Jewelry from Studio Suzan is forged from remnants of the creator's painful past
Suzan Zahedi’s art definitely imitates life – in this case, her own. When Zahedi was 3, her mother committed suicide and she endured years of abuse by her stepmother. She managed to overcome this difficult childhood and build a successful career in marketing. However, 20 years of workaholism and pent-up emotional pain eventually led her to the brink of hopelessness. In the midst of this despair, the self-described “Jewish-born atheist” became a Christian and began to experience a renewed sense of faith and, ultimately, purpose: to share her story of hope, healing and transformation through something she first learned from her father when she was a teenager: making jewelry.
Her Studio Suzan creations, which have garnered a devoted local following since debuting nearly 20 years ago at A’maree’s in Newport Beach, are imbued with a worn, almost scarred, look. It’s a visual metaphor for emotional remnants Zahedi, 58, carries from her past. And just as metal is forged and reformed through fire, Zahedi’s jewelry tells the story of her own growth through trials and tribulations. “I really like seeing the metal transform from plain wire or sheet to a rough design, and then watching the polishing process bring about such beauty,” she says.
THE INSPIRATION Zahedi draws inspiration from the personal and the aesthetic. The former is shaped by her experiences as a woman and a mother (she has teenage twins), as well as her faith. “Much of my inspiration comes from a personal viewpoint of empathy with the pain that a lot of people are suffering in life – women especially,” she says. Zahedi also immerses herself in inspiring materials: objects from nature, sculptures, fabrics, books, papers and quotes. “I love to be around all the different textures and artifacts,” she says.
THE PROCESS Zahedi describes herself as a “discovery artist,” meaning she does not create detailed plans in advance. Rather, she lets colors, textures and shapes organically evolve into a new collection. Sketches and prototypes start to emerge, as do written and photographic components of a collection. “Designs flow easily, I can see in my mind if they will work, lay right, feel right,” she says. “It’s the editing that is a challenge for me, so I ask for help.” Finally, it’s a matter of pricing and sourcing materials, which often influences the final designs. “This is where as an artist you have to have resolve and patience,” she says. “I have learned to lean on my faith and press forward, and work through the frustration of business meeting art.”
SPECIAL DELIVERIES Zahedi has enjoyed the opportunity to work with survivors of cancer and various personal traumas to create “Life Story” necklaces. “I listen to their story and I create the story using silver and gold, pearls, and other natural treasures,” she says. “These pieces are beautiful to wear like a badge of courage for women and serve as a way to tell their story and encourage others.” Zahedi has also done her own encouraging by mentoring young women from Orangewood Children’s Foundation, as well as collaborating with numerous local charities ranging from the John Wayne Cancer Foundation to CHOC.
TRADE SECRETS The processes and raw materials used mean that crafting a single piece is time-consuming. Intricate components are handcrafted; nothing is cast from a mold. Old coins must be carefully cleaned. Ancient beads need to be restored and matched. It’s this labor by Zahedi and her small staff that makes each piece unique and powerful. “I want women to wear jewelry that starts conversation so life stories can be told,” she says. “That jewelry… can then be passed down from generation to generation.”
949.646.6009 :: studiosuzan.com