Meet Bec Kirby, the textile artist who translates her dreams into cushions

The Manchester-based founder of Soosumsee discusses the inspirations (good and bad) behind her designs

soo sum see
Thomas Searson

How did you decide on the brand’s name, Soosumsee?

It’s the slang name for rock-paper-scissors in Toronto. I use a lot of different mediums within my work, so the name derived from that.

What did you do before founding the brand?

I did an interior design degree at the University of Huddersfield, but I taught myself tufting (a type of textile weaving). This past year has been unusual; it led me to want more of a creative release. I’m very hands on and felt I was missing something.

Studying design definitely brought me to this point in my career; it goes hand in hand with tufting. However, it feels far more rewarding to work on pieces from start to finish without having to pass my ideas on to someone else to bring to life.

‘An ode to Bill Traylor’ cushion, £130, Soosumsee
Thomas Searson

What’s the inspiration behind Soosumsee designs?

I’m drawn to the weird and wonderful. Some of the pieces have been inspired by people, places and personal experiences; others by folk art and outsider artists such as Bill Traylor and Marcos Bontempo. I love the work of Francisco Toledo and the darkness in his pieces too.

They’re a reminder that inspiration doesn’t always have to come from positive influences. In fact, a few pieces from ‘The Series of Eight’ were inspired by terrifying recurring hallucinations I used to have as a child. Recreating them and turning them into something physical was a nice way of getting my own back for all those sleepless nights.

A detail of one of Kirby’s hand-tufted wallhangings
Thomas Searson

Where do you source your natural materials?

I like to use local suppliers. The cotton comes from a mill in Manchester and the alpaca wool is sourced from a farm in Yorkshire. Animal welfare is important to me, so I only use suppliers who share the same values – it’s one of the reasons why I don’t use merino wool yarn yet.

Kirby creates her designs on a frame hung with monk’s cloth
Thomas Searson

Can you tell us about your design process?

There is a lot of conceptual development that goes into each piece, so my process always starts with drawing out ideas and mocking them up digitally. I then project the design onto the frame and sketch on to monk’s cloth.

Using a special gun for tufting, I work into the detailing first to refine the shapes, before filling in the background. Once the pieces have been glued, they get cut off the frame and then I hand trim with snips to tidy up the loose loops. Each cushion is hand sewn with a lot of care.

‘Le Corbusier’ cushion, £130, Soosumsee
Thomas Searson

What does the future hold for Soosumsee?

I’m currently in the process of renovating my studio, after tufting in my dining room for the last six months! As soon as it’s ready, I can create far bigger pieces, which I’m really excited about.

Rugs are definitely on the cards, along with larger wallhangings and throws. It feels like I’m at a very exciting stage with Soosumsee and I can’t wait to see what the next year brings.

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