Meeting Xeem Noor is like burrowing under a multi-coloured quilt with your seven cats. There is a seeping warmth in her surroundings that appears to slow down time. An architecture lecturer at UiTM, Xeem’s expertise ranges from teaching to writing, drawing and knitting.
“I started knitting and drawing when I was in my 20s, learning the basics of crocheting when I was 12 years old.” Now 29, Xeem spends her spare time for illustrations and for knitting pencil cases, scarves, and beanies. As of now, most of her knitwear is done by order or as gifts for friends.
Knitting and drawing are the two things that keep Xeem both occupied and happy. She recalled a time when she was suffering a nervous breakdown. In an attempt to help, a friend asked, “Besides doa and praying, what makes you happy?” and when she answered, “Drawing,” she realized that her hobby was like an outlet, providing what she calls a ‘visual vomit’.
Xeem’s illustrations tend to be structured, always consisting of patterns and geometrical lines on figures or embellished quotes she likes. Xeem chalks it up to her background in architecture and her obsession with patterns: “Even if I did want to draw naturally, I’d end up with patterns on my page.”
Clearly passionate about her craft, Xeem gushes that Micron pens are the best mechanical pens in the world, repeating several times, “Brandon Boyd uses them!” with glee. She also has strong preferences in her knitting tools. “I prefer using bamboo sticks compared to steel ones. If you use steel sticks for wool yarn, it will be slippery and create static.” She adds that steel sticks make a noise akin to someone sharpening knives. She prefers the therapeutic clicking of bamboo sticks.
Lately Xeem has been testing the idea of applying knitting on her illustrations. Jokingly, she points out how everyone who sees her drawings will touch the paper, expecting the strokes to be tangible and pop out. “They wanted to touch the drawing so much, so I’m giving them something to touch!”
When asked about her dream project, Xeem reveals that she wants to doodle her house. She would have a wall and put up a pattern, then tell her guests to colour it when they come over, like a wall guestbook. “Don’t steal my idea!” she adds quickly, and laughs.
Xeem doesn’t think she can see much change in her art since she started, but this is why she is experimenting with a fusion of her skills. “I want to evolve. I feel like I’m stuck in a rut.” She hopes to perfect her embroidered illustrations and move much further in the future.
In the meantime you can spot her in cafes around PJ illustrating and maybe even with some knitting needles in hand: “I’m a fan of cafes! My favourite is Food Foundry.”
Xeem drew an embroidered illustration for Make It Magazine this week. Get behind the scenes with her (and her cat!) in this video:
Interview and Video by Make It Magazine. For more stories about designers and makers, visit their blog here.