Checking out eighty-something booths of clothes, accessories and jewelry at Gen Art’s Shop Chicago at Union Station requires some stamina. At times it also can get claustrophobic, as shoppers cram in to admire items at each booth or table. But it’s worth the effort when you break through the crowd and discover the Susan Elizabeth Designs booth. Gorgeous cuffs command attention with intricately woven strands of silver accompanied by colorful beads. Rings with similar beading, surrounded by silver wire, beg to be tried on, and silver cuffs with expertly placed silver strands shimmer across the room.
The brains behind these head-turning designs? Susan Elizabeth Eichstaedt, 25, a talented local metal-smith jewelry designer who loves to explore different materials and processes to create original, stunning pieces. Eichstaedt started metal-smithing in 2002, while in college at the University of Wisconsin at Madison. There she learned basics like casting, enameling and other techniques, and these days she’s a bona fide expert, working with hammers, a torch and kelm in her Western Springs studio. Her process involves first sketching up a storm, then playing around with different hammers to create a variety of textures. Next she balls up ends of wires this way and that; uses an array of techniques to mold beads into the shape of irregular circles. “I’m not a symmetrical person,” she says.
Her intricate work takes time—she normally creates only two to six pieces in a workday (depending on size and detail), while some of her bigger jewelry showpieces can take nearly an entire day. For inspiration she looks at both metal-smith and fashion magazines to try to keep up with new trends and the ever-evolving fashion scene. The year-and-a-half-old line hit the market at Hinsdale’s Urban Sole (her former employer), and the operation has only expanded. As for tips for aspiring jewelry-makers, she says to, “keep it exciting, do what you love and get your niche and go for it.” Judging by her designs, Eichstaedt is heeding her own advice. (Mary Susan Littlepage)
Susan Elizabeth’s jewelry is sold at the Silver Room, 1442 North Milwaukee; Florodora, 330 South Dearborn; Urban Sole, 49 South Washington, Hinsdale; and susanelizabethdesigns.com.