For my latest “chat with” I’m staying a little closer to home, Manchester in fact, as I recently had the total privilege of catching up with Bec Kirby, the textile artist and founder of Soosumsee.
Bec and I had been Insta friends way before her lockdown hobby became her business, and I can honestly say it has been a highlight of this terrible time to watch Soosumsee come to life, albeit through those tiny squares, and follow her dream grow into the success story it has now become.
With their eye-catching and intriguing motifs, Bec’s beautifully made hand-tufted cushions, wall hangings and rugs sell out quickly and are sure to be collector’s items in the future.
Over to Bec to tell us more:
Can you start by telling me a little about your background, and how designing and making went from being a passion to your profession?
I’ve always loved creating and I originally channelled this into interior design, which I studied at university. From there I moved to Amsterdam for a while to work at an Architecture practice, before returning home for a job at a design studio in Manchester’s Northern Quarter.
Like many people, before the pandemic I’d never really had any spare time, but then suddenly I was met with an abundance of it. I was really craving the creativity of the studio and the tactile side of designing, so I decided I needed a hobby.
When I bought a tufting gun, I didn’t intend my life to change, but as I started to make things, slowly at first, I knew there was something in the process, in the creative release, that I’d found something very special to me.
In no time at all I was starting my job at 6am so I could finish at 3pm and then spend the rest of the day, and evening, tufting. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I had eight cushions and they sold within minutes and in the months that followed I knew I couldn’t continue to do both so made the decision to take Soosumsee full time. It’s the best decision I have ever made.
What was the inspiration behind Soosumsee and how is this reflected in your designs?
When I started Soosumsee, which is a Toronto slang word for the game Rock, Paper, Scissors, it wasn’t so much inspired by specific things but deep-rooted feelings and emotions.
The ‘Series of Eight’ are all pieces drawn from these horrible, recurring hallucinations I used to have when I was younger. Other pieces, such as ‘Things from his shed’ came from the loss of my grandpa, and ‘Isolation Chair, 2021’, reflected my Nanna being left to grieve alone, in a pandemic.
I want to create pieces filled with integrity, love and transparency. I want them to tell their own unique stories, not only visually but through the materials I use too.
How are your pieces made, what methods and materials do you choose to use?
All my pieces are created by hand using a tufting gun and woven into monks cloth. The majority of my work has been constructed with cotton yarn; however I have been trying to find an ethical source of wool for many months.
There are a lot of grey areas when it comes to the wool industry and its ethics. Most flocks from farms claiming to use ‘ethical’ practices are still commonly part of a slaughter line, so it’s a difficult task.
Recently however, I have started to take in a lot of ‘deadstock’ yarn from the textile industry. Repurposing something that was destined for landfill feels like a step in the right direction, although not my final destination when it comes to materials. I’m always researching and developing, so hopefully in the coming months I may get even further in my research, with more answers to sourcing solely sustainable and ethical wool.
Do you have any favourite pieces to make, and if so which ones and why?
My favourite piece to make was my ‘Isolation Chair, 2021’ wall hanging because it means so much. I also really want to make it into a real chair someday too.
What’s next for Soosumsee, can you give us any hints as to what we can look forward to seeing next?
I have a couple of collaborations coming up, which I’m really excited about, but I have to keep them under my hat for a little while longer yet!
I’m also working on a series of woven tapestry throws made from recycled cotton, a collection of large rugs and a set of Christmas decorations just in time for the winter season.
Thank you, Bec, for taking the time to chat with me, I cannot wait to see what delights your Christmas shop has in store.
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All images courtesy of Bec Kirby.
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