Cover Story: Rhonda Davis aka TurquoizBlue – Inspiring Us All Through Her Designs

TurquoizBlue - Crochet DesignerHow did you come up with the name TurquoizBlue?

I have had lots of mix-ups because of my very common name (Rhonda Davis). I chose TurquoizBlue as my username everywhere online because turquoise is one of my favorite colors. I decided to use this name for designing as a way to differentiate myself and also because I came across crochet designs from someone with the same name as mine.

How long have you been crocheting and who inspired you? My mother taught me to crochet when I was five years old. I learned the basic single and double crochet stitches, and I learned complex stitches and Tunisian and Hairpin crochet by watching her and my grandmother crochet and copying what they did. The rest I picked up on my own throughout the years, mostly from experimentation and reading books.

What is your favorite crochet stitch and why?

I like the Half-Double Crochet stitch because it is fast. I also like the way it looks when stitches are made into the different loops of the stitch. Stitching in the front, back or middle loops create fabrics that have a nice, ribbed texture.

Another favorite of mine is the Extended Single Crochet stitch. I love the drape it creates while the fabric is still pretty solid.

My absolute favorite technique/stitches are Tunisian crochet. I enjoy watching the fabric build off my hook, and there are so many stitches. It creates very unique items. I especially love it for making garments and blankets/afghans.

What is the very first pattern you designed?

I honestly don’t remember. I used to make lots of things and write partial instructions about what I did. I would also take most of them apart to reuse the yarn so they are long forgotten. The first published pattern that I completely wrote out as a real pattern was for the Mulled Spices Afghan, which was published by Interweave Crochet.

What prompted you to transition from crocheting various projects to designing your own patterns and submitting them for publication?

I started out designing tiny berets and dresses for my dolls when I was small, so I have always had that inclination. I liked to sketch my own designs and visualize how they could be constructed. Honestly, for years I never knew that anyone could submit designs to publications. I thought designers who went to fashion schools created the designs, but when I looked at the designs, I would always say to myself, “I can design some things that would look good in a magazine.” The Internet made it much easier to locate information about where to submit designs. Once I had this knowledge, I decided to go for it.

Were any of your design submissions denied? If so, how did you overcome the disappointment?

I have had several designs denied. It can be temporarily disheartening, but I just tell myself that my work wasn’t a good match for either that publication or that particular issue of that publication. I also learned that many designers resubmit their designs to a different publication after being denied, or they self-published them. Knowing there are other opportunities and my work doesn’t have to be scrapped allows me to keep my head up and keep designing.

In 2009-2010, you had a total of six designs published; four were in Interweave Crochet and two in Crochet World. How did it feel to see your designs published, knowing so many crochet enthusiasts would be duplicating these designs for themselves, family, and friends?

LOL. I never thought about it that way. I have a compulsion to create, so I was happy to have an outlet that would let me share my work. I wasn’t sure whether people would like my designs or not, but I just felt fortunate to have an opportunity to have my work seen by others. The very first design I submitted was accepted. I was completely surprised and felt truly blessed. I felt it was great and different enough that someone might like it, so that gave me the courage to submit it. After that, it was a privilege to have even more designs accepted.

TurquoizBlue - Crochet DesignerWhat sets your crochet apart from everyone else’s?

I like looking at designs and projects from other crocheters, but I try not to look at them with the dissecting eyes that designers can have. I trained myself to look elsewhere for my influences. A lot of the things I make are inspired by clothing and home décor I have admired over the years – my mother’s clothes, the hat I remember Mrs. S wearing, the way the woman on TV wore her cape, or the way Mr. D decorated his bachelor’s apartment. Stuff like that sticks with me for some reason. I love retro and modern/futuristic styles, and I think there are usually elements of both in my designs. My personal tastes lean toward a stark, dystopian futuristic style with a touch of retro and boho.   I love uniforms, fitted suits, and peasant skirts.

The designs that have been in publications usually have to fall within the parameters of submission guidelines, or an editor may ask for changes to the design, colors, or yarn type. That can alter the final look and feel of the design somewhat, but I think a great portion of my style remains in there.

Which stage of the crochet process do you enjoy the most – planning the project, working on it, or completing it?

I enjoy coming up with partial concepts and preliminary sketches. Sometimes I get obsessive with it and just keep churning out ideas and iterations of those ideas. I have boxes full of drawings and notes. Some are indecipherable because I didn’t take time develop a complete idea, but I’m sure there are elements that can contribute to something in the future (at least that’s what I tell myself). The planning stage is the part I like the least because once I have the concept defined, I just want to get to crocheting. The last thing I want to do is math and write step-by-step instructions, but it has to be done. Once I get into this part of design, though, I’m usually fully invested and committed to completing it. I love when I get to start working my hook and seeing my designs come to life. When it is finally finished and it looks exactly like my vision, I am ecstatic. It’s like being a human 3-D printer.

Social media is a tool that allows so many crafters to create and share their projects and designs. Has social media helped you as a designer? If so, how?

I won’t say that I would not be a designer without social media, but being on social media has definitely helped to make my design career happen. The majority of crochet connections that I have made have been through social media, and I have met lots of designers online, while I have met very few in person. In addition to being able to communicate with other crocheters, social media also provides a platform that allows me to share my work with many people around the world.

Your website is both simple and sophisticated. What do you enjoy most about sharing the content on your website with your followers?

Thank you. I have not been able to devote time to my website and blog because grad school has been so demanding, but I am looking forward to updating my website and sharing new content very soon. I enjoy having an outlet to blab about crochet-related things I find interesting and sharing my work and the work of others.

There are so many creative and talented people who crochet but are hesitant to take that leap of faith as it relates to designing their first pattern, selling their products, or submitting a pattern for publication. What advice would you offer to help them take that first step?

My advice is to create something, anything! Don’t worry about being a pattern writer, measurements, or technical things. Those things can be learned later, and sometimes focusing on fine-tuning the process instead of creating will cause ideas to be lost or produce a desire to abandon a project because it seems so overwhelming.

Create and make things for friends and family to get their feedback. Try selling your creations locally or online. I sold things at craft fairs for years before I ever thought to design professionally. This will help to boost your confidence in your abilities. While you are becoming more self-assured, begin learning more professional techniques. Read books, take classes, join a professional organization, or reach out to more-experienced crocheters to improve your skills. Your design opportunities will grow as your skills increase.   Find out what types of items you like to make and what techniques you like to use. Then focus on developing those areas. Don’t try to be the best at everything unless you are one of those type people who are great at multiple things. There are many types of positions you can occupy as a crochet designer. Take time to learn about all the avenues that are available, but remember to create your own design path and be different. Marty Neumeier writes in his book Zag: The #1 Strategy of High-Performance Brands, that you should try to draw “a whole new shape” and to know how to zag when others zig. He says, “[t]o find a zag, look for ideas that combine qualities of good and different.”

TurquoizBlue - Crochet DesignerWhat are your goals for 2015?

My goals are to get back in the saddle and start designing again. I have so many incomplete designs that I would like to see finished and hopefully published, both through someone else and by me.

I have been brainstorming with another designer to collaborate on some designs. I think we have some unique concepts that could produce some beautiful designs. I am looking forward to working with her.

I am also working on some designs for a yarn company. That is in the early stages. Still trying to come up with concepts/sketches.

I am really excited about incorporating all the design strategies that I learned in school into the crochet process and also using them to create more interactive content that is engaging and encourages conversations. I have another website that I was planning to launch a while back that I had to put on hiatus that will be geared toward crochet household items. I really want to resurrect that.

Another goal is to make something that is absolutely fabulous just for me – a one-of-a-kind item that I can treasure for years. I rarely get to crochet for myself.

And the thing that I am most excited about is being able to be more involved with Crochet Savvy Magazine and working with Keturah to help her achieve her vision. I love the staff that has been assembled. I believe we have great ideas and work well together. I am really hoping to meet everyone in person in 2015.

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