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Welcome back to the second part of our exclusive interview with the legendary Soo Catwoman. We’re finishing up our chat with Soo and we also get an introduction to her daughter, Dion, who tells us about her amazing clothing line and what it’s like to have the coolest Mother on the face of the Earth.
How did your image start to be used as the face of punk? How do you feel about it, then and now?
Well to be honest I had no clue that I was going to be used as the ‘face of punk’ – no one thought to ask or tell me that was the intention. I went into a shop to buy cigarettes one day and saw the ‘Anarchy in the UK’ magazine on the shelf and found it rather strange seeing my face staring back at me! To this day no one has ever asked me if I mind how the pictures are used, it seems that my face and image, my ‘art’ as some have called it, has been hijacked. I think it would have been polite to be consulted but I am aware that not everyone has manners and consideration. In some ways I am grateful that pictures were taken simply because they prove I was there. There have been one or two attempts to play down any importance that my image may have had but I think it speaks for itself. I’ve lost count of the amount of things that my face has since been used to publicise over the years, from books to clothing and everything in between, all without any payment, my knowledge or my permission.
Tell us how your clothing line came about?
It is only recently that I have been able to look at the old images of me in a new way and without feeling a little ‘used’. My daughter Dion October started her campaign of ‘taking back’ my image for me last year. She has always been very artistic and in mid 2008 she started designing and printing t-shirts bearing my image. Dion hand silk-screens each shirt and they are a real work of art. She also prints tote bags and designs and prints a mixture of the images on hoodies. We even carry a skull and pins logo design, which was designed for us by our friend Tim Smith at Unique Ink. We’ve done some special orders for people that were really fun to do, like t-shirts for 3-year-old twins in Scotland (aww, look how cute!) We’d like to do more childrens clothes. Dion has even hand painted a special shirt for one of our regular customers and we have been getting great feedback both on catwomans-kitten Ebay shop and on the Catwoman Clothing MySpace page. We can take orders through MySpace, in addition to a Web Shop coming soon at soocatwoman.com.
(It’s at this point that Soo hands the interview over to her daughter, the equally lovely Dion October, shown right…)
Dion, how did you start making T-shirts?
Dion: In 2007 I was in college and was studying screen-printing. I’m greatly inspired by the works of Warhol and have always had an interest in photography-based artworks. At that time I didn’t have the means to use a screen to create prints. I improvised and started hand painting T-shirts through intricate paper stencils, which sometimes took me hours to make. The T-shirts I created then depicted dinosaurs and robots with fire and lightning. It was a hobby that I loved and my friends began to ask me to make shirts for them. Eventually I started selling them on the Internet. I stopped making them when I started working full time and always dreamed of taking it up again.
How did it evolve to using images of your Mother?
Dion: After seeing my Mother’s image being used more and more frequently – in public on posters, in fashion books that I’d take out of the library, on television when I was getting ready to go out – it slowly became clear that someone had to do something about it. I thought that it would be perfect for me to take up the challenge, as I have always believed in art as a spontaneous expression.
My Mother’s image has at times been associated with negativity, words like ‘destroy’ and ‘anarchy’ and the mental pictures they conjure up don’t really fit with the person she is. My Mother is a dignified, thoughtful, peaceful and loving person and it has always seemed such a juxtaposition to see people portraying her the way they have. Her beliefs are more about a ‘mental revolution’ – about people learning to think for themselves and understanding that often even when we think we are doing that, we are actually running an old program or repeating an old past experience. If we are not free in our minds then it is difficult to be free in our lives.
What’s it like having Soo Catwoman as a Mom?
Dion: Having her as my Mother is amazing. She is a warm and loving person filled with expression and creativity. When I was a child I would frequently win costume competitions at school with the clothes she would make for me. In my teens she would cut my hair and style it for me and I loved not looking exactly like all the other kids at school. She always allowed me and my brother to be expressive. She encourages us to be creative and to let creativity be a part of everything we do. She’s like Mary Poppins in a way, anything that needs doing she can make it fun and interesting. She read stories to us every night as children and that gave us both a great love of literature. She is an incredibly strong and independent woman who lovingly and single-handedly brought us up. She had to be both a mother and a father and she never complained or showed us that she found it difficult, even though I am sure that it must have been at times.
She is always complimented as to what a great job she did of bringing us up, and we wouldn’t want any one else for a mother! To this day she encourages us to express our feelings, which our teachers in school never understood. Sometimes they would ring her up and tell her that I was ‘emotional’ using the word as a criticism. The difference in her ideas and the ideas of the school system came to a head and she decided to home school me for the last two years. Those days were filled with reading poetry and painting pictures. She also gives the greatest advise. My friends always come to my house when they are having trouble, not to confide in me, but to talk to my mum about it! No one leaves our house without a smile on their face, as her generosity and passion for living is relentless. When I find everything too much and want to give up she always says something that reminds me I can go on and that giving up in any way really isn’t an option. She encourages me to follow my heart and make decisions based on feeling and not what I ‘think’ is the right thing to do.
(Can you believe what an amazing Mother/Daughter relationship that is? I have to say, several times throughout this interview process I wished I wasn’t an ocean away, because all I wanted to do was hug both of them! We pick up again with Soo here…)
What’s a day in your life like these days? What do you enjoy doing?
First and foremost, I’m a mother and most of the time I really enjoy that and all that goes with it. My kids still live at home so sometimes we enjoy watching a movie together and ordering pizza. Although I live in London and there is much to do and see here my heart is in the country and wide-open spaces. I think the ocean is one of my favourite things, along with trees and flowers and sunshine, I daydream about that quite a lot. My health isn’t quite what it was and I feel the cold in my bones in winter – I think one day I’d like to live somewhere warm, that thought gives me much pleasure and keeps me going. I’m not very good in crowds and am much better at one-on-one situations than socialising these days.
(We always ask our interviewees to choose a fun question from our potluck question vault. I give Soo a list and she graciously answers all of them.)
What book do you think everyone should read?
‘The Prophet’ by Khalil Gibran, it’s a book I always go back to for inspiration.
You can listen to one cd for the rest of your life – what do you pick?
‘Boon’ by Good Weather Girl – it’s not out yet but I have an advance copy. They are my son Shem and my daughter Dion’s band. I listen to it at least once a day, not because they’re my kids but because I think it’s great and it puts a smile on my face. I think they’ll go far. They have a MySpace page if anyone is interested in checking them out.
What movie changed your life?
‘My Dinner With Andre’. It’s a dialogue over dinner between Andre Gregory and Wallace Shawn, about love, life and the theatre.
You invited some friends over for a dinner party – what do you cook (or do you just order in?)
I don’t really have dinner parties and prefer light meals. I’d probably stick to something that could be prepared in advance so I don’t have to spend all night in the kitchen – perhaps salmon baked in tin foil with cream, lemon and limes and capers, served with a nice salad and some fresh wholemeal bread.
What are you three make up must haves?
An absolute must is a good moisturiser as I have fair and dry skin. I like my face to feel moisturised but not greasy. I try different ones and at present I’m using Vichy Aqualia in the daytime and Roc Retin-Ox night cream. I’m still looking for a good foundation for the ‘older’ woman, if anyone has any tips do let me know. (speak up members!~Stef) I find that most of them manage to just accentuate lines and wrinkles and make me look 90 so until I find a good one for dry skin that doesn’t make me look shiny. I shall just plough on with my Benefit Concealer here and there. I also love the shadow/eyeliner in my Benefit ‘Big Beautiful Eyes’ kit.
What characteristic do you admire most in a person? Which one do you despise?
I admire honesty, truth, warmth and openness and although I don’t really despise anyone as such, I don’t appreciate rudeness, aggression, lack of manners, self-indulgence or egotism.
And those positive characteristics, dear readers, are exactly what we found in Soo and Dion. We can’t thank them enough for their time. Now, go buy a Catwoman Clothing T-shirt and not only will you be the coolest person on your block, but you’ll be supporting an indie business and some wonderful women as well.