Pocket Conversations 2.1 – Holly with Anna

 


Elephant in The Room -


HB: Do we wanna tackle how we’re afraid about the industry with all the people closing at the moment?

AW: The elephant in the room hey?!

HB: It's pretty scary... especially Australian and New Zealand industry. I wonder what it’s like in Europe and their local industry? Because Arnsdorf has closed, ABCH has closed, Seljak the blanket brand just closed, um, Mina here [in Auckland].

AW: Vege Threads... What scares me and what people in the knitting industry have said to me over and over again is every part of the local industry is so fragile right now. There’s hardly any factories, there’s not a lot of machinery -

HB: Was it you who was telling me about the old guy who knew how to use the knitting machine?

AW: Yeah, and he started when he was 11? Yeah the amount of training required to program these knitting machines is a lifetime of work. It’s such a specialty and I think our generation- we tend to move around jobs. The idea of going to uni or tafe and being like ‘I’m going to program a knitting machine and that’s gonna be my job until I'm seventy’. Our parents' generation- they have one career. I have an enormous amount of respect for the people who do have that [specialised] skill. To me they are like any other specialist in their field. Like a lawyer, or a computer programmer, whatever. You’re incredibly trained in this area.

HB: And muscle memory.

AW: And just the little details you pick up on, and the certain nuances of how a certain yarn is going to behave over another, but yeah I guess just to circle back to the industry being in crisis - all the factories I speak to [they tell me] young people just don’t want to train and we’ve got all these guys that currently know how to use these machines but they’re kinda getting a bit closer to retirement age and we’re just not seeing that cycle continue of them training someone beneath them. So as a knitwear designer that focuses on local making [it’s] so scary.

HB: Yeah. I felt the same way which I think I told you about. The guy that has fixed my machines. His name is Ron, Ron Smith. I got his business card maybe seven years ago, from one of the girls in an old studio. Every time I was moving I’d call him [to service my machines] and I know Post Sole used him too. 

AW: Luisa told me she couldn’t get onto Ron. She tried to ring him and couldn’t get through.

HB: Okay so you use Ron too! Every time he came in he’d fix it, make it perfect. And I worry because I haven’t seen him in three or four years. The knowledge that’s in his mind - But I feel really proud that over the years with moving I know how to take apart my machines myself. Like I know my machinery really well. I’ve had my machine for eleven years.

AW: Wow. And that’s a big job moving that every time.

HB: I always get removalists. But I know how to take it apart, drain it [the oil].
- Yeah. So that was scary. Most of the [local] industry relied on this one older gentleman, lovely Ron, and now we are all like ‘who else can we call?’.


AW: Truthfully, the uni’s in Melbourne have knitting machines, and the way they train, you are just on a domestic knitting machine which is fine for sampling -

HB: Is it the one that’s manual? [powered by your own arm power]

AW: Yeah, it’s really just training to be a designer and understand what knit structure is. In terms of actually training people in the idea that they would take on a job at a factory? It’s not acknowledged. Or it’s not leant into, and again I feel a bit of a snobbiness, these uni’s want a prestigious vibe and that’s potentially a result of what students want as well -

HB: Back when I did my diploma the third year was a degree but it was the production side of things, so [learning to be] a behind the scenes kind of person. Whereas the honours course at RMIT back in the day, it felt like it was for designers, and more of the shiny, conceptual, fun thing. 

AW: Interesting because I did the diploma of textiles at RMIT.

HB: You still felt like it was design?

AW: It was practical, but it was like - you’re learning this practicality so that you can either become a small-scale craftsperson, or a designer. There wasn’t really a middle ground of being a craftsperson in a factory. When I say large scale, obviously none of the factories in Australia.

HB: So larger scale for Melbourne.

AW: When I do visit my factories in Australia and New Zealand, we have this great relationship, they love their job. They’re constantly problem solving and are actually a part of the design process because we're often working through the same particular design idea and how we’re going to make that work with the machines’ capabilities. Constantly getting to do things with your hands, all the finishings [are done] by hand. I feel like if it [working in a factory] is packaged in a different way, it is not in some dark scary [room], it can be a place where you are with your friends, making something with your hands that you enjoy. And make it part of a bigger process where you get to see a product go from the start to a finished product.

HB: I think that Social Studios is good with that too. When I go in to pick my stuff up everyone’s always chatting, and doing their work but it seems really nice.

*

This conversation was recorded on Holly's last day in Auckland, driving to the Winter Gardens. One week after HB Archive x Francie Pop Up at Anna's studio. 10th of May, 2024. 

 

 

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2 comments

Interesting. Maybe I would like to learn how to program a knitting machine.

Jade

I loved reading this, Holly! It’s been so scary seeing all the brands who seem so established and solid close down lately.. what a freaky time to be in for us lil guys !

In relation to tafe/uni and the lack of teaching the actual skills for people to hone in on as their trade – I feel like social media; especially with instagram, pinterest etc, people see something and want to immediately have it or immediately know how to sew or cook or do whatever it is that they see that they like.. it’s all so instant and doesn’t factor in the years of research and development and learning and experience that happens behind the scenes that is so needed for something to actually be good and have substance!

I think because of this instant world and ‘minimalist pinterest vibe’ sometimes people think that things are too expensive, when they are crafted by a small maker or small business who actually pay their staff, because the customer doesn’t recognise all the hard work and what happens behind the scenes, or they get something that is terribly made or they actually try to make something themselves that doesn’t work or last or fit good and they’re like.. what!?

anyway, love your work ! xx

Mimi Holvast

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