March 30, 2011

Our next featured artist might say, “I’m sliding on the rainbow of my childhood dreams.” This quote from musical artist, Nelly Furtado encapsulates how Suzy Landa first found her love of jewelry at the mere age of five, to only return to this passion after a career in film. The telephone wire and fuzzy pipe jewelry of her youth have been replaced with precious metals and vibrant jewels, but her playfulness with vivid colors and imaginative designs has not been lost.

Scrolling through her collection is like being treated to a colorful rendition of “My Favorite Things.” Each collection is made up of the bright hues of a rainbow, and can’t help but leave you smiling at the familiar joy of youthful simplicities.

Suzy believes “fine jewelry should be fun jewelry.” Her elegant pieces will “make” any outfit, but wearing her jewelry will take you back to the days when dressing up was simply for fun.

We are pleased to have had the chance to speak with Suzy and learn more about her beautiful creations, and more importantly, her secret to staying young at heart.

Laughing Dog Gallery: What sparked your early interest in creating jewelry?

Suzy Landa: I grew up in a household with an incredibly creative mom. We had what we called a craft closet that held every conceivable color of paint, ribbon, glitter, buttons, etc. My mother was very opposed to the “paint-by-numbers” version of art, so we made everything, including jewelry from scratch.

LDG: Who was most influential in supporting your passion?

SL: Even though I wasn’t raised with the notion that art could be a means of earning a living, now that I’m in this business, the life lessons my parents instilled in me are very pertinent and have really stayed with me. My father always said to walk down the street with your head held high and feel confident in the decisions that you make. That definitely helps me to stay true to myself as a designer and as a business owner.

LDG: Do you have a favorite piece or memory from your youthful jewelry creations?

SL: Growing up I lived in a neighborhood with lots of children, and it was always a big deal when the telephone repairman came. We would run to see if he had extra multi-colored telephone wire, and we would make bracelets and necklaces from it. I can remember sitting with my friends and making lavender and white, or mixed red and orange jewelry from the extra wire he would give us.

LDG: Do you have a favorite piece of jewelry that you like to wear most often?

SL: From my very first collection in 2004 there are only a couple of pieces that remain in my line. One piece, which is still my best selling piece, is a hoop that I wear every day. It’s become my signature piece. This one hoop has retained its importance in my collection and I have since done variations on it, but the original is still pretty close to the actual model.

LDG: Your pieces are branded with the letter Q. Could you tell us the significance of this?

SL: The Q comes from a childhood nickname, Suzy Q. In college it morphed into simply Q, and as a nod to my childhood, where I feel like this part of me was born, I mark all of my jewelry with a Q.

LDG: Where do you get your inspiration for creating jewelry that is elegant yet playful?

SL: I tend to be inspired by non-jewelry things. Often by art, architecture, graphic design, and the relationship between shapes and colors. I tend to like things that are fairly simple and not fussy, so I gravitate toward mid-century modernism and things with clean lines, striking shapes, and solid colors.

LDG: You believe jewelry is what “makes” an outfit. What does this statement mean to you?

SL: My sense of style, and most of the people I know, dress very understatedly wearing mostly solid colors and basic pieces. There is a reason why Gap and Banana Republic are so popular – basic is the norm. So even though many people might be wearing the simple white tee shirt and black leather jacket, a fabulous piece of jewelry can give your outfit that “wow” factor. A significant pop of color or a bold shape turns heads, and can make you feel like you’ve never worn that outfit before.

LDG: What process do you use to create your jewelry? Do you sketch your designs first?

SL: I do sketch, but oddly enough I am an incredibly bad artist in terms of pen or pencil to paper – I mean embarrassingly bad {laughs}. I am lucky enough to have worked with the same model maker and stone setter for 6 years, so a combination of my crude drawings and what I like to call charades and wild hand gestures, I am able to communicate to him what I want. There is trial and error that goes into the process, and him asking a lot of questions, but between the drawings and the conversation I am able to design the jewelry I envision.

LDG: How did you rediscover your youthful passion?

SL: A close friend gifted me with a metal smith class and some supplies. This person knew I had always wanted to do this for real (make jewelry), and told me to “go, go figure it out.” With no intention of it becoming a business, I attended the classes and worked on the jewelry in my spare time on weekends or late at night after work. I found it to be so painstaking to make things because I am so detail-oriented and meticulous. I thought, “Why would anyone want to do this for a living; just go buy retail!?” However, I stuck with it and ended up wearing a necklace I made to a wedding. I got so many compliments, and someone asked me to make a similar necklace for a 40th birthday present. I agreed, and the woman called me the day after she wore the necklace to a party and said, “I was in a crowd full of rich people last night and all everyone was talking about was my necklace. Rumor has it that you only do this as a hobby; so what do we do? How do I make you take it seriously?” From there it evolved. So it really was kind of by accident that I started my collection. It took on a life of it’s own, and I rolled with it.

LDG: What advice could you give our readers on how to stay young at heart?

SL: I think because I started in such an odd way, I never have then, nor do I now, take myself too seriously as an “artist.” Instead I think of myself as a creative person who fortunately makes things that people want to wear. I think not taking yourself too seriously helps to keep what you are doing fun and gives your life perspective.

LDG: What is the most important advice you ever received in following your dreams?

SL: No matter what the community, economy or people in your life tell you, always stay true to yourself as a designer. Dig your heels in and do what you do, but especially in this economy, do it smarter and better.

We want to thank “Q” for taking the time to speak with us about her jewelry and her intriguing story of how Suzy Landa Jewelry came to be. The Laughing Dog Gallery is looking forward to showcasing her “fine, but fun jewelry” at the Suzy Landa Trunk Show April 7th, 8th, and 9th. A portion of the proceeds from sales that weekend will benefit the Hibiscus Children’s Center in Vero Beach, Florida. Own Art, Be Happy!