted clothing my Grandmother and Mother made for me when I was growing up, has a cherished place in my memory.
Name your top five books, movies, songs/musical groups, and web sites besides Etsy.
To be honest, over the past couple of years, I have devoted too little time to reading books. Ironic for a former literature grad. student, I know. These days, I am lucky if I find the time to skim an issue of The New Yorker now and then. Perhaps one day soon I will master the skill of reading while knitting but for now here are a handful of all-time favorites:
The Joke by Milan Kundera
anything by Wislawa Szymborska
Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro
The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-Exupery
It is impossible to limit this list to five selections. Here are a few gems from different genres, some quite famous, others relatively unknown, and highly recommended.
Divided We Fall
Harold and Maude
Jean de Florette
Tito and Me
And for a lighter fare:
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Wallace & Gromit
My guilty pleasures are Jane Austen in virtually any incarnation on screen (and on page) and Frasier, the TV series 🙂
Les Yeux Noirs
all Bossa Nova
a few releases from Putumayo and Rough Guide
Western European Baroque
I am also a huge fan of several marvelous podcasts, including:
KCRW’s Good Food
Living on Earth
This American Life
Travel with Rick Steves
Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!
Websites (besides Etsy) –
Do you mean that there’s more to the web than Etsy?! 🙂 Most of my days do begin and end with visits to Etsy, though in between I find time to scroll through a few pages of NYTimes.com, check in with Art & Letters Daily, pay regular visits to Dictionary.com, see the latest offerings at Netflix, leaf through Flickr (where you’ll find me), and drop in on my latest favorite – Twitter.
What advice would you give to artists who are new to Etsy?
I am by no means an expert on matters artistic, craft-tastic, and entrepreneurial, and I am in awe of many more experienced and mightily talented Etsyians. My suggestions are far from earth-shattering but I believe they bear repeating. Love what you do and share your passion for your work. Do what you love and be confident that you will find an appreciative audience. Be original, be bold. Work hard. Stay positive. Provide unwaveringly excellent service to your current and potential customers. Support the work of others.
What are your favorite features on Etsy? What new features would you like to see?
My favorite Etsy “feature” would have to be its community, from the visionary founders and awesome staff, to the boundlessly talented Etsy sellers, to the supportive and inspirational buyers.
I also hang out in the Treasuries a lot, probably feeding my pipe dream of becoming a gallery curator.
Like many other Etsy shop keepers, I would love to have access to more informative statistics and know how people find my shop. It would be great to have additional means of organizing favorites and creating wish lists.
How do you promote your work?
I have tested the waters in a fair bit of promotional opportunities, including blog and magazine advertising and online social networking sites. But the best promotional tool, in my opinion, is producing new and interesting work, continuously developing and perfecting your style, and maintaining a diverse and exciting item inventory.
I currently don’t have a blog (aside from regular posts to Twitter) but some day may awaken my hibernating former blog .
In ten years I’d like to be…
Most importantly, with the people I love, everyone healthy and well. Ideally, engaged in a creative pursuit of some kind. Commuting less or not at all and spending more time outdoors. Living in a neighborhood with a penchant for flowering window boxes, pedestrian zones, and farmer’s markets. More patient, kinder, and wiser. A girl can dream!