Meet the Maker - Susan Kane

Thursday, June 12, 2014
New to Made in Britain this year is Susan Kane aka Fir + Wren.  Susan creates whimsical brooches from laser cut birch ply.  We love her illustrative designs and had to find out more, we caught up with her recently to discover her inspirations behind her work...
Please can you introduce yourself and tell us a little about your work? 
My name is Susan Kane and I work under the name fir + wren. For many years I worked in textile design but have always had a passion for illustration and I love to translate my hand drawn imagery into various media. Currently I am making brooches- my images are laser cut or etched from coloured high pressure laminates, I then assemble the cut pieces according to my colour palettes and mount them onto birch ply. The results are fun, graphic, little, wearable art works. 
Apart from creating things what else do you do? 
I enjoy what I do so it’s easy to spend all my time doing it but when I’m not in the studio I love spending time with my family and walking in green spaces, especially where there are trees. 
When did you know you were an artist/maker? 
I’m not sure I can pin point this, but I remember when I was 7 years old telling my Mum and Dad that I wanted to be an artist- strange really when I think about it because there were no artists or designers in my family. I was always drawing, painting and making things so it was just a natural process I suppose. 
What do you love most about working in your chosen discipline? 
Everything! It’s wonderful to be able to immerse myself in the thing I love most. I can’t imagine my life without it. But to be specific I am happiest when a design or picture starts to come together, the colours work and the composition flows. 
Where does your inspiration come from? 
I always find myself staring at plants, trees and buds. They are amazing, their shapes and structures beautiful and complex. I’ve also always been drawn to mid-century design. It’s true what a lot of artists and designers say- inspiration comes from everywhere. My design mind doesn’t switch off, it’s constantly filtering imagery and then when I have some quiet time such as on the train or first thing in the morning when I’m just waking, I tend to have ideas that are more formed so I make some quick sketches. 
Describe your studio or workspace? 
I share my studio with my partner Clint who makes furniture. About 6 years ago he built a ‘shed’ interior in our studio/shop, which gives our work a quirky setting. The studio is housed in Manchester Craft and Design Centre and is also a retail space so people come and browse whilst we work. It took me a while to get used to this as I am quite a shy person and even now it can feel a bit odd, but on the whole it’s a great feeling when complete strangers come and talk to you about your work and my confidence has grown as a result. 
If you could peek inside the studio of any artist, designer or craftsman (dead or alive) who would it be? 
Lucienne Day’s studio would be interesting to me- her designs are timeless and uplifting and I would love to see how she developed her designs from beginning to end. Saul Bass is another favourite of mine, I’d love to have seen him at work. I like his clean graphics and the way he divides up a page, especially in ‘Henri’s walk to Paris’. 

How would you describe your creative process? 
Lots of thinking- sometimes too much! I work best when I’m relaxed and happy and I just sit down and start drawing or painting intuitively. At art school we were taught to work directly with paint and not draw anything out first, so this became my natural way of working. When I draw (I love line) it’s for it’s own sake such as in mono-printing or sketch books. For me a lot of the creative process is about having self belief. 
What handmade possession do you most cherish? 
My Dad, who sadly passed away in December, always supported me in my work and made many stretcher frames for my canvases. He also made me a beautiful ash picture frame which I will always treasure. 
What do you do when you are stuck in a creative rut? 
I get out of the studio- try to clear my head- give myself a break- have a coffee with friends. There’s no point trying to force anything when I feel stuck but I usually find that by looking through my sketch books I see things with fresh eyes and a new idea sparks. 
Where would you like to be in ten years? 
I’d like to be still producing work that excites me. A children’s book is something I’ve thought about doing for years so I would be chuffed to bits if I managed that!

Thank you Susan, we have loved spending time with you in your studio and watching you work.  You can find Susan's lovely handmade brooches for sale in our Made in Britain shop.

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