Scarf season is just about here, and it couldn’t be more timely to introduce you to Brandi Harper of purlBknit. I am majorly in love with the work of this Brooklyn-based fiber artist. As the designer of her knitwear and owner of her company, Brandi knits hats and wears them all too. She’s also a photographer and teaching artist, and a very inspiring creative soul and I am so excited to be chatting with her today for my Dream Jobs series.
We’re talking about how to find an endless supply of creativity, overcoming the fear of calling yourself an artist and the challenges of running a handmade business. Brandi has such a unique voice and aesthetic, and I hope you enjoy learning about her and her work. // susannah
1. How would you describe purlBknit?
purlBknit can be described in one phrase, Natural Knitwear Handmade in Brooklyn. I have a special fondness for intricate lace stitches, crazy cables and architectural designs perfect for folks looking to bring their winter wardrobe to a whole new level! I sell online with Etsy and also delight in connecting with my community through local craft markets. The Angora Detail Mittens and balaclavas are my favorite items to make right now because I still have to refer to my own pattern instructions! The new handmade hanging planters accented with dried flowers I call Pots de Fleurs. They really do make the heart sing.
2. What were you doing before purlBknit? What inspired you to change paths?
purlBknit is a pen name I gave to the creative spirit always present within me for as long as I can remember. I think this path I’m on was paved especially for me before I was even born. It was a matter of garnering the faith that I had the ability to turn ideas into product. This story began with coloring on the walls as a child (bless my mother’s patience) to teaching myself to knit while majoring in vocal music at LaGuardia High School. Today I wear all the hats running my personal crafty brand. It took me some time to have the confidence to say, “I am an artist.” As cool as the declaration may sound, it was for a long time a scary word full of responsibility and a sense of urgency in constant conflict with the realities of time. I was born a creative. I just hope I can and will always do it justice.
3. When ideas are scarce, where do you turn for creative inspiration?
For me ideas are never scarce. My mind is always racing left to right, up and down. I tend to overanalyze things to the point of paralysis, so it’s really a matter of finding ways to live in the present and just stop thinking. The more I meditate and indulge in what everyday life has to offer the more likely an idea will convert into tangible product and services. Like after a session of hot yoga, I am very chatty and communicative on Twitter. Shopping at the Park Slope Food Coop always results into some pretty raw food photography for Instagram. And you should see my Etsy shop after I clean my apartment! 10 minutes of sweeping can add 2 new items to my inventory.
Click through to read the rest of the Q&A with Brandi Harper!
4. Describe your workspace.
My workspace is the walk-in closet I’ve always wanted! It’s a cozy (aka small) room in my home steps away from the kitchen. I’m a knitter and we tend to have a lot of stuff: yarn, needles, tiny tools not to mention my shop inventory. Plus I collect beach stones, dried flowers and green plants. I budget time everyday to keeping neat and tidy. I designed my office to be completely transportable so it could double as an in-person craft market display!
5. What have been your biggest successes and challenges for purlBknit?
One of my most notable successes is that I am still running my shop far from where I started with so much potential for the future. Oddly enough, staying in business is also the greatest challenge. To be a working artist in New York you have to be passionately stupid or very lucky. I’m a bit of both.
6. What are your dreams for purlBknit?
#1 on my Impossible Dreams Made Possible List is to do a DIY segment on the Oprah Winfrey Network. Anybody know somebody? You should know – I’ve been a knitting instructor since age 17 and can make a lovely scratch made dinner for 2.
7. Who do you look up to?
My sisters are best friends forever. My youngest sister is a PHD candidate in a scientific field while my older sister in a lawyer working in the NGO sector. The oldest is an entrepreneurial mom of 2 who can turn a bucket of ice into a pot of mouth watering stewed chicken. They are my role models, cheerleaders and very opinionated loyal customers. They challenge me and get on my nerves. I love them so.
8. Where and how do you love to spend your time off?
I like to shave my head to a specific shade of grey before throwing on a pair of be beat up sneakers. Then just get on my bike and explore Brooklyn with the first stop being a breve cappuccino.
9. What resources do you recommend to someone whose dream job is your job?
Danielle from The Merriweather Council is a small business coach and seriously the most coolest of women to connect with on social media. Alex Elle is a published author and motivational speaker. She is an all around beautiful person and makes manifest her wildest dreams. Deepak Chopra’s “The Seven Spiritual Laws of Success” is my go to when I need to be reminded of the limitless power of human potential. I would also tuck a handwritten note in their pocket that says, “Stop getting in your own way and know that you can do it. — Brandi”
10. If you weren’t running purlBknit, what would be your dream job?
I would be a carpenter. The smell of lumber is just fabulous.