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Meet Sean Richman — a Toronto-based designer, illustrator, and colourful rug maker with a soft spot for sporty aesthetics

Sean Richman sitting on the ground with his rugs

PICTURED ABOVE: Sean Richman of Kinda Cool Studio sitting with his handmade rugs and tufting tools wearing Levi's 551Z Authentic Straight in Face to Face, Vintage Fit Trucker in V Super Lite, and Brixton Basic Pocket Tee in Weller Yellow.

Where are you from? What do you do? Give us a bit of your back story. 

My name is Sean Richman. I’m a Toronto-based designer, illustrator, musician. You know, I guess you could say an all-around creative type.

Born and raised in London, ON, I grew up playing in different bands and, in turn, would design merch and gig posters for said bands. Then friends' bands, and then friends' friends' bands, and so on. Fast forward some years, I went to Sheridan College in Oakville, ON, where I graduated with a Bachelor of Illustration. Currently, I work as a designer for a kitchen and barware company and do freelance illustration.

I've also just (re)launched Kinda Cool Studio, where I’ll be showcasing and taking commissions for my handmade rugs and other tangible goods! It’s something I’ve been sleeping on for a few years now, but am excited to finally get it out there and show the people what I’ve been working on.

Do you think where you grew up has any influence on you?

It definitely DID, and still does to some degree now, even if it is more subconscious. As many opinions as I've heard from people about London, I think the city has a pretty impressive DIY arts scene. The high school I went to had a super cool advanced art program.

Growing up, I was fortunate enough to be exposed to many different mediums and practices at a nearly-professional level, being taught by working artists. It was actually pretty wild thinking back on it. But yeah, being surrounded by such a prolific, creative community during high school helped me realize that a future in art and creating, in general, was where I wanted to head.

PICTURED ABOVE: Sean Richman of Kinda Cool Studio prepares to thread some yellow yarn into his tufting gun adorned with our Turquoise Ring and Classic Signet Ring in Silver.

I know you have a range of work you create. Do you have a favourite medium? 

It's hard to choose a favourite! I'm constantly wanting to explore new mediums and textures and trying to figure out how to incorporate more of that into my digital workflow. However, I am a sucker for tangibility, and I've really been enjoying tufting (rug-making).

Something about it is so cathartic to me. Using the (tufting) gun requires enough attention and physicality to just forget about anything else going on in life. It's also a surprisingly forgiving medium, so I don't feel as 'nit-picky' as I do with my digital illustrations or design work. Though, I do hate untangling yarn. That sh*t drives me crazy!

Who are your favourite artists? How do they inspire you?

Ah, so many. I mean, Matisse is definitely a big one. Aaron Lowell Denton, Robert Beatty, and Paulina Almira all have a cool modern take on this pseudo-psychedelic 70's inspired airbrush aesthetic that I love and think is super beautiful and impressive. Jackson Joyce is probably my current favourite traditional painter. His pieces are so serene and innocent, yet bold and playful and make me feel all sorts of things.

On a more local note, Justin Broadbent, Sean Stewart, Nyk Stefaniuk, Robert John (RJ) Patterson, Kyle Stewart and Justin M. Yong are all amazing artists and constantly pumping out stuff that inspires me to continue creating. Everyone should go check their stuff out!  

PICTURED ABOVE: Untangling yarn is one of Sean's least favourite things to do, but at least he's got his colour coordinated materials in tow with the Happy Books Smiley Tote by Seltzer Goods.

Are there any other art trends that inspire your current work?

Well, it's been really cool to see so many people tufting and making rugs online and around the world. That's kinda how I came into it, in the first place. The online community has become pretty huge and very helpful when it comes to techniques and advice.

However, one thing I have noticed about this trend that I really don't like, is that many of these people are just using recycled designs and logos or stealing other people's work and making it into a rug because it's 'trendy' or it will sell quickly. So many people are making the exact same pieces. This simultaneously frustrates and maddens me, yet inspires me to create rugs and other tufted pieces that can ALSO act as functional, original artworks and can be appreciated as such. 

Also, Quilting. Seeing anything quilt-related gets me so psyched.

PICTURED ABOVE: Although not an athlete, Sean's always down to shoot some hoops. With his love for the classics, here he's sporting a Vintage Coaches Jacket, Weird Guy Black Cobra Stretch Selvedge Denim, Richer Poorer Recycled Hoodie, Red Wing Postman Oxfords, and Pigment Dyed Baseball Hat in Navy Blue.

Where do you find inspiration? Do you have other interests that influence your art? 

I'm not much of an athlete, but sports have always intrigued me aesthetically — specifically, the courts and fields. There's just something so fun and playful about the colourful geometry and lines on a basketball court. Or the bright green astroturf of an empty football or baseball field at night, lit up by floodlights. I find it so eerie yet ethereal.

Music has always had a big influence on my work as well. I've always enjoyed playing music — specifically synthesizers and creating my own sounds. Seeing how far I can change and remove existing sounds from their original state and then build them into something brand new. I find this process carries over into the visual world quite seamlessly, and I think that applies to any creative type. Nothing is entirely original anymore. And that's fine. You just gotta find a fresh way to present it. 

Lately, though, I've been finding so much inspiration through home decor and fashion or textile design in general. Whether it be some weird vintage upholstery on an old couch, a pair of EXCO jeans cut up and patched together like a puzzle or an old pot or kettle that someone found at goodwill for $3 and decided to zhuzh it up with a siq hand-painted airbrush design, for the hell of it. I love to see it. 

PICTURED ABOVE: Sean Richman of Kinda Cool Studio is inspired to create functional and original artworks. Here he holds up and adjusts the placement of one of his coveted handmade tuft works featuring his signature design style. 

What motivates you to create? Do you have a favourite time of day to create? Or is there a specific environment that's integral to your work?

Seeing other people create! That's my main motivation. The more I see my peers and people around me creating, and being excited about it, the more I want that for myself.

I probably feel most creative and productive at night, which is also probably the least convenient (and healthy) time to be creative and productive. But I'm a bit of a night owl, so I typically make it work anyways. *shrugs*

What's the best piece of art you've created?

I don't know if it's the 'best' per se, but I was quite proud of a tour poster I designed for the rapper, Shad. I decided to step out of my comfort zone by including more abstract elements than I typically would and really enjoyed the process and outcome. So I guess it sort of, in a way, gave birth to the style that I currently work in. Also, the very first rug I tufted is still my favourite one that I've done to date. 

Describe your dream project. 

I really would love to collaborate with a furniture designer and create some fun tufted upholstered pieces. I'm constantly trying to find other ways to incorporate tufting, aside from just the standard floor or wall piece. Tufted apparel is on the list also. I would also really love to do a big mural.

PICTURED ABOVE: Brighter, flashier colours are Sean's go to summer style. So naturally he's wearing Levi's Red Tab Vintage Tee in Natural Dye Violet paired with the floral pattern Slouchy Shirt in Hazy Blooms. To complete the look, he's picked the Fairfield Leather Weekender and our Mirrored Signet Ring in Gold.

You have such a great sense of colour and pattern in your artwork. Do you think this translates into the way you dress?

Thank you! And Definitely. Specific colours and textures just speak to me and find their way into my bloodstream. I find it's not even a conscious thing at this point. The way I dress just also happens to echo the way I tend to create. And vice versa!

Tell us about the evolution of your personal style. How has it changed over time?

Oh boy… we're going there!

Anyone that has known me since high school knows how many changes I've gone through over the years. Mostly with my hair, if I'm being honest, but also in my fashion choices. 

My music tastes heavily influenced my fashion style in my younger years. Throughout high school, I played in a metal-core band and was a total scene kid. I would use my sister's CHI iron to straighten my hair every day and wear painted-on skinny jeans with bright American Apparel deep v-necks. Cringe, I know. 

Then I started listening to softer music and toned it down quite a bit. I wore a lot of earth tones and neutrals for a while. Now, I mostly just find myself throwing on a lot of vintage tees and snapbacks, a decent pair of jeans, and some nice fresh sneaks. Brighter, flashier colours and outfits in the summer. A lot of greens, blacks, browns and button-ups in the winter.

PICTURED ABOVE: A big fan of stylish, but functional clothing, Sean opts for a good pair of overalls. Here he's wearing the Levi's RT Overall in Heavy Metal Hearts, paired with a Vintage Crewneck Sweatshirt and the 6-Inch Moc in Oro Legacy by Red Wing.

What's your go-to outfit for going to the grocery store?

Hmm. It's tough for me to pass up any opportunity to wear overalls. Functional and Fashionable. You can't go wrong.

Do you have any style icons? What do you like about the way they dress?

Deaton Chris Anthony is the first one to come to mind. His outfits are always so unique and weird and fun, but also effortless at the same time. I know he makes a lot of his clothes and has his toes dipped into a lot of different creative pools, including rug-making (which he refers to as 'wugs'). So that's pretty cool. Overall, a pretty inspiring dude. Stephen Powers (aka ESPO) also makes some pretty great fashion choices.

What's your favourite article of clothing you've ever owned? Past, present, or future!

I don't know if it counts as an article of clothing, but my girlfriend made me a tote bag out of an old set of vintage Coca-Cola bedsheets I found. It's pretty amazing, and I love it!

Sean Richman is a multi-talented artist living and working in Toronto, ON.

He's the head honcho at Kinda Cool Studio, where he makes one-of-a-kind, handmade rugs available for commission. Be sure to follow along @kindacool_studio to see his latest tufting works. And don't forget to check out seanrichman.com and @seanrichmang to keep up with his design and illustrations.

 Interview and photography by Alyssa Katherine Faoro.

Friends of Philistine is an interview series with people who are doing neat things. If you are working on a new project or have something exciting in the works we'd love to hear from you! Please reach out to hello@philistinetoronto.com and tell us about why you'd love to be featured with a community profile. 

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