Kevin and John Watts left behind architecture school and an advertising career, respectively, to form Susan for Susan. “We set out to create products that visually question how they’re made,” Kevin Watts explains. The unique shapes and textures of their lamps are developed by exploring the reaction between Styrofoam and acetone, which acts as a solvent on the foam.
In an 1890’s former barn just north of Toronto, the brothers fashion molds by dripping the chemical with a syringe onto foam blocks, eroding the material in patterns sketched out beforehand. The voids generated are filled with a cement and sand mixture that’s pigmented with iron oxide and a metal framework for the wiring, and then cast. The resulting piece is power-washed and hand-polished, sometimes leaving small white flecks of the foam, a trace of their hands-on process. It’s wired and fitted with an aluminum component that fastens to a blown-glass fixture housing an LED bulb.
Experimenting first with smaller lamps, the duo now focuses on almost human-size ones, with custom commissions available. They work in tandem: Older brother John does the metalwork; Kevin sculpts and polishes. “We offer different points of view but have similar interests,” John Watts says. As for the studio name? Susan is their mom. Bright idea.