Geek Speak: Kim Werker, blogger and crafter
Kim Werker knows that her fellow crafters are inclined to make aesthetically pleasing things. So, she’s challenging people to create something ugly for once and asking them to share their results on-line.
Born in Brooklyn, Werker is a writer, editor, blogger, crafter, and speaker who describes herself as “living in the world of creativity”. The 33-year-old Vancouver resident blogs at KimWerker.com, and contributes to Make & Meaning and Vancouver Is Awesome. She also posts at Crochet Me, the Web site she founded in 2004 and sold in 2008. A former editor of Interweave Crochet magazine, Werker is the author of six books about crocheting. Her latest, Crocheted Gifts, was published in the fall of 2009.
On April 7, Werker launched Mighty Ugly, a site that encourages crafters to spend an hour or two making a “hideous, grotesque, revolting” creature. She’ll talk on May 8 at the Northern Voice conference at the University of British Columbia about how the Internet is changing the fibre arts.
The Georgia Straight reached Werker on her cellphone at her home in Dunbar.
What inspired you to get into crafting?
Kind of a desperate need to make something with my hands.
Why do you like crocheting so much?
I like crocheting so much because it tends to be the underdog fibre craft. Lots of people consider it, you know, sort of the redheaded stepchild of yarn craft, and I think it’s an unwarranted label. It’s fun. It has a ton of potential to create beautiful, beautiful things, anything—dolls, clothing, home décor—and I’ve always found it very intuitive, so I had an easy time getting into it. So, I got to get into it and really dive in.
It’s an easier stitch or something, right?
No, some people find it really difficult. It’s not that it’s easier. I also knit. I love knitting.
Is knitting the easier one then?
No, there isn’t an easier one. Some people find one easier. Some people find the other easier. I find them both satisfying. I just sort of, for some reason or another, understand crochet more deeply.
How has social media changed crafting?
I don’t know that it’s changed crafting. I think that it’s certainly influenced people’s experience of crafting. I think that it’s opened up a much larger community to people. So, people who maybe live in a small town or are pretty shy have been able to find other people with similar interests on-line, and really kind of come out of their shell and be inspired by other people and what they make.
Have their been any drawbacks to mixing social media with crafting?
Well, there’s the snark factor sometimes. I certainly wouldn’t say it’s a very common or very prominent feature of using social media and crafting. But, certainly sometimes, there will be the troll factor of somebody just really ripping into something that somebody else made. It can be very hurtful.
What on-line communities have had the most impact on your practice of fibre arts?
Well, certainly CrochetMe.com, mostly because I started that Web site the same week I learned how to crochet. So, the two went hand in hand for me, and it launched me into this world of on-line everything. I’m very much a Web person. I spent two years editing a print magazine, and, in the end, knew that I had to come back on-line for my focus. So, the community that I discovered through CrochetMe.com and helped to foster through the Web site was hugely influential on my understanding of the craft, on my exploration of what I wanted to make, on my exploration of what other people were making.
Other Web sites: certainly, Ravelry.com is hugely influential through all of the yarn crafts. Knitty.com is an on-line knitting Web site that was started a good, long time before I started CrochetMe.com, and its existence sort of clued me into what the possibilities were for creating an on-line content-driven Web site and community.
Shoshana, the Mighty Ugly mascot. Kim Werker photo.
What did you learn from running Crochet Me for four years?
It was nearly five years, and I learned—kind of everything I know today I learned through that site. I learned about editing. I learned about both editing sort of on the micro level and the macro level. I learned about editing individual posts and content and articles and designs that other people created, and I also learned about the big project-oriented editing of having an editorial vision and working with other people to make that happen. I learned about managing an on-line community. I learned about dealing with, well, sort of combative commenters. I learned about fostering conversation in positive and healthy ways. You know, I learned about craft. I learned about creativity and working in a creative industry. I learned how to manage my own time when I was my own boss.
What’s the goal of Mighty Ugly?
The goal of Mighty Ugly is to, for one short project, challenge almost everything that we’ve ever learned about aesthetic value. For artists, it might be very uncomfortable, and for crafters as well, because we’re so attuned to creating things that we might consider pretty or pleasing to other people. So, the express goal of creating one thing that’s truly ugly really makes us think in a very different way. For people who don’t consider themselves crafty, it’s really freeing, because when the goal is to create something really ugly you don’t feel the pressure to create something pretty or good or cute or adorable. And removing that pressure makes us more comfortable taking risks.
Do you think people will make things that are aesthetically ugly?
Yeah, well, that’s the goal.
What I mean is things that are sort of ugly but not really?
I see what you mean. Yeah, I do. I do sometimes too. I love creating ugly things, and I recently wanted to make an ugly doll for a friend. In the end, I said, “Ah man, you know, that’s just too symmetrical. It’s a little bit cute.” So, yeah, I think—especially for people like me who have worked for so long trying to make things that are pleasing—it can be really, really hard to make something ugly.
Every Friday, Geek Speak catches up with someone in Vancouver’s technology sector, video-game industry, or social-media scene. Who should we interview next? Tell Stephen Hui on Twitter at twitter.com/stephenhui.