When you walk into Suz Somersall’s store, located in the Shops at Stonefield, you’ll first be greeted by a little dog named Creasie, a Yorkie mix that Suz adopted while living in Japan. Suz has traveled to many different places, and as you talk to her about the jewelry she crafts you get a sense of the diverse international influence on her creations. She draws her inspiration from architectural elements as well as the natural world. Some of the items currently on display build around an oceanic theme: sea urchin and sand dollar necklaces, seahorse and starfish cuffs, the last of which was made from a mold of an actual starfish. The next collection will focus on an Egyptian theme and include honeycomb-inspired jewelry.
The Cville Niche met Suz to share a “meet the artist” and find out more about her beautiful jewelry and storefront.
Tell us a little about yourself. Where are you from? If not the Charlottesville area, what brought you here?
I’m originally from New Orleans but moved to Charlottesville when I was in high school. Then I went to art school in Rhode Island and moved to Italy, Japan, and NYC before recently returning to Cville last year.
What are you working on right now?
We recently wrapped up our Fall/Winter 2015 collection “Norwegian Woods,” lots of simple, clean geometric line interpretations of leaves and other bolder, organic tree-inspired birch bark cuffs and twig bar necklaces.
When and why did you become an artist?
I have always loved art and design, especially making jewelry. I studied art and art history at Brown as an undergraduate and had the opportunity to live and study in Florence, Italy where my love for metal smithing really took root. It was after that that I studied at the Rhode Island School of Design in their Metalsmithing Dept.
What artists influence(d) you most?
I wrote my senior thesis on Kara Walker and had the opportunity to meet her my senior year. I was very influenced by the power of a silhouetted shape and the projections people apply to these forms. Most of my original designs were all very clean but intricately cut 2-dimensional silhouettes. Now my collections usually consist of some 2D silhouetted forms and also more organic pieces full of shape and body.
What aspects of life excite you, stir your affections, fuel your passions, inspire your art?
The unknown, not knowing what tomorrow will bring and living in newness. Travel and creation, seeing and making new things. This is sort of the intersection of my collections which are all location inspired: Kyoto, Marrakech, Egypt.
What do you want people to take away from your work?
I want them to have everyday pieces that they can wear day or night but also have an element of another place or time, be it antique influence, a foreign architectural pattern, an exotic organic form. I think it is the transportive quality that is most important to our designs.
Finish this sentence. Jewelry-making to me is…
the moment a piece is finally finished and is purchased for the first time by a customer. The moment that someone else sees beauty in the vision that I located. Sharing that with them.
What does a day in the life of an artist look like from your perspective?
Well, running my business is most of my life! Emailing, shipping, calls, meetings, ordering materials, working on our web site development, and learning every day! I try to segment days of the week to do designing. Surrounding myself with beauty and inspiration helps to stay focused on creating new designs. Our back office in our showroom at Stonefield is filled with photos, sketches and quotes, as well as coffee, sweets and other treats!
What does the not-so-distant future hold for you and your art?
We are already designing for Spring/Summer 2016, lots of exciting new inspirations and locations. A friend and some of the women on our team are planning a trip to Morocco and a Havana Soiree-inspired shoot. Exciting! I love shoots because I get to collaborate with so many other creatives. And it culminates in these beautiful images and films that everyone can use and remember.
What showings/events/classes of yours should we look forward to?
We will be having a party to introduce our new Spring/Summer line: Havana Swing. We will have Cuban inspired music, cocktails, and of course jewels!
What advice do you have for anyone who wants to pursue a career as an artist?
Don’t give up! I wish they taught entrepreneurial classes or at least Econ at RISD. So many artists struggle finding ways to monetize their art and passions, especially to pay back expensive student loans! I had to work 3 part time jobs to fund beginning my own collection. Just take it one day at a time. As a business owner the highs are high and lows are low, but sticking with it is the most important thing!
What makes Cville special for artists of all forms?
It’s such a beautiful place to live. I am so inspired every day. Living in New York was hard. The day to day grind numbed me a little. I know everyone is different but I prefer the pace and peace in Charlottesville. (I loved Japan too! The culture and people are so beautiful and respectful.) In addition to the quality of life here, I love the number of vastly unique and creative people who live here. It’s easy to find other creative minds to collaborate with.
Favorite place in Cville to… be creative?
Running in the Boar’s Head Inn (where my parents live!). It’s so pretty and always is a source of renewal and inspiration. I also have loved my experience at Darden’s iLab, being surrounded by other entrepreneurs and sharing our experiences.
Favorite place in Cville to… see art?
Les Yeux du Monde. I went to high school with Kiki Slaughter and love her work [which is displayed there] as well as Clay Witt and Abby Kasonik. I always loved photographer Sam Abell, too! I was inspired by him when I did a summer internship at the UVA art museum in high school. I just finished my own charcoal of him, a rendition of one of his photographs which was a self-portrait. I think he took it of himself and his father when he was very young. One of the first selfies ever taken, I believe!
Favorite place in Cville to… grab a bite?
Favorite place in Cville to… get a drink?
Parallel 38 has great wines by the glass and delicious apertivos, and it’s right across the street from my shop in Stonefield. Dangerous!
Any other Cville favorites?
Lastly… Describe yourself in 10 words or less.
A wanderlust romantic.