reflections on My Place

Last year, as in previous years, KDD ran a design competition, to support and promote the work of independent designers. Designers were encouraged to create a shawl, scarf, or wrap in Milarrochy Tweed, inspired by their place in the world (however they wanted to interpret that phrase). The competition came with the offer of yarn support, for any designer who felt they needed it (applications for yarn support were accepted by us without judgment or requirement for explanation). In total, we supported 20 designers with yarn to create a submission to the competition, which had, in the end, over 50 entries.

After much deliberation, the KDD team selected 15 designs as competition “winners.” In previous years, winning competition designs were published in our popular books, such as Warm Hands and Milarrochy Heids, and we’d of course anticipated publishing a My Place book too. 2020 however, had other plans for us, and with disruptions in everything from print manufacturing to our own working practices, it became abundantly clear that publishing a My Place book simply wasn’t going to be possible in the midst of the pandemic. At this point, we let our 15 designers know that our plans for the project had to change, and that My Place would now be a digital project, in which each contributor would create their pattern, photograph their design, and write about their process in a post to be published here, on the KDD blog. In the absence of a print book, a few of the designers decided to withdraw their contributions from the project, while a couple did not get back to us at all. Nine of the contributors, however, were still keen to be involved in the My Place project.

I am a big believer in the value of print books, as you know. Yet it still seemed to me that there might be several benefits to running My Place digitally. First, in a project which specifically invited designers to reflect on “their place in the world” (however they wanted to interpret that phrase) it seemed important to allow them the space to share those reflections discursively in a way that (due to page constraints) is not always possible in a printed book. Designers could share their creative process in their own words, illustrated with their own images, rather than being subsumed into a book whose aesthetic and content was determined by us at KDD. Second, designers would retain the maximum amount of control over, and financial benefit from, their own work, deciding everything from individual pattern pricing to the online platforms where their work was made available for sale. And third (and not insignificantly) by sharing their work directly here, designers also brought their work directly to the attention of the wide, varied and growing audience of this particular online space.

The KDD blog is hugely important to me, and the whole KDD team. Allowing us, and a wide range of guest contributors, the space to explore anything from tasty recipes, the history of Mexican Indigenous mask making, and eighteenth-century ballooning (alongside a whole lot of knitting) it has been here, without interruption, since 2007. I love so many things about this space: the genuine creativity and flexibility it fosters, as well as the fact that it is not (and will never be) a platform that seeks to monetise your attention, either through a paid subscription, through advertising, or by harvesting your data. This is an aside, but I do find the renewed resurgence of quality blogs and newsletter platforms such as substack really interesting in the context of the degradation of so much “traditional” news media into clickbait and automated content generation on the one hand, and the sense of numbed fatigue that increasingly surrounds the sphere of digital social media, on the other.

All of which is to say, in short, that I really enjoy this creative space, and I especially enjoy sharing it with other creative people, such as the talented contributors to the My Place project.

Since January, alongside everyone else who reads this blog, I’ve learned about what it means to experience climate change in an Arctic landscape, about eighteenth-century porcelain, and a golden age of Irish Art. Lead by our talented My Place contributors, I’ve travelled to the shores of Lake Superior, journeyed through the seasons on a family farm, and been heartened by frankly shared stories of personal loss and resilience. One unexpected (but not unwelcome) aspect of the My Place project was that each contributor spoke, in her own distinctive way, to the experience of 2020 and that this aspect of each post clearly resonated with other readers.

So, first of all, I want to say a huge thank you to the nine wonderful contributors who agreed to participate in My Place – not just for your beautiful and varied range of designs, but for sharing your stories here with such courage and generosity. I’ve loved working with you all, and the project has taught me a lot about how a challenge or change of plan can transform itself into a real creative opportunity. Second, after receiving several requests to make all the contributions permanently accessible, I’ve created a static My Place page, which you can reach via the button in the sidebar (–>) and return to at any time.

And finally, I’d like to announce that, heartened by the great success of running the project in this particular digital format – sharing and promoting the work of designers here on the blog – we have decided to do it all again. So, if you’d like more details about how you can be involved with My Place 2022 . . .

Please visit the dedicated My Place page