When I first saw very fresh, stylish, innovative and elegant designs of Olga Buraya-Kefelian I immediately became a big fan. Later I learned that she was born in Belarus. My both parents were from that place and I visited there a few times. That made me also proud and happy for Olga. I love to see people from my old country succeed professionally here in the US. Olga’s designs are frequently published by Interweave Knits. Two of her designs are on the cover of two books and many others are in books, leaflets, and her own line of patterns called Knit Creations of a Curious Mind. I am sure there will be many more beautiful and fashionable designs by Olga Buraya-Kefelian in the future, so if you were not familiar with her work by now, I highly recommend to keep an eye on her publications.
So, here is Olga herself answering our 15 questions.
When did you start knitting and who taught you?
I have been taught first by my mother at the tender age of 4. I remember it was cool weather outside and where I come from it’s a tradition for mothers to pass on the knowledge of the craft. Memory of the rust orange yarn and metal needles and wonky garter stitches. It was just a try out. When I was 7 my grandma taught me how to crochet and it stuck through my teenage years. I made my first sweater during my freshman year in Lyceum (High School equivalent).
When did you begin publishing your designs?
It was around 2006 when I have started blogging that I have been encouraged to share my designs with the rest of the knitting community. I have started contributing to various projects as well as self-publishing on my blog. Nowadays, thanks to Ravelry.com, managing self-publishing has become so much easier and accessible to wider public.
What is your most favorite knitting (crocheting) technique?
I would say provisional cast on method (with a crochet hook) and tubular cast on.
When are you thinking about some new design, what inspires you the most? Is it different every time? Could you give us some examples on inspiration for some of your designs?
Being fond of fashion I look through magazines and the current trends, but not all of them are wearable or can be easily transformed into everyday wear. I enjoy architectural publications and blogs. That is certainly a great inspirational source for me.But every time it’s different, essence of color and natural surroundings are very easy and plentiful to work with. I think visiting new places and change of scenery plays an important role. The details that I have never noticed before may trigger brain sequence for an idea to be formed. I carry a sketchbook with me all the time, so if there are some unexpected ideas I come to ponder over I try to doodle it on the paper, so I can come back to it later and work it through into a design.For example, there is a top in Ori Ami Knits that has these draped vents and that was inspired by fish… just an anatomical part of it – gills. Process of creativity can’t be controlled, it just happens. I have way many ideas and not enough time for knitting them all, but I do my best though sometimes it is so obsessive that I can skip on sleep.
What does your studio look like?
I have turned my den into my studio. There is a desk, a comfortable chair, a good lamp, a bookcase, a huge tub of yarn, a dress form and a big window. I enjoy having a good flow of natural light when I work.
What is your most favorite place to knit (crochet)?
I would say my Ikea Poang chair. It was referred once that I “live” in that chair.
Do you spin your own yarn?
No I don’t spin my own yarn, I tried designing once with some handspun and it is a challenge for me as I prefer more solid colors and base my designs on the cut and texture rather than the beautiful yarn on its own. I do own couple handspun skeins, but they are more for admiration. They were gifts from friends.
Do you belong to a knitting group?
I do actually belong to a group that is meeting in a local yarn shop every Wednesday night and I am going to miss them dearly due to my upcoming move. But I must say I have already got in touch with couple of knitters in a new place and they are eager to start a new knitting group there!
Are you in touch with other designers and how do you communicate with the knitters who knit your designs?
Email, Twitter, Skype, Google chat are my mostly used methods of communication with the other designers. We try to meet up when they are in the area. As for the knitters making my designs I get lots of messages via Ravelry and regular email as well and it always makes me smile when people leave comments on my blog!
Where can we see your published designs?
My self-published designs you can find on my website, there right on the sidebar, they are also available through Ravelry.I have a design in Knitty.com. Sensual Knits and Pure Knits have my designs on the covers. There are also couple designs in Pints and Purls book and I have published designs in Interweave Knits and Crochet magazines. I collaborate with yarn companies, some of the designs you can see from Blue Sky Alpacas, Spud & Chloe and Shibui Knits.
Do you teach classes? If yes, where do you teach?
I did teach classes in the area. First, I was teaching for Knit a go-go company that covered majority of Metro DC area and then at Knit Happens, a local yarn shop here in Alexandria, VA. I have been also conducting numerous private classes as well. Once moved, I hope to teach again in Japan.
What would you like to tell knitters who are timid and do not believe they are skilful enough to knit some of your designs?
My biggest advice to knitters is to believe they can do it and keep improving their skills by knitting more projects. The more various techniques you explore the wider range you create for yourself. At the same time, never be arrogant in your knowledge, there is always so much more to learn. Stay open to suggestions when others give you tips on knitting. Knitting is like a language; every person gives it their own interpretation, its voice and accent. I would never tell anyone that they are holding their needles or knitting/purling wrong. It’s personal to everyone.
What are your plans in the near future?
You never know what future holds for you, but currently I am planning to continue designing and publishing my designs on my website as well as collaborating with other wonderful people in the industry. Teach more knitting workshops and share what I know and passionate about.
Can you share with us what your latest design is?
Absolutely, but it would be a bit of a challenge as is not just a design, it is a range of designs that I have created for my book in collaboration with a great photographer Vanessa Yap-Einbund, ORI AMI KNITS: Fiber Geometry. Ori from Japanese means Fold or Weave, Ami is from Amimono, which means to knit. The garments were conceived with geometrical detail or structure in mind while exploring amazing fibers of present market. It’s all about versatility of the garments, cool cuts and interesting details, but at the same time all of them are suitable for an intermediate knitter. You can read more about it here.
Would you like to add anything about yourself?
I come from eastern European country of Belarus, where winters are Minnesota like.. very long and cold…I was born to a family of a seamstress and my dad was in the USSR Army. Thanks to that, as a child I got to travel and live in Cuba for two years, which was very hot, exotic and memorable. Traveling became a passion later on and with the iron curtain fall we have gotten to travel around Europe and visit USA for the first time. Currently, I am in process of moving to Japan along with my military spouse, as you can see passion for travel and exploration is still here and we are going to be stationed there for the next 3 years. I am a linguist by education, so I hope to teach both English and Knitting/Crochet when I am there. I am thrilled for a chance to get acquainted with a new culture face to face and learn what I can.
FG: Thank you, Olga, for giving us a chance to get to know. I am very thankful for your time before your big move to Japan. Good luck to you and I am sure we will see some fabulous designs influenced by your surroundings there. Since you were modest about showing your designs here, I will choose a few myself.
Thank you so much, Faina, for hosting me here and giving such an amazing opportunity to speak to your readers! Wishing all the best with your knitting endeavors!