A Conversation with Xee Summer
October 15, 2021
Xia Carstens (aka Xee Summer) is a digital artist and illustrator based in Cape Town, South Africa.
We first took notice of Xia's work last year amid lockdown. Her colourful and bright illustrations stood out in bold contrast to that season. Needless to say, we became great admirers of her work. Our paths crossed one day in our Pedersen + Lennard showroom, and we shared a happy moment when we found out the admiration was mutual.
We recently sat down with Xia to discuss her journey as an artist, where she finds her inspiration and her shortlist of favorite local spots in our beloved city, Cape Town.
Tell us a little bit about yourself, where are you based and what motivated you to embark on a career of creativity?
I am a 32 year old illustrator, designer and art director based in Cape Town. My favourite subject in school was always art (duh) and history but we needed to choose between history and art so I went the art route. I played first team hockey and was very serious about hockey up until about Grade 10 then I realised how much time art needed and I left my sporty vibe for a very nerdy art world which I am very happy about. I grew up in a very liberal, creative family and my parents always supported any artistic dreams my brother and I had, which I am super grateful for. I decided to study Graphic Design after school which opened many doors for me. I remember my favourite subject at university being Illustration but never thought I could actually make a career out of it or incorporate it into what would eventually keep me alive one day. We had a great illustration lecturer and we learned about Bitterkomix and Anton and Conrad and I always loved everything about illustration and art history.
What was the journey you took to become the artist you are today?
I actually started off doing front end for the first few years after studying and I really just missed seeing colour and just wanted to work on design. I then started applying for more designs orientated jobs and worked full time my whole life until last year in the middle of the pandemic when I went freelance. I have been on my own for just over a year now and have achieved and done more with my life in the last year than I did in about 5 years working for companies. I am incredibly grateful and happy with where I am in my life and I am so excited to see where I end up on this beautiful journey I’ve embarked on :)
Where do you draw inspiration from? How do you allow it to influence your work?
I draw inspiration from old classic designers mainly. Designers and artists who’s art age well. Work which will always be elegant and sophisticated. I am obsessed with good furniture design, architecture and art. I am very energetic and colourful and bubbly, so I feel like focusing on the old classics grounds me and anchors me if that makes sense.
See Xee's Pedersen + Lennard pieces
Would you describe what a typical day for you looks like?
Oooooh, this is the fun part. Since going freelance every single day looks totally different and that’s probably one of the main things I love about what I do. I get bored extremely quickly and I love change. I’m all over the show really. Some days I’m at home, some days I work from friends places. I’m always out and about and meeting clients. I don’t think I’ve had two days which have been or felt the same since I’ve gone freelance.
What is your favourite go-to local spot in Cape Town?
It depends for what :)
Beer: Dark Horse
Drinks: Gin Bar / MCC Bar
Food: Bao Down, Chefs Warehouse, Tacqueria, Black Sheep
I haven’t been out that much like most of us since COVID hit - I’m mostly in my little bubble of friends places to be honest or at home.
Which one of your works are you most proud of (to date) and would you mind telling us a little more about it?
I'd say my Fok Voort design. I did this in level 5 lockdown at home one night and didn’t think this would even get any recognition but this design has printed incredibly well and I have shipped it all over the world - America, the UK, Dubai, France, Italy as well as Australia. I silkscreened some T-shirts of this design and they flew! Just did my second round and all sold out in a matter of two days. So I’ll most likely do another run of it before year end.
I however think the job I’m most excited about is that a pattern I designed was used in a huge 60s reproduced bowling alley in Nashville. I am super excited about this and can’t wait to go visit and see it in the flesh :)
To see more of Xee Summer's work
Follow her on IG: @xee_summer
Check out her website: xeesummer.co.za