Meet the Maker – Suzie London
Hey there, this is Melodie from SlinkyLinks Jewellery, one of the captain of the London Local Etsy team. Today we are starting our recurring blog post theme: Meet the maker.
Last week I went to visit Suzie Kemner from Suzie London at her studio in the magnificent Horsey Town Hall in Crouch End, North London. As a way to showcase our talented designer-makers we have decided to start doing studio visit so you can have a look at what’s hidden ‘behind the scene’. Our upcoming craft market being in that very same building, we thought it made sense to start our ‘meet the maker’ blog posts there.
Suzie designs and makes “clothing, accessories and homeware, with fun and colourful prints inspired by patterns from the 50s, 60s & 70s”. She’s also a freelance graphic designer and illustrator.
My first impression when I entered her studio was “OMG, she is like me”. Her studio is immaculate. Everything is tidy and pretty with a hint of OCD. I just fell in love with it!
It’s all sorted by colours, she has plants and flowers everywhere and it’s full of cute little displays to inspire you.
It’s basically a dream room, out of a magazine. But really there is a reason for that. Her studio is literally an extension of her flat. Indeed, Suzie sacrificed the comfort of having her flat in Dalston and moved in with her boyfriend in a flat share in Crouch End so she could have her own studio space. Most of her stuff is in that studio as that’s where she spends most of her days. And she doesn’t regret the change one bit!
“Well, I moved to Crouch End in November (before that I was living in Dalston), and absolutely love it. Especially now that I have a studio in the amazing Hornsey Town Hall, which is now an Arts Centre. There is such a great sense of community here, and I’m meeting so many creative, inspiring people. Also, there are so many charity shops, unique gift shops and lovely cafes here, such as the 70s-themed Edith’s House.”
So what’s Suzie’s story?
“I’m originally from Holland, but my family moved to Perth, Australia when I was 9 years old. I came to London “for a year” when I was 20 years old, but 16 years later I’m still here! I’ve lived in London for longer that I’ve lived anywhere else, so this is my home.”
And she is planning to stay… Well, at least for now!
Of course what we really want to know is how she came into her craft. Like for most of us designer-makers, it didn’t happen all in one day.
“I studied Graphic Design and ‘Multimedia’ at the West Australian School of Art and Design, and my first job after graduating was designing ‘Interactive CD-Roms’ (remember those?!). Over the years this led into web design and more recently mobile app design, but I started to feel really dissatisfied sitting at a computer all day, moving pixels around for corporate clients. So I started studying textile design in the evenings, from screen-printing, to block-printing with linocuts, and digital printing too, as well as pattern-cutting and sewing. I realised I loved making things and slowly Suzie London was born.”
I love having an idea in my head, drawing a scribble of it in my notebook, and then making it a reality. My pineapple necklaces started off that way. I wanted a retro pineapple necklace, so just made one as an experiment, and I was so happy with the result I made more. I also love sending my little parcels off to customers all over the world, and receiving their lovely feedback.
After more than 15 years of designing for clients, it’s so liberating to finally design things for myself, exactly how I want the designs to be! I love the freedom to create what I want, and also to create designs that truly represent me (and not what someone else wants).”
I’ve asked Suzie to explain a littlebit about her creative process
“I always have a million ideas for patterns and products, so carry a notebook with me everywhere I go to scribble them down. I’ll do initial sketches in my notebook, then use Adobe Illustrator to create my designs. I’ll also often create ‘mock-ups’ of new products in Illustrator or Photoshop to give me an idea of a product before making it or getting it made. This way I can try lots of different ideas and combinations quickly. Depending on what I’m making, I might send digital files off to a printer to get my designs printed onto fabric, before sewing/making the printed fabric up into the product. I actually recently discovered a new digital fabric printing factory just 20 minutes’ walk from my studio, so I can pop round to collect fabric as soon as it’s printed!”
I love that she is really trying to work with local factories. After our interview she was meeting with this printing factory and I’m glad to see how well it worked out.
But as every small business owner knows, it’s not all about fun and there’s always part of your business you struggle with and don’t enjoy but you still have to get on with the work. For Suzie it starts with the financial aspect of things.
Well I’m rubbish when it comes to finances, but I’m slowly starting to love spreadsheets, and setting myself goals. I’d like to focus on photographing and listing all my products on Etsy, as there’s so much I’ve designed and made that I haven’t added to my online shop yet, such as cushions and lampshades. Also, this is the year where I will finally focus on marketing my business, and try to get some press coverage!”
Now I wanted to know what a typical day in Suzie’s life looked like
“I don’t really have a typical day, as I do so many different things, and I’m constantly juggling them. I’m definitely not an early bird, so I’ll get up around 8am, go out and get a coffee in a cafe in Crouch End, and tend to any admin/boring stuff. Then I’ll head to my studio for the fun stuff of designing and making, and posting out orders. Some days I’ll just be designing, others sewing. I also try to fit in freelance design and illustration projects into my day. I’m currently creating graphics for The Great British Sewing Bee TV series, which is super exciting as I’m a big fan of the show!”
Sewing Bee! That is exciting. Can’t wait to watch the new season (airing on the 5th of May so stay tuned)
But Suzie has also many other plans for her brand this year “I love making espadrilles, and may move into making more shoes. I’m also planning on finally launching my dress collection this year.”
If you are interested in making your very own pair of espadrilles with Suzie, she is running a workshop at the Urban Maker East spring market on Saturday 23rd of April. Learn more andbook now https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/make-a-pair-of-espadrilles-with-suzie-london-tickets-22653090002
I guess this is definitely going to be a busy year for Suzie. But she still has time to give some friendly advice to anyone starting out their own business: “Join a group of like-minded people such as the London Local Etsy Team. There are lots of ups and downs with starting your own business, so it’s great to have a support network of people around you, who get what you are doing!
I joined the London Local Etsy Team late last year, before applying for the Etsy Made Local Christmas Market in Soho. It’s been great to meet so many new crafty friends, and the Facebook group has been super helpful whenever anyone has a query about anything to do with running your own craft business. Also, I’m sooooo excited about the Spring Market that the team has organised in the Hornsey Town Hall, especially as my studio is upstairs.”
I’m not going to lie, it feels good to hear feedback like this from our team members. And I didn’t even have to coach her 🙂
We couldn’t end the interview without asking a local more about Crouch End and why she loves living and working there.
“The centre-piece for Crouch End is the Hornsey Town Hall, which is an amazing 1930’s Art Deco building, and features a gallery, performance space, yoga studio, bar and cafe, as well as creative studios. There are lots of fabulous independent shops (my fave is Indish who stock lots of my favourite designers including Finnish brand Marimekko), great cafes such as Edith’s House, the Arthouse and Picturehouse cinemas, and about a million charity shops. So it’s a really vibrant, creative area. I’m happy to be a part of it!”
After the interview and photoshoot, Suzie took me to one of her favourite place in Crouch End, Edith’s house and that in itself was an experience. I ate my lovely quiche sitting down on a 70’s pink covered toilet…
I won’t say more,the picture speaks for itself. You’ll have to check out the place for yourself when you come to our Spring Market in Crouch End on 14th of May. Come say hi to Suzie (and me) and discover over 50 London local designer-makers. You won’t be disappointed.
I promise to be back soon with another Meet the Maker story from the London Local talented team.