If you’ve ever been to Noosa in Australia, you’re likely to be very jealous of Susan Ewington, as it’s where she lives. And it’s absolutely gorgeous!
The perfect start to the day for her is to jump into the ocean – just imagine that!
I love Susan’s organically themed jewellery – the perfect classic with a twist. Read how she’s inspired by history, passionate about handmade and is slightly addicted to coffee…
We need to get to know you! What’s your perfect way to start the day?
Well, I have two young kids, so my perfect way to start the day is not necessarily the way I want it to be! But once they have gone to school/daycare, my working day can start. If I can jump into the ocean for 15 minutes to clear my head, then that sets me up for a good day! Then coffee. Oh there IS coffee.
How would you describe your jewellery?
Clean lines meets organic. Classic with a contemporary twist. Hand-fabricated is my jam, and I very much dislike having to make the exact same thing over and over again.
What inspires you?
History. I’m a complete historical junkie. Not just in jewellery, but also fine arts, architecture, photography, all the things! I’m also constantly driven by the fact that I will never have to stop learning with this job. There are too many skills to master in one lifetime.
What materials do you use?
I predominantly use traditional materials. Precious metals and precious gems. However, I do tend to prioritise Australian mined and cut gems whenever I can. I also have a small range which uses sea glass. I’m completely besotted by that ocean worn texture and glass tones.
Where do you create your jewellery?
I’m in a private studio space that I’ve been working in for a year now, it has air conditioning, it’s my greatest success, lol. Previous to this one I was set up in a home studio whilst my youngest was a baby, and before that I was in a shared studio space in Melbourne for 8 years. A group of us who went to jewellery school together set it up when we graduated. It was the perfect way to start, as each of us contributed a major piece of equipment which we could all share.
Where do you live and what do you love about it?
My husband and I moved from Melbourne to Noosa in Queensland when our eldest son was two. We wanted to bring up our children out of the city, and in a similar coastal environment to the way we’d both grown up. It’s honestly a slice of paradise here in Noosa. Warm weather, incredible beaches, and just a generally healthy lifestyle.
I was concerned about moving away from the arts and culture in Melbourne, but I have been pleasantly surprised at how humming the little community is here. Although it probably helps that half of the population of Melbourne and Sydney come here for their holidays!
Have you always lived there? Where were you born?
I was actually born and raised in Queensland, living in a few towns all over the state, but a good portion of my schooling was near to Noosa where we’ve settled down. Then I moved away for 16 years and returned when we started a family.
Who is the most important person in your life?
My husband. Hands down. Then my kids. Because without him they wouldn’t have existed.
What’s the favourite piece in your jewellery collection?
Oh that’s too tough! Maybe my current faves would be the Agility Necklaces, made from freeform tablet cut gems.
What’s the piece you’re most proud of creating?
Again, it’s hard to narrow down to one piece, but probably (and surprisingly!) anything that pushes the more ‘traditional’ aesthetic. Because I’m not “trade-trained” I never formally learnt those traditional aspects of jewellery fabrication. So by saying yes to a commission with that kind of aesthetic, I know I’m really sucking it up and giving it my all, and having the faith that I can pull it off to a high standard.
These jobs take me the longest, because I’m usually agonising over every unknown step, and checking in with some close confidantes to help me out with advice along the way!
What’s your design process?
Usually it starts with a stone. I like to sketch out rings in particular, as I find that doing so helps me nut out some of the fabricating aspects better, and to quote more accurately.
Other than that, sometimes I’ll have an ‘a-ha’ moment while making something else. I also find that regularly dipping my toe into contemporary and more arts-based pieces or practise can really help to stretch my thinking about things like simple findings or basic construction alternatives.
How important is jewellery design to you?
For me, the making is what really drives me, then the designing comes as a natural progression of that hunger to make. Also, I find that the stones I use practically design themselves, or it certainly seems that way to me!
What do you love about jewellery?
When I first started my Tafe course in jewellery making, I was blown away by how dirty and raw the process was, despite the shiny and sparkly outcome. That moment was when I knew this was for me. So I guess you could say my favourite part is the progress and transformation.
You have a penchant for using Australian stones. What do you find so intriguing about them?
I think it’s less about using Australian stones, (although they are absolutely amazing!) and more about using what’s local to me. From an ethics and sustainability standpoint, in an industry which has been less than outstanding in this subject throughout history, this is probably what makes the most sense to me at the moment.
How is the jewellery trade in Australia?
It’s absolutely wonderful! We have so many talented makers here. There is a definite support and respect from the public to encourage handmade and in particular, hand fabrication, which in other western countries seems to have been overshadowed by prevalent CAD use and/or outsourcing mass production.
Don’t get me wrong, there are some amazing jewellers using CAD in an absolutely appropriate manner to really push the design boundaries, and I’m ALL here for that. I’m just not here for the CAD-ing of things that can be easily hand fabricated. We could do with a few of the incredible goldsmith fairs here that you seem to have oodles of in the UK though!
What’s happening in Australia at the moment (with the bush fires) looks terrible. What is it like living over there?
I’m living in a relatively unaffected area compared to the major disaster zones, so I’m grateful for that. Although we still had some scary moments here too. It has been a really difficult summer, and it has really brought home how much of a canary Australia is to the global climate crisis! The outpouring of community charity and support has been so heartwarming to see and experience.
How did you start creating jewellery?
It took me a while to get there, I didn’t start formal training until I was about 25. But I guess you could say that I was always one of those crafty, arty kids. So it was inevitable that something like this would settle on me.
Where did you learn to create jewellery?
I started out with a 2 year Advanced Diploma at Tafe in Melbourne. This taught me basic hand skills, and was heavily design focused. Then I worked casually for some traditional trade jewellers, mostly cleaning up castings and repair work, until I landed a job with a jeweller who was both trade and arts trained, and she really taught me so much and gave me the confidence to really branch out. All the while, I had my own shared studio space and worked on my own designs and collections on the side, as my skills developed.
What are your plans for the future?
I’m currently in a bit of scale-up stage! I have my own space now, which is amazing, but I will be needing to take on some help hopefully this year, more in an admin and back of house capacity. Then I’ll be looking to start employing a jeweller and/or an apprentice hopefully once my youngest starts school in a few years.
Where do you feel most inspired?
Either in my workshop, or at 3am in bed!
Who else inspires you?
The traditional makers inspire me, because they show me how far I have yet to go in my skill set. The applications learned in traditional methods can expand the potential for quality contemporary design.
How do you juggle all the different aspects of the job?
Some weeks like an absolute pro. Some weeks like an absolute train wreck.