Can you imagine being able to combine your many passions — knitting, history, travel, writing, and teaching — to custom-make a perfect career for yourself? Meet Donna Druchunas; she’s done it her way! In response to many requests for more intermediate and advanced classes at Fiber College, Donna will teach a two-day Lace Design class this fall. To register, go to http://www.fibercollege.org . Now let’s meet Donna.
What does this year’s FC theme “Do It Your Way!” mean to you from your perspective as a fiber artist
Everything I do in my work is about “doing it your way!” I want to empower and inspire knitters to design and make things from scratch, using patterns to gain skills and learn the basics, then moving on to being able to modify patterns or make things up entirely on their own.
How did you decide to become an artist?
I’ve always been doing crafts, drawing, and writing, ever since I was a little girl. I was working as a technical writer—writing computer manuals—but I hated it. One day a friend asked me, “If you can write about how to install a hard drive, why can’t you write about how to knit something?” It was then that I realized I could use all of the skills that I’d been gathering for my entire life to make a living AND a life that I love.
How do you develop your own style?
I’m not much for following rules, and I love historical, cultural styles. I just take bits and pieces of everything I like and throw it all together. I call the decor in my house, “stuff I like.”
What kind of creative patterns, routines, or rituals do you have?
I never go anywhere without a sketchbook, pens, and my iPhone so I can capture any ideas that come my way. Other than that, I just follow my energy and work on whatever captures my attention. Of course there are always deadlines, and those inspire me as well.
What would a student be most surprised to know about you?
I have no formal training in anything I do to make a living.
How does your early work differ from what you are doing now?
I’m much more focused now. Everything I do is based on and infused with stories, and all of my knitting designs have stories behind them and create new stories as well.
Tell us about a proud moment you’ve had as a result of your students’ efforts.
I love getting emails that say, “I never though I could do XYZ but after your class, it’s easy!”
You’ve just run into an old friend from high school. How do you answer the question, “What do YOU do?”
I am a writer.
How do you imagine your work might change in the next five years?
I will be continuing to work on Stories In Stitches and, if the funding is there, I am planning to do a big research project that will require a lot of travel in Eastern Europe. Besides that travel, I hope to stay closer to home to work with knitters and fiber artists in New England.
Tell us about your studio space and how you work.
I have a fabulous workspace in my 150 year old Vermont farm house, that includes a studio and a classroom. This winter though, it’s been so cold, I’ve done all of my work in the living room, which is the warmest room in the house. My studio has no heat except for a fake electric fireplace.
As an instructor, what would be the best advice you could give to a student?
Practice and go easy on yourself! Don’t try to be perfect and don’t think your work is less than beautiful.
What project has given you the most satisfaction and why?
My books that include stories. Arctic Lace, Successful Lace Knitting, and now, the Stories In Stitches series. There are so many untold stories and so much to learn from knitters and needleworkers and fiber artists from around the world and from different times in history. I want to learn all I can and share whatever I find out with everyone else.
Who has had the greatest influence on your work as an artist?
I can’t pick just one person, but my idols in the knitting world are Barbara Walker, because she’s written and studied so widely and on so many topics besides knitting; Alice Starmore because she combines precision design, historical and cultural influences, and inspiration from nature in all of her work; and Katherine Cobey because she had made knitting into an art form and created beauty.
How do you ensure plenty of time to be an artist?
My husband does the dishes and the grocery shopping!
What’s the greatest thing you’ve learned as a fiber artist?
Let the materials talk to you.
You can learn more about Donna Druchunas at: