This year we were inspired by Michelle Obama’s book, Becoming, our Book Club book for January, and we decided to focus on learning from women who we find inspiring and can tell us about their journey of “becoming”. You can read the rest of the interviews here. Stay tuned for more each month.
I’m pleased to share this interview with maker and publishing director, Melanie Falick. I first met Melanie in NYC when we brainstormed books for her then publishing IMPRINT, Melanie Falick Books, part of the publishing house Abrams. She was instrumental in getting me going into the publishing world. By the time Craft the Rainbow was under way, she had moved on but I’m lucky to say that she stepped in to mentor me through the process. When I was stuck she lent a listening ear and sage advice.
Making a Life, her latest book, and our Lars Book Club book for November, features a range of makers from all over the world, and I am honored to be among them. She did an extremely thorough job of researching and asking thoughtful questions. I can’t wait for you to learn more about her as a person.
What do you consider yourself? Example: Artist, designer, illustrator, maker, business person etc.?
Writer, editor, creative director, publishing director, maker.
Who helped you “become” who you are?
My family as well as a few mentors I found as I grew into adulthood influenced me by supporting my fascination with handwork, creativity, and world travel and also by believing in me generally.
Do you feel like you’ve arrived at what you set out to do?
I believe I achieved what I set out to do with Making a Life, to show that doing handwork is a natural human impulse that can help us to be healthy, positive, and fulfilled individuals, friends, family and community members, world citizens, and inhabitants of planet Earth.
What more would you like to “become”?
I see becoming as a lifelong journey, so my answer to this question could go on and on. Right now I feel compelled to learn how to fix and build things I need for my home so that I am more self-sufficient and also to become more actively involved in my community’s wellness. My New Year’s resolution is to try to make the change I want to see in the world by thinking and acting locally.
How did you get started doing making?
I grew up in a family where people made things, sometimes because it made sense financially and sometimes for the pleasure of the process. I dabbled in knitting and sewing and a few other crafts when I was a kid, but I didn’t get serious about making anything until I was in my twenties. That’s when I started knitting a lot. My interest in knitting—both as a technique and a lens through which to learn about people and places—led to my interest in hand-sewing and pottery and gardening and, from there, the list goes on and on.
What did you study?
I studied French and linguistics in college. Most impactful, in terms of my education, were the two semesters I spend studying abroad, first at a college in France and then in Kenya, Egypt, and Israel through the International Honors Program (which still exists; my son spent a semester studying with them in Uganda, India, and Brazil last year).
What’s your dream job? Are you in it now?
I have a had a few dream jobs so far. Editor of Interweave Knits magazine a long time ago, publishing director for STC Craft/Melanie Falick books, an imprint of Abrams, from 2003-2015. Author of Making a Life as well as several other books earlier in my career. I have a lot more dreams—to study graphic design, to travel more, to inspire more making by hand, especially in places where it might be taken for granted—and I am in the process of figuring out how to move in those directions.
What’s your goal with your work?
Contribute something meaningful and beautiful in a positive way. Enjoy the process.
What are you most proud of in your career?
The books I have written that have had a positive impact on people’s lives. Readers of Knitting in America (published in 1996), and my most recent book, Making a Life, tell me that those books have inspired and empowered them to pursue their dreams. That feels good. I am also very proud of my book Kids Knitting because so many people of all ages have learned how to knit from it; I hope that each of them has gone on to teach someone else.
Did you feel pressured in any way to pursue a certain career path?
My parents expected me to go to college and to live on my own and support myself when I finished. They didn’t put much pressure on me in terms of what I studied or pursued
What’s your work space like?
I have a really nice work space on the 3rd floor of my home. There are windows on three sides, so lots of natural light. In warmer weather I often work downstairs on my screened-in porch with a view of the yard and the garden.
What’s a piece of advice that you’ve carried with you and who is it from?
When I graduated from college, one of my cousins recommended that I do research to figure out where I wanted to work and then reach out to those people/companies instead of relying on the opportunities presented in the Help Wanted ads. It is a proactive technique that has worked well for me. Also, while I was working on Making a Life, Nikki McClure, one of the makers featured, told me to make sure I touch the earth with my hands everyday. Sometimes when I have been running around a lot and my head is spinning, I will go outside, kneel down, put my hands on the ground, and close my eyes; it feels good, solid, centering.
What does your dream retirement look like?
Stream of consciousness: yoga, part of the year in Oaxaca, part of the year in France, travel, handwork, gardening, bread-baking, maybe teaching ESL, friends, family, love.
How has social media influenced your work?
I am not a big fan of social media, especially now that there are so many ads on it and because it is so addictive and pervasive, but I don’t feel like I can ignore it in my work because it is an important way of seeing what is going on creatively and of communicating with people who might be interested in what I do. I try to be conscious of how much time I spend engaged with screens vs. how much time I spend interacting with people and places in person. I wish we could get rid of the ads.
What did you want to be when you were young versus when it was time to decide what to actually do?
I wanted to write novels, create my own worlds. I need some quiet time to figure out if I still want to do that.
You can find Melanie:
Photos by Laurence Mouton and Rinne Allen, and Melanie Falick