Senser Story // Susan Schell
This week we’re introducing Senser Susan Schell; jewellery designer, hand model, editor, professional multi-tasker, foodie and yogi. She’s recently taken a huge leap and relocated to Paris from NYC to study a masters in Luxury Brand Management… read her story below!
Kick off your interview by saying hello to The Sense Network!
Hi everyone! My name is Susan and I am a jewelry designer and hand model in New York City. I have been living in NYC for the past 7 years and am actually moving to Paris, France for a masters program! I grew up moving around a lot because my dad was in the Air Force and we would move every two years. So having stayed put in one place for this long feels crazy to me! I love yoga, good food and good coffee, I have ambitious travel goals, and I like learning new languages.
We want to know what you’re up to in the real world.
Ever since I was little I was obsessed with rocks and crystals – I have a collection of rocks that I’ve gathered over the years since I was four years old. I have always been pretty crafty and loved making things by hand, so this led me to studying fine art and eventually making a lot of wearable art, or jewelry, if you will. For the past few years in NYC I’ve been working as a jewelry designer in both costume and fine jewelry.
A very exciting/successful moment where everything kind of came full circle for me was when my boss and I were talking about making some kind of beaded flowers and I developed a pair of earrings that were very much inspired by these super silly beaded lizard keychains that I used to make for my backpack when I was a kid. I used the same beading technique from the keychains but used gold wire and attached the beaded petals neatly to stud back. A few months ago Alicia Keys wore those earrings during her speech at the Variety Power of Women Luncheon – so that was very satisfying and exciting to see! The best thing to me about jewelry is that it has this inherent sentimentality and I love this little nostalgic nod to my childhood in this piece’s design process.
Give us a peek into your favourite working spot/environment.
I don’t think I have a totally specific routine or process for design. Sometimes ideas come out of nowhere and other times they have to be labored over and almost forced out. I think research is often essential to my work – I love studying ancient jewelry and adornments so I will often go to places like The Met to look at their jewelry collection. I have also always been obsessed with the Art Nouveau movement and am very inspired by natural and floral motifs. I find I always start with flowers or am thinking of them in some deconstructed way. I also almost always start by designing earrings – I don’t know why but I think in terms of earrings first and then build or flesh out the group around the pair. It is just my sweet spot… earrings are my comfort zone in design.
Who’s joined you / helped you on your creative journey?
I have worked with a number of incredibly talented designers and I feel like I am better designer because of working with them. I am very much someone who needs a bit of outside motivation or a second opinion from time to time. I believe design is very collaborative, especially if you are working under a brand, it can be so important to make sure everyone is on board and supports the ideas you are trying to make into pieces. I also find that having another perspective is very useful for me to take my idea to the next level by tweaking this or that, and maybe by myself, it would have never even occurred to me to make that change. I do also feel like I am a competitive person, meaning that when I work with highly skilled or talented people, it really motivates me to step up and perform at my highest level.
Where are you ‘from’? Tell us about where are you based at the moment? We’d love to know about the area you live and why you chose this place?
I always have a hard time with this question because I grew up moving around so much. The short answer is now New York City since I’ve lived here the longest and am most familiar with the city. The long answer is that I have lived all over the United States in Nebraska, Indiana, California, Texas, Arizona, Virginia, and Maryland and abroad I lived in Bogota, Colombia for two years and in Florence, Italy for 8 months. I feel the most connect to NYC because I have been here the longest and feel the most “settled” here. I love how diverse and convenient NYC is – I especially love the vast range of food options. Because the very best international chefs and restaurateurs are here it is like a like a little taste of the world because you can try everything. Currently I am in the process of moving to Paris, France to begin my masters degree in Luxury Brand Management – Jewelry. So I’m very excited to moving and am eager to explore Paris more and to travel around Europe as well.
Can you tell us something that you love about it? Can you recommend us a great place to visit/enjoy?
Here are some recommendations in NYC:
Soup dumplings – Joe’s Shanghai
Ramen – Misoya
Thai – Ngam
Rooftop bar – The Heights
Italian food – Rosemary’s
Bagels – Ess a Bagel or Leo’s
Breakfast – Two Hands
How does your area inspire your work?
I think it is hard to say exactly how NYC inspires my work – I don’t think there is an obvious connection except that in the US, if you really want to work in jewelry, this is one of the best places to be. I love going to the Diamond District and working with local old school vendors – guys that have been in the industry for decades. I really enjoy getting to see the process of making things as my background in jewelry started at the jeweler’s bench making things myself. It is also really fun to look at all the vintage jewelry that they sell in Diamond District, I love discovering concepts or techniques from how vintage pieces were made.
Do you have a side hustle?
I have a rather unusual side hustle – I work as a professional hand model during my off hours from jewelry designing. It is definitely a weird job and not one that I ever saw myself doing but it has been amazing and really opened me up to so many cool opportunities (like meeting the Sense Worldwide team!).
I really enjoy getting to meet talented photographers, nail artists, and other industry professionals. I especially like the variety of projects that I get to be involved in – it could be a food product shoot, or cosmetics, or nail art, or something editorial. It is exciting to get to try a lot of different things! For me what I find difficult is how my day job is kind of dangerous to my hand modelling. As a jewelry designer, I often work with metals and sharp tools, so I have to be really careful and make sure I don’t hurt myself. But it is a great side job and I’m so grateful to have stumbled into this career.
It is kind of funny but I think my friends enjoy introducing me more as a hand model than as a jewelry designer!
If you want to follow Susan’s Parisien adventures… of ever fancy joining her for a croissant while she’s out doing her masters follow her Instagram here. You can also see more of her work at www.susanschell.weebly.com and www.susanschellhandmodel.weebly.com
Also published on Medium.