Claire Montgomerie is a textiles designer specialising in knitting and crochet, constructing fabrics, garments, creatures and accessories which are fun, quirky and modern. Her main aim is always to reinvent the products of ancient and traditional needle craft processes while retaining all their intricacies and comforting charm.
Claire likes to keep her hands busy and so is constantly working on many different projects. She has made puppets for music videos, contributes patterns and articles to craft magazines and books, and writes, edits and consults on craft books. As well as this, she teaches textiles at many different levels and styles and contributes to Inside Crochet magazine.
How did you get into the creative industry, and was there a defining point in your career that led you on that path?
I fell into the textiles industry after studying constructed textiles at Middlesex University then doing a Masters degree in knitted textiles at the Royal College of Art.
I had been searching for my perfect job for many months after graduating from the RCA and I tried to build a portfolio that would take me into fashion, either in designing or buying, but something about that industry left me cold and I came away from my interviews feeling disheartened. This was because I was beginning to realise that I really needed to still use my hands and be fully involved in the practical side of textiles. It was always the tactile, experimental side of working with yarn and fabric that I loved and while I searched for a ‘real’ job, I had begun upcyling and customising old jumpers, making art pieces, embroidered, repurposed garments and little critters. I really enjoy making toys – creating individual personalities by adding handknit, crochet and all kinds of embellishment. I realised that this was what I loved to do and wondered if I could make a career out of it. It was during this time that I got a part time job in the first of the ‘new wave’ of modern knitting shops to open, Loop, in Islington, London, where I learned even more about handknitting and gained the confidence to write knitting and crochet books. I also began teaching textiles workshops there which I still love doing. I like to introduce people to crafting and the immense satisfaction which can be gained by making something for yourself or as a gift. I am also a firm believer in the slow fashion movement and think that crafting, mending and making your own clothes and accessories is a really important antidote to fast fashion, high turnover and the excessive waste which the industry creates.
Is there anything you would change in your current career and if so why?
I am actually currently in a transitional period. Since moving from London, I have been trying to live a slower life and give some consideration to my work rather than saying yes to nearly everything I am offered. Like most creative folks, I tend to get millions of ideas, getting really excited about new projects and opportunities and I do love to work on lots of projects at once, but this does leave me stretched and I have had health problems in recent years because of this. I have recently left my ‘day’ job editing a craft magazine so that I have more space to decide what it is I actually want to do. I would love to create a website utilising all my skills and knowledge to help new crafters with step by step tutorials and videos alongside my own patterns, designs and books. I also love styling and art directing photoshoots, working with other talented designers, photographers and make up artists, which I am currently still doing for Inside Crochet and I would like to do more of. Mainly though, I want to get back to being more creative; drawing, making and designing.
Where do you see yourself, and your career in five years time?
Who knows – this is the exciting (but scary) part at the moment. I would love to have an informative, great looking website up and running at least and to be creating in some way. I am definitely on the look out for inspiration and collaboration.
Are there any rules or habits that help you do your job more efficiently?
As I am used to having lots of fingers in an awful lot of pies, I have to be organised. I am a great fan of lists. I like to start each day with a (manageable) list and I am still old school – I like to write it out and have the satisfaction of scoring through most of my jobs as I finish them. I am also currently trying to make sure I take regular breaks. I can be a bit of a workaholic but I actually I find that you become less productive the more you work, I just have to remember to remind myself of this.
What tips would you give to anybody who is looking to get started in the creative industry?
If you want to work in a creative industry, it will be because you want to do something that you love, rather than for the money, so make sure that you enjoy it and where possible try not to compromise. Be selective, try not to say yes to every job that comes along. As a freelancer I know from experience that it can be very hard to say no, especially if you don’t know where the next job is coming from, but if you are too busy working to pay the bills, you may miss that really great job.
To see more of Claire’s work visit her blog montyknits.blogspot.co.uk
Photographs by Britt Spring, Lucy Williams and Kirsten Mavric