6 1/2 Minutes with Susan Wheeler

SG headshot 2 

What’s your five-second elevator introduction when a stranger asks about your jewelry business? I sculpt my models out of clay and then sun-dry them, I want the gold to have a truly organic texture as formed in nature. I call it ‘Sun Baked Gold’. I use 18 karat FairMined Gold and work in responsibly sourced gems.

Moonstone over Platinum Sun neckalce        Opal and Gold ring 100 FairTrade

Did you go anywhere for summer vacation? Yes! I had the busiest summer ever. Two of my kids went to camp in Maine so I went there twice on drop off and pick up. Double the lobster!!! In between drop off and pick up, I went to Rancho La Puerta Spa in Mexico with my mom. My dada gave it to us as a double birthday gift, my 50th and her 80th. In August I took the whole family to Jackson Hole for my Belle Cose Solar Eclipse Trunk show. I made a whole new Eclipse collection, which was easy because it incorporated some of my favorite gemstones, moonstones and fire opals.

Will we see any future collections based on your summer travel experience? I love my Jackson Hole Trunk shows, because the clients there appreciate my most artistic pieces.  I sold so much of my dendritic quartz collection that I have begun designing many new pieces for that line. Dendritic quartz has long been one of my favorite gems.

What’s your spirit animal? Has anyone ever told you that their spirit animal was a dog? I think my spirit animal might be a dog. I'm loyal, hard working and family focused. I'm happy whenever I see someone I know and I like to say hi to strangers. Here are my dogs, Lollie and Porterhouse.

IMG 5489

Where is your design studio located? Chicago. I have my office split into 2 tables, a desk for the boring paper/email end of the business and across from that, I have a work table for my clay and wax work. I have a flex shaft and my larger equipment in a separate workshop. My flex shaft is actually set up at end of my husband's workbench, so I have to keep that area clean. He is a very neat worker who cleans up after every project, while I'm like a cyclone!

What’s your favorite place to hangout in Chicago? I have lived in Logan Square for over 20 years and it is my favorite place to hang out. I'm working right now at New Wave Coffee shop which is packed everyday with people working. Our Logan Square Farmers Market is one of the best in the country. It's every Sunday. We also have some of the top rated farm to table restaurants in the world.

Best advice you received when you started your business?  You have to do what's right for you. I think it was said by a few different people. But there are often people in the industry who have a set path to success and a set definition of success. When you do what is right for you and right by you, then you can define your own definition of success 

Favorite part of being a jewelry designer? Designing, gemstones, happy clients, my fellow friends in the jewelry industry and Tucson!

What’s the most exciting thing you designed in your collection right now?  I always like the latest pieces. I have been having fun with Csarite, I love working with the cutter, Rudi Wobito on having custom cuts. We had a discussion about what my design aesthetic was and I asked him what he was excited about in cutting. Based on our conversation, my entire Csarite collection uses Csarite cut in random facets and organic shapes. I used antique single cut diamonds in the earrings shown.

Csarite and Antique Diamond Earrings 2

Do you cook? I cook all of the time. I used to have more dinner parties then I do now. Now I have family dinners and there are some pretty picky eaters. A sit down family dinner for us is grilled salmon, homemade crispy kale and sautéed mushrooms. My favorite dish B.K., (before kids) was vichyssoise with fresh watercress pureed in to turn it spring green. I would then serve it in antique green and gold soup dishes that were a wedding gift.

Who would be three of your guests (living or dead) be at a dream dinner party? David Bowie, Mary Shelley, my husband and Barack Obama. 

Any special reasons why you chose these people? David Bowie was a huge musical, thought, and fashion influence on me. Mary Shelley's Frankenstein blew my mind when I first read it. Now I can't read it without crying. Barack Obama, because of so many reasons. And I’d have to invite my husband because he said he would invite me to be in his dinner party of four, and because he makes me laugh.

Who would you most like to do a design collaboration with? Susan Wheeler X ???  It would be Susan Wheeler X Stella McCartney. Stella McCartney is my favorite fashion designer and she is at the forefront of sustainability in her field.

What’s the most exciting thing you have coming up in your business life? The Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference! I am so excited for this conference, there will be so many fantastic people in one place and for the best cause! In partnering with Ethical Metalsmiths we were able to get a truly stellar line up of speakers! We also partnered with the Columbia College Chicago Fashion department, my Alma Mater, and the students are very excited to meet the experts in responsible jewelry practices and to learn what's happening in our industry. They are our future and they believe in a sustainable future!

EDITOR’S NOTE: The Chicago Responsible Jewelry Conference takes place October 13-14, 2017. For more information please go to http://www.chiresponsiblejewelryconference.com

Or follow the conference on Instagram @crjconfere