An inspiring morning was spent with Susie Watson and Janet Strydom heading her team at the Cambridge branch of Susie Watson Designs for a coffee, meet and greet. We felt very lucky to meet this uniquely talented dynamic designer and we definitely came away feeling in awe and inspired!
Originally an architectural designer, Susie was inspired by her own personal experience of family life, primarily living in the kitchen as we often do, and wanting beauty in the function that surrounded her. Transforming a family, child friendly, practical home into a designed space suitable for a dinner party with just the flick of a tea towel – who says we can’t have both together, not Susie!
At the time, running an art gallery, Susie had that light bulb moment; realisation that she was experiencing as much pleasure in viewing a beautiful pottery toast rack as her wall-hung art, she discovered the pleasure of a well designed mundane daily object – a ‘thing of beauty is a joy forever’ –
I have to confess that sat there listening to Susie’s talk, cradling my beautiful mug filled with steaming coffee on a rainy November morning, I realised that it felt as comfortable in my hand as a perfectly designed ergonomic chair.
Apparently Susie’s favourite piece is the bees & stripes, but I couldn’t quite decide which mug spoke loudest to me as the whole range was calling my name.
Her inspiration comes from a love of the eclecticness of the old English country house, mixing stripes with flowers and spots with Paisley and more recently exploring the Indian theme with her new camels range.
Her brand is simply ‘homemaking’ where colour = happiness, being specific with colour is the downfall of many companies – whereas it is Susie’s specialty.
Susie gets her subtleties absolutely spot on, spending vast amounts of time and hard work on getting each product right, which is precisely why Susie Watson Designs work!
Starting in humble beginnings at Northcutt road in 2008 and with a more glamorous shop in the very pretty market town of Marlborough (which still thrives as the hub today along with a further 6 more stores) Susie’s unique pottery designs were originally manufactured in Stoke on Trent, but now reside in Sri Lanka, where she firmly stands by her ethos to achieve unique, high standard pieces that are ethically sound.
Starting her fabric collection with just tablecloths, made by a family factory in southern India who on ‘crying out for more work’ Susie put on her thinking cap and designed a whole fabric range for them to manufacture which now include her stunning cushions with the intricate embroidery all completed using a freehand wooden hoop with all the birds and flowers cut by hand.
All the glass pieces are hand blown in north India with every fine detail etched by hand. Susie is immensely proud of the skilled workers employed to produce her intricate designs and is very aware of the costs and not unrealistic to her clientele and manufacturer alike.
All Susie’s wool is English wool from a mill in Leeds and with the closure of so many English woolen mills, the demand is high. Furniture is made by a highly sought after independent furniture maker in Preston as too are the curtains and blinds. The quality of the curtains show and Susie’s original design of lining using her striped material has now become a popular design feature.
She is immensely proud of the team behind her but Susie herself is the force, describing herself as fussy, she is behind every design, every shade, mixing the paint and designing every minute detail, if Susie doesn’t like it, it doesn’t get made, so it really is ‘her’ work. Her personality is in every piece, and it is this attention that has afforded her the perfection that surrounded us in the store.
So when you’ve reached perfection …
where to go next?
Susie laughs when she tells us she’d love to re-educate the British culture away from duvets and steer us towards stylish crisp cotton sheets with beautiful quilts, layering is so much better than fighting off an over-hot duvet and after yet another struggle to embrace that regular fight with the household duvet change, I’m inclined to agree.
And things for the future?
A question from one customer sparked the imagination and may mean you see in the future … embroidered spot voiles!
New ranges include the recently unveiled bespoke service available on pottery, inscribed with your wedding date to Christmas stockings and even personalised dog beds, which are totally scrummy.
Coming soon is a range of charcoal painted lamps to flourish the grey range and 2016 will see the Cambridge store appoint its own personal interior designer available for home visits bringing just a little taste of Susie into your home, and who wouldn’t want that!