Who is a Black Brown Indigenous Melanated Person (BBIMP) who has inspired you or your work?
My friend Nerissa (Nerissa.knits on Instagram). She was my first local knitting friend when I moved back to Chicago after grad school. She saw me knitting on the train one day after work when she was getting off at her stop. She said “meet me in this car same time tomorrow!” And we’ve been friends ever since. She really got me inspired about the idea of finding crafting community, which I had never had before. She instantly took me in and was so happy to share with me. I went on my first Chicago Yarn Crawl with her and we constantly share cute finds on Instagram and Etsy. She has been such a caring and loving friend literally since the moment I met her and I’ll always love her for that. It really just confirmed the power of knitting and crochet–you instantly know when you’re with “your people!”
How do you find inspiration?
I find inspiration everywhere. And I know everyone says that, but it’s true. The things that strike me and stick with me are things that are authentic and have something to say. I have to be myself and the things around me span from the fight for equity and justice for Black people in America to the beauty of a hand-dyed colorway in a complicated stitch. Sometimes inspiration comes from a place of beauty, or pain, or struggle, or love, a beautiful color or sentiment, or sometimes all the above. And being okay with being authentic is the only way I’ve found to keep finding inspiration. It’s difficult because I always feel like I’m putting a part of myself out into the world to be critiqued, but my love for sharing overrides the fear of judgment.
Share your maker journey. How did it all begin for you?
I first learned how to crochet by watching my mother and her mother. I was 6 years old when I asked to learn and I fell in love. From then on I started my habit of unfinished WIPs! Then in high school, I learned how to knit from my father’s mother. The women in my life have given me a lifelong love of crafting and it’s what I reach for in times of stress and strife. After grad school, I didn’t really know what I wanted life to look like next (and I’m still figuring that out) but I knew I wanted to start my design business, Dr. Charlie Untangled. With help from some really smart family and friends, I was able to launch last year.
What is your favorite design?
I think my favorite design to date has to be my Crowning Glory Hat pattern. It’s such a simple design but it packs so much into one piece: Simple knit hat shape with duplicate stitch detailing. Then it uses a simple crochet stitch to create a pom that looks like a Black hair puff. It makes me feel seen in a way I can’t explain. Even if no one loved it but me, I was proud of designing something to make space for Black women, even if only in a small way.
Who taught you, encouraged you in your craft?
My mom and grandmothers taught me and from there, the makers on Youtube & Instagram took over and helped me to expand my crafts–teach me new stitches, new skills, give me an appreciation for hand-dyed yarn, and find new resources for budget yarn! When I was in grad school I went to an art exhibit and learned about the world of craftivism–using your art to convey a message and it changed my idea of what it meant to be a maker. Then my amazing cousin really thrust me into the world of web design and marketing best practices. She really helped me bring Dr. Charlie Untangled to life.
As a BBIMP, in your line of crafting, what steps do you find you need to take, to promote and share your creativity if any?
Authenticity for sure. Because I do a lot of craftivist or identity-based projects I have to come from the heart and be true to how I feel and not shy away from who I am.
Do you feel being a BBIMP has an impact on how your creativity is viewed/received?
I definitely think it does. I think we all have a love for crafting and beautiful yarn and amazing stitch work, but none of it exists in a vacuum. The crafting world is very white and unfortunately very bigoted. I’ve learned that I cannot separate who I am from my art. And the wonderful thing I discovered about craftivism is that I don’t have to. One of my favorite quotes by Toni Morrison says, “All good art is political! There is none that isn’t. And the ones that try hard not to be political are political by saying, ‘We love the status quo’.”
What suggestions, other than your tools, would you suggest another maker to learn or pick up?
One of the best pieces of advice I have been given is to learn what you do well. Do lots of that and outsource everything else. This is super hard with owning a small business with little to no profit, but one of the best gifts I gave myself as a small business owner is to outsource the work that I absolutely cannot do by myself and don’t have time to learn (because I still work a full-time job!). It takes some investment to learn what you can do with a little direction and a little practice, and then what you absolutely cannot do and will drive yourself crazy trying to do. Often I found I was using those things as excuses not to start my business/put my work out there.
What are you working on right now?
Right now, I’m working on the Framework Bralette by Jessie Mae, an indigenous knitwear designer also from Chicago. And I’m using yarn I got from my LYS. Keeping it local!
How does your creative work| craft help you?
For me, knitting and crochet is an art AND a craft. And like all art, it’s a form of expression. I get to be exactly who I am and advocate for things I believe in while using beautiful yarn and learning new skills and creating artwork. It’s also a form of therapy for me. It gives me an opportunity to process all the things going on in life while giving my hands something to do while my brain catches up.
Tell us a little bit about your practice or the steps you take to create your work.
For designing, when inspiration strikes I’m usually sketching on my iPad, writing down swatching notes, testing out yarns, scraping everything, and starting over. I’ll have a burst of design energy and then put it down and come back to work out the kinks. It’s a lot of mental energy but it’s one of those things where I don’t feel right until I’ve gotten it out of my system.
What’s the overall message you want your audience to take away from your work?
Dr. Charlie Untangled is about sharing my journey untangling my life through the majestic power of knitting and crochet. I express who I am, my ups & downs, and my love for my people through my craft. I believe that All Black Lives Matter and we should be free to make space for ourselves and others to express ourselves through our craft of choice.
What is the most helpful resource for your business that you can share with us?
I would have to say Instagram. She’s trash sometimes and she knows it, but Instagram has exposed me to so many other ideas and Black and brown makers that I would never have known existed. It’s absolutely incredible how many makers there are that look like me that I didn’t even know. I had no idea about the number of yarn shops and conferences and knit clubs and all sorts of wonders that have really pulled me into the crafting world!
What is a personal habit that has helped you significantly in your business?
Batch photoshoots! Again, I work a whole job. So whenever I feel like slapping on makeup (or let’s be real an Instagram filter) and putting out a cute flat lay, I get all the shots I think I’ll need to post on my site, post on Instagram, and wherever else I’d like to promote my patterns/makes.
Where do you see your business|Crafting in 5 years?
I honestly don’t know. Somewhere learning and growing and hoarding yarn!
What is a lesson learned, from being a creative, that you wish someone had told you when you first started?
Your work is billable work. Your time is valuable time. Treat yourself accordingly, treat others accordingly, and make sure others treat you accordingly.
What is something that you’re passionate about and why?
I am passionate about building bridges–bringing the information I have to the people that need it. I know I don’t know everything but I am passionate about using what I do know as a means to help. And this spans to every area of my life. I’ve used what I’ve learned as a Biomedical Engineering Ph.D. in medical communications and I share my knowledge of knitting and crochet with anyone who’ll listen 😉