I’m in a bit of a cobwebby state, so I thought I’d take a break from trying unsuccessfully to get good work done to answer some questions that came up in response to my first post on editing. Then I’ll feel all articulate and like I got something done, and will therefore certainly return to good productivity.
Gentle reader EL asked, “I’m curious that you don’t mention a submission review panel; do you make the accept or reject decision by yourself? Are you the only contact with the people submitting work? How do you stay ahead of trends, in styles as well as in yarns?”
A good lot of questions there. First, we don’t have an official review panel. We have a small staff, and before sending the submissions to me (remember, I work remotely), the managing and assistant editors do look at submissions and make notes with their opinions. Ultimately, though, it’s my decision. Sometimes they’ll point something out I hadn’t seen, or they’ll mention something that makes me see a design in a new way. In most situations, I prefer not to act from the vacuum of my own head, and I value their input. That said, I don’t always agree.
I contact designers about submissions I’d like to accept, hold for consideration for a future issue, or about which I have questions. I continue to correspond with each designer through when they’ve received the yarn for their project. Then Toni, the assistant editor, becomes more involved, and communicates with designers about pattern writing and formatting, etc. I’ll remain in touch with some designers about particulars of the design as it’s being worked up, but some designers will fly off on their own and I won’t be in touch with them for quite a while.
As for styles and trends, I have only a vague answer. On the one hand, I rarely track style and colour forecasts. I don’t find them particularly useful, because my goal is not to be trendy, but to be classic in a way that is appealing to contemporary crocheters. For each issue, the magazine’s graphic designer gives me a palette to use as a guide for picking yarn colours, and I find it quite valuable.
On the other hand, I consume a huge amount of information on a daily basis, and that information, I’m sure, gets churned in the back of my head to eventually bleed into my work. I read the news, loosely follow interesting pop culture (by which I mean I couldn’t care less which celebrity is in rehab or married or divorced or adopting or has communed with what may or may not be a superior Martian race, but that stuff seeps in despite my avoidance. Also, I tend to like teen melodramas, and you can be sure Gossip Girl outfits end up in the endless churning mentioned above. I do follow what’s going on in television, though I don’t actually watch much of it. I am a magazine junkie, and also read about magazines. I don’t often read Vogue, but do pick up In Style, Wired, Good, Dwell, Real Simple, and occasionally Martha Stewart and some design mags); I read crafty blogs, writing blogs, sci-fi blogs, design blogs, and web comics. I’m often drawn to crochet designs and to colours that seem particularly unique or that were once in fashion but haven’t been for quite some time. Sometimes this results in the illusion that I have a good eye for trends, but I assure you it’s the result of a very short attention span and a strong attraction to novelty.
Yarns are a different story. I keep many colour cards and binders in my office, and try to stay in touch with yarn companies so I know what new yarns they’ll be introducing and which yarns they’ll be discontinuing. When I walk the floor at TNNA I do keep an eye out for fiber trends (linen is in lots of yarns this season, and bamboo continues to be on the rise; alpaca is practically becoming the new wool; more and more organics are coming out).
EL followed up with a question regarding what types of changes I request from designers.
Let’s start with the comment Doris left in my original post. The skirt she mentions (you’ll see it in the Fall issue) is awesome. But the original photo I saw of it didn’t turn me on. That said, I’ve worked with Doris a lot, and I rarely encounter a design of hers that doesn’t speak to me*. I asked Doris if the skirt could be reworked flat as a wrap-around for three reasons: First, I like the versatility of a wrap skirt for summer (which was originally when the skirt was to be published); second, I wasn’t loving the way the skirt seemed to hang in the photo she’d sent me and I thought it would be improved with a change in construction; third, a wrap skirt can be very easily flexible in sizing, which would allow us to run a very wide range of sizes in a relatively small amount of space. So I asked Doris about it, and she replied explaining that the stitch pattern she used had to be worked in the round, and she also sent me a different photo that made me see what I was missing in the first image. That was all I needed to know from Doris. I switched yarns on her, and picked a neutral colour that prompted her to ask if it was a mistake when she received it (which I appreciated — but it wasn’t a mistake, and though she might have complained under her breath about it, I do think the skirt is fantastic and photographed beautifully last week, and I thank her for humouring me).
Another note about colours. In a way, I think about colour in two dimensions for the magazine: neutral and colourful. I wanted Doris’s skirt to be a neutral for wardrobe flexibility and because I thought the lace pattern would be made even more outstanding juxtaposed with what might be considered a drab colour. Neutrals are easy. For colours, I think globally and locally. As I mentioned, I use a limited palette as a guide to ensure the colours in the magazine combine to create an overall cohesion. For an individual design, I work more intuitively. And I often work hard to overcome my own colour preferences. Two examples: First, Mary Beth Temple‘s Flirty 30s Tank Top in the Summer issue. It took us a long time to find the perfect yarn for this design. The yarn doesn’t have a huge colour range, though, and I’m not personally a fan of yellow. But lots of people love it, as well they should. So I picked yellow both because it’s so obviously summery and is lovely for this design, and because it matched my palette best of the available colours. Second example: Doris’s China Doll. The spring issue was the first issue photographed here in Vancouver, and I knew that one of our locations would be a particular flower shop with pale greenish walls. I really don’t like lavender. Like, ever. But that colour was going to scream SPRING in that flower shop. And it was in my palette. And I thought it might make a gorgeous cover (though cover decisions aren’t really made by me). So lilac it was. And so you see: as editor, I think about colour differently than a designer might. I have to be very practical about it, and I often have to transcend my personal preferences. This is an aspect of my job I love.
Ok. Getting back to the question. The types of things I’ll ask a designer about: Will the garment construction play nicely with the fabric to create a flattering fit (e.g., will it bunch badly under the arms, be too narrow at the hips, etc.)? Will a lighter weight yarn produce a more practical garment? Will the fiber content work with the design? Will a heavier weight yarn produce a more practical end product? I’ll also ask about closures, and I’ll ask for clarification if an aspect of a swatch doesn’t make sense to me. I’ll also ask questions based on my relationship with a designer. For example, I might ask a particular designer if they think a certain yarn would be a good match for their idea even if it’s quite different from what they swatched. Sometimes I ask questions because I perceive a flaw, sometimes I ask questions out of innocent curiosity, and sometimes I ask because of a larger agenda.
* To be clear, past relationship certainly does influence my decisions about designs — just like in any job, I like to repeatedly work with people it’s enjoyable and successful to work with, and I try to avoid working with people it’s unpleasant or stressful to work with. Of course, I won’t accept a weak design or a design that doesn’t fit the issue just because of who the designer is, and I won’t reject a design just because I’ve never worked with the designer.
So much for a quick post. “Brain dump” might be a more accurate label. But I am feeling far more primed for productivity now. W00t.