Suzanne Schwartz: A Stitch In Time

Suzanne Schwartz: A Stitch In Time

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schwartz_2Suzanne Schwartz created quite a buzz when she made her Paradise City debut a few years ago with imaginative designs that translate the draping and stitchery of fabric into metal. Her necklaces and bracelets are sculptures in miniature, artfully embracing a wrist or neck with perfectly composed curves accented by bold cross-stitching. Airy earrings shaped like wheels, ribbons or ruffles dangle gracefully or, accented with a pearl, hug the earlobe. Schwartz delights in “the ability to turn a rigid material into flowing, artistic designs.” She says, “Metal’s properties enable limitless translations of texture, pattern, and shape.”

schwartz_portrait2We’re always intrigued by the different paths artists take to wind up as practicing artists. Some go directly from high school to Art College; others take surprisingly circuitous routes. Where do you fit in?
The latter, I think. I went to Alfred University and graduated in 1985 with a dual BA in Environmental Science and Political Studies. Immediately after Alfred, I had a series of jobs; I began working for an Environmental Consulting Company and I spent a lot of time in Hotel and Retail Management. I lived in Paris for two years. I eventually went on to work for Eileen Fisher in the early days of her company. Working with her, seeing her realize her dreams, was truly inspirational. Watching her build a company based around her creativity, her unique vision of clothing and her desire to design inspired me to pursue my own career as a jewelry designer. I really enjoyed working for her and the company but when I realized I wanted to make jewelry design my life, I went on to study at the Fashion Institute of Technology.

schwartz_1When did you first have an inkling that you were going to be an artist?
Designing and making my own art was always a part of me and all I ever really wanted to do. As a child, I thought about designing things and envisioning how I wanted them to look. I had images in my mind for my doll’s clothing, my own clothing and furnishings in my room. My Grandmother Lee Lee had a strong influence on me. Every Saturday Lee Lee came over. She was constantly knitting and sewing and taught me both. I sewed clothes and home furnishings and made handmade books with a lot of stitching detail. In college, I came up with a design for a piece of furniture that incorporated two separate beds. I designed it and made it with my Dad. My Dad was always building things while I was growing up and was a huge influence as well. I loved working on projects with him. With all the apartments I lived in, I was always building pieces or reworking existing pieces I found in the garbage. Living in New York City for most of my life, there were great furniture finds on garbage day. My apartments were largely composed of these pieces redesigned, refurbished and reupholstered.

schwartz_3You’ve become quite an accomplished metalsmith. How did you get from found object furniture to building a successful career as a jeweler?
After college, in search of a less conventional life and indulging my love of travel, I moved myself to Paris where I lived for two years. Since I couldn’t work legally I had to do various jobs to pay my way. One was making frames with bugle beads and little Eiffel Towers which were sold at touristy locations. I learned my best street French with the other itinerant vendors. We were chased away by the cops whenever they came. But the making of my own “art” and selling it really worked for me. When I moved back to NYC, I took a metals class at Parsons and was hooked. I felt I had finally found the material (metal) that worked for me. I had a passion for jewelry and came to look at it as small sculpture as well as adornment. I knew I wanted make jewelry design my profession but I felt I needed more intense training and classes. I went back to school for a metals degrees at FIT between 1995 & 1998.

schwartz_5Where do your ideas come from? What inspires your work?
Textiles, texture and line composition have always intrigued me and continue to be the basis for my work. I always see lines and composition in my everyday life and then translate them into my jewelry. While nature and architecture are my primary influences, it is the intersection of lines within these areas that speaks to me. When I walk my dog in the woods I absorb the shapes and composition of the leaves or trees. Recently, on a trip to Utah with my family, I was awed by the breathtaking vistas. But it was the lines, colors and textures within the details of the rocks and mountains that inspired me.

At its root, the stitching in my work comes from my Grandmother, who taught me to knit and sew; it’s how I was first able to express my creativity. Expressing my creativity in life and in my work has always given me a sense of freedom and calm. It feels natural for me when I am creating; it’s the one place I can truly be me. The stitching in my work embodies my own history, because it was the first place I found my creative sense and the need to use it.

Are there other artists with whom you identify?
Jewelry is a passion for me. Walking around at shows I am constantly intrigued by how other jewelry designers are using similar materials yet interpret them in a way that is completely unique to them. Watching other artists create is always a huge inspiration. It’s fascinating to watch their designs evolve. Specifically related to my own work, I am very intrigued by the use of line and texture in the work of Mary Lee Hu, Tone Vigeland, Reiko Ishiyama, Giovanni Corvaja and George Jensen.

I would also like to mention how much I like coming out of the studio to a Paradise City show and working with customers. I love it when someone puts on a piece of my jewelry; it becomes a reflection of their personality and expresses who they are in such a unique way.

Suzanne Schwartz will participate in the Paradise City Arts Festival on November 18, 19 and 20. She looks forward to seeing some of you wearing one her pieces to the show – and to helping new customers bond with the perfect necklace, brooch, earrings or bracelet.