Hello everyone, here is the interview that I’ve been meaning to post for WEEKS, that keeps getting interrupted by work and school and work and shows and life and whatnot — with many apologies to Susan for putting her on hold, here she is at last!
Susan W. Saltzman is the amazing artist/ designer behind SToNZ, where she makes beach stone and glass jewelry. Her jewelry a gorgeous blend of natural beauty and technical skill, and thanks to her graphic design background, there is a wonderful precision to her branding and a stunning crispness to her photography. Her work has been a favorite of mine since I met her.? I am proud to own one of her necklaces, and even luckier to call her a friend. You can find her work at http://www.stonz.etsy.com
1. Tell a little about your business – what do you make, how long have you been in business, and what do you love most about it?
SToNZ is my line of handmade sterling silver jewelry, featuring beach stones, sea glass and freshwater pearls. Being an artist all of my life, I have studied a wide variety of artistic media (including metalsmithing, many moons ago). While earning my graphic design degree from the University of Michigan School of Art & Design, I was hired as an in-house illustrator at a major greeting card company. Upon the birth of my kids, I decided to begin a home-based freelance design studio. After spending more than a decade as an illustrator and graphic designer for a diverse range of corporate clients, non-profits and community organizations, my longstanding love for wearing and working with natural materials and silver drew me back to the jeweler’s bench.
Living near beautiful Lake Erie is a huge inspiration to me. I love to walk the beach and gather stone and glass specimens washed smooth by years of natural tumbling. In August of 2007, I discovered Etsy and realized that it would be a great venue for me to market my new creations and SToNZ was born!
It?s difficult to say what I love the MOST about my SToNZ business. I revel in the beachcombing, of course, but I also love sorting through my finds and designing a new piece of wearable art that best features the unique beauty of that particular piece of glass or stone. I love finishing a piece, and marveling at how it can end up entirely different than the way I originally envisioned. It’s such a thrill to see SToNZ being worn and hearing about how it “speaks” to the wearer. Something about this organic jewelry draws the most amazingly wonderful people. So, I have to say, I also have loved meeting many of the special people who appreciate SToNZ this jewelry really does draw interesting people into my life. Sometimes it is difficult to part with a piece of SToNZ once completed, but when it finally goes to a person who truly loves it, it?s clear ?that it wasn?t meant to stay with me. The feedback I get is truly gratifying and reaffirming.
2. How does it differ from your day job?
SToNZ actually IS half of my “day job”. I alternate my time between the jewelry stuff and the freelance graphics stuff, from my studio, which is set up for both! I guess I get bored doing one thing for too long, so sometimes I work at the jewelry bench, and sometimes at the computer each one giving me a break from the other. Both endeavors are creative, but they seem to use different parts of my brain.
3. Identity is often closely linked to what we do professionally. How do you identify yourself, and does it relate more to your business/ artisan side, or your day job?
I used to say I was an illustrator, then, a freelance graphic designer, then, a jewelry designer. I think I’ll go with artist. Happy artist. I love to make things and always will. How fortunate I am to be able to do these things that give me fulfillment. And many of these things make others happy too, so that’s even better!
4. Give one tip that has been invaluable for your work.
One thing I really valued in art school and in the workplace was being surrounded by inspiring creative people with whom I could share ideas and feedback. As an artist, it’s very easy to get caught up in my work and cut off from the world. I won’t say it’s lonely, because I really don’t mind working on my own for long periods of time, (most of the time I actually prefer it) but it’s easy to isolate oneself. Etsy, as one example, is a great way to connect with like-minded artists. I take classes. I seek advice and feedback from a variety of sources. It’s rejuvenating and educational.
My advice? Seek out people with whom you can share ideas and learn from. Chances are they have something to learn from you as well, and you’ll both come out ahead! I suppose that’s good advice for everyone, not just “artists”.
5. Any additional words of wisdom you’d like to share?
Do what you love, love what you do. Create something new every day. And thanks Chris, for your interest in SToNZ and for the inspiration and creative energy you have shared with me!