Susan Ewington Jewellery specialises in hand crafted, custom jewellery, including unique engagement and wedding rings.
Working from her Noosa studio, Susan uses the finest of materials to create wearable works of art. We talk to her about breaking into an industry, sourcing the right materials and staying true to your style.
Q1: In your own words, please tell us what you do and how it came to be…
I’m a manufacturing jeweller, who specialises in custom made fine jewellery of the contemporary kind. I've been making jewellery professionally since 2007, and unprofessionally my whole life. My childhood was all about things to make and do, so I've continued that through to adulthood and couldn't be happier about it.
Q2: Was your current business always on the cards or did you have other dreams growing up?
Growing up, it was always going to be an artistic career of some kind. In my somewhat limited 10 year old mind of what an “artist” is, I can vividly remember thinking I would end up living in a New York warehouse apartment, painting or sculpting or some such traditional fine art medium, and never having enough money but not caring in the slightest.
Then when I left school I studied Photography at university, but it didn’t have the hands on element that I really craved. Following a little travel and soul searching, I realised I should give jewellery making a crack, and I’ve never looked back.
Q3: What inspired you to start your business?
In the first few weeks of the Advanced Diploma course in jewellery making that I found myself in, I knew this was what I wanted to do. But you don’t just finish a 2 year diploma and know how to make an 18ct white gold diamond & sapphire engagement ring! It takes years and years to master the hand skills & confidence required for a certain level of jewellery making.
I needed to work for other jewellers for years, along side continuing to develop my own aesthetic and designs the entire time. It wasn’t until about 7 years later that I had my first child and just never went back to paid employment. For me the shift of having a child forced my hand to take the leap and try to do what I do from a self-employed/full time business point of view.
Q4: How did you navigate this process and break into the industry?
It wasn’t a quick journey, as I mentioned in the last question, it was and still is a long process of learning the skills required to make the pieces that I can dream up in my head. The jewellery industry is hundreds of years old, and the drive for me is that you can never learn every skill that exists within it.
But in terms of the logistic nature of breaking into a creative industry, simply working within the industry at the base levels and working your way up is the way to go I reckon. For around 9 years I studied and worked within any placement in the industry I could get into, working 6 or 7 days a week. It certainly helped that I was in Melbourne at the time, in what is considered the epicentre of contemporary jewellery in Australia.
Q5: How did you source the right materials and manufacturers?
You’re going to all sigh when I tell you the old cliché: Time, research, and trial & error. But it’s so true! I have always tried to use Australian suppliers first, and then outsource overseas when I have no other option. Thankfully there are many established family owned businesses here in Australia that keep me supplied with metal and chains and tools when I need them.
When it comes to gemstones there are some incredibly talented gemstone cutters here, and long established gem merchants who can ensure the supply chain is as transparent as it can possibly be. I purposefully seek out and work with those who can give me as much information and quality in materials as is possible.
Q6: Did you find the right materials and manufacturers limiting or a driver for your creative design and product development process?
Many years ago, I made a ring for a stockist which had a geometric cut freeform style sapphire in it, something that has since become synonymous with my aesthetic and design recognition. I remember giving it to my stockist and saying something like “it’s a bit weird, but I’m sure someone will like it!” It sold immediately. From there, I had a conversation with a gem cutting acquaintance of mine, and asked him if he could cut me something similar. He was kind of like, “uumm, yeah I guess so?” like it was an unusual request.
These types of stones were not in demand at the time, they were asymmetrical, weird, didn’t sparkle quite as much as the rest, and difficult to make settings for. Needless to say, for many years I continued to work with this amazing gem cutter, and eventually branching out to other gem cutters as the demand grew, and now, well, a freeform stone is somewhat of a more common & regular style in the contemporary scene. So I guess you could say that the materials – and suppliers too in this instance – are what drives me in the design process. If you develop the relationship in a symbiotic manner, that can benefit both creatively, then there are no limits to what you can do.
Q7: How do you describe your style and how do you stay true to this?
My pieces have been described as classic with a contemporary twist, clean lines meets organic. I stay true to the fact that I want my pieces to stand the test of time, become future heirlooms, and therefore I continually hone my designs and my workmanship to ensure that it meets those criteria.
Q8: How do you want your customers to feel when they are using your pieces?
I want them to feel as though they have invested in a forever piece. That the piece has found its rightful owner. And that it has a story to tell.
Q9: Who, or what are you listening to or reading right now?
I’m currently deep in business growth & education mode, and shifting my mindsets around the many elements that running a business entails, to make it work more efficiently for where I am at right now. And so based on that, I am listening to the ‘One Wild Ride’ podcast, and I’m reading ‘You Are A Badass At Making Money’ by Jen Sincero.
Q10: What advice would you impart on the next generation of women, and women in business?
Respect those that have gone before you. We are all forging a path here, don’t forget that there have been courageous women who have laid the foundations for us. And always pay yourself superannuation.
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