Located in a Brooklyn factory building, Susan Connor's studio is small and sparse with white walls and white furniture. The simplicity of the space allows us to focus on the soft, foggy salmons, indigos, golds, and creams of her fabrics spread on her narrow countertop. The walls are devoid of any clutter, with just a few items hanging: a small piece of paper displaying the words, "rich; soft; nuanced; luxe," and a post-it with the hand-written phrase, "Good things take time." It is evident, even from our first impressions, that Susan is an artist who believes in deliberate and calculated craftsmanship.
As the child of a mother who sewed her clothes and a father that built their house, Susan acknowledges that she always knew that she would be an artist. "There was never any other option," she simply states. She describes her childhood home in Lexington, Massachusetts, as full of items that were curated, loved, and meaningful. It is an aesthetic that she credits leading her into a life of design, first as a graphic designer and painter, then as a pattern designer for her widely known paper goods line, Susy Jack. Despite her success, Susan felt a pull toward pursuing her lifelong dream of textile production and found herself simmering with new pattern ideas that she felt compelled to explore. After giving herself a full year to let her ideas evolve, Susan developed a clear vision for the textile company of her dreams. In early 2014, Susan Connor New York was launched.
Using a ballpoint pen to make sketches on any scrap of paper nearby (sometimes stained from the afternoon’s coffee), Susan's designs begin with shapes and patterns that are gleaned from everything: Indian block printing, the veins of a plant, Japanese patchwork, or a tattoo on the subway. From there, each design is carved onto a block, rolled with ink, and pressed onto European linen in a process that most would find discouraging in its limitations. But Susan embraces the challenge. "A lot of my style has developed in this incredibly hand-done way where there are rules," she explains. "The blocks are only so big, the ink has to be a certain kind or it doesn't work, the design has to be a certain shape or you can't cut the block out. I have to use my creativity to force myself to work around those things."
Upon inspection it is almost unfathomable that Susan's designs have been created by one person's actual hand. They feature delicate patterns within shapes with a level of intricacy rarely seen outside of mass production. This is the part of her work that makes Susan light up. "I want to create a product that really shows that someone spent time on it," she says emphatically. "It should show someone cared." That commitment has become the essence of her brand and the backbone on which her business continues to grow. She shows us how she’s been playing with a digital printer to aid in the production of her hand-drawn designs, which could mean a faster turnaround and more customization. She is quick to qualify her approach with a level of aesthetic scrutiny for which we have come to know her. “I could make a thousand things, but you have to stay focused. Every product has to be carefully made and gorgeous. If you're not intentional, you can end up in a place you don't want to go.”
The passion Susan feels about her work is palpable to anyone who meets her, and it is fueled by both internal and external forces. About herself, Susan admits that she is quick to get agitated if she is not involved in some sort of project “making things,” and she values having beautiful things as part of her everyday lifestyle. Outside of her drive for personal fulfillment, Susan's larger vocational calling is to share her designs with others. “Textiles is a huge long chain that has been going on for centuries, millennia. I want to add my own voice to the conversation. It matters to me that people know this has been thought through and is special." Shop Susan Connor's textiles here.
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