Originally an architect, Susan Driver’s switch to the wonderful world of jewellery design was a natural progression. Based in Brisbane, Susan’s contemporary and structural designs draw inspiration from her architectural past, travel, art and fashion.
She designs and handcrafts each piece herself in her studio, always with the individual in mind. The fluid structures make her designs the perfect pairing with day-to-day apparel. We chat with Susan about why she chose jewellery design over architecture, making all her pieces herself and why she still gets nervous with every order.
When did you fall in love with jewellery?
“My mother took me to small art galleries in our city from a young age. My first rings were bought by her at one of these galleries. They were handcrafted in sterling silver and are still very special to me. After that I developed an interest in antique pieces and as I grew older I became aware of the crossover between jewellery and sculpture. Interestingly there is a common crossover for female architects into goldsmithing.”
Has your childhood influenced your designs?
“I grew up in Brisbane Australia. It was a relaxed and easy childhood. My parent’s friends were artists and academics so I was always exposed to art and conversations about culture and history. They appreciated the story behind the art and the craftsmanship of the creating, and I can see these influences in my pieces.”
"I’d been studying and working in architecture for twenty years and loved creating concepts and realising designs."
Why did you make the switch from architecture to jewellery?
“After balancing a sole practitioner practice with two small children 17 months apart, I was ready to stop and gather my thoughts. I’d been studying and working in architecture for twenty years and loved creating concepts and realising designs. I’d always loved jewellery design and decided it was time to pursue it further. I started with an Institute of Art course then found a local course run by two goldsmiths with over 40 years’ experience. I set up a studio at home and put in the hours to get to this point. I’ve stayed true to the handmade tradition as a result of my architectural background and the influence of those goldsmiths.”
Where do you find inspiration for your designs?
“I work in my studio in a separate pavilion to the main house. It has largely glass walls and looks over the rural valley where we live. It’s calm and the light is wonderful. I like to sketch as we travel or head to the coast for a few days to consolidate any design ideas I have. However, I am very tactile and final designs are generally made by hand working out how to balance the concept and the structure.”
"I believe in the craftsmanship and individual character of each piece."
Values are really important us at Jewelstreet. What are your core brand values?
“I believe in the craftsmanship and individual character of each piece. I want my client to have their own version of that particular design. I work to being as sustainable as possible in my studio practices. I would love to build the brand to a point that it can extend out to preserving an art and encourage people to work towards their own best futures, by supporting groups such as The Adventure Project.”
How are your pieces crafted?
“My pieces are currently made by me start to finish, however when I am busier I have a wonderful gemsetter who will set the small fiddly stones faster than I can. My metals are purchased through two local mills and I smelt/recycle them within the studio. My gems are purchased through a couple of local suppliers and a lovely gemmologist who will hand pick stones for me as she travels throughout the year.”
Are there any clients you are particularly proud of?
“I am so excited when people tell me they love my pieces, I find it so very generous and kind. I had a lovely lady following me on Instagram. I knew the pieces she loved and finally one day she said I am having that one for me. She had arthritic fingers so I sent her three rings to try on tagged with the one I thought would work best. It was the perfect fit and it was her treat to herself. That really is the point.”
"Every time someone orders a piece or I see someone wearing a piece I feel so excited, but funnily enough I also feel nervous."
How do you want people to feel when they wear your designs?
“I want them to feel happy, special, to be able to look at it and remember a time or place or that they just deserve something for themselves. I want to give them a piece that creates a moment in time that is theirs.”
What has been the highest point of your career as a designer so far?
“Every time someone orders a piece or I see someone wearing a piece I feel so excited, but funnily enough I also feel nervous until it is sent because I want to make sure they receive the piece they deserve in quality and finish.”
What does the future hold for your brand?
“I really want to extend the brand; I would love to house a group of talented craftspeople working off each other, building experience and challenging the best finish. I would love to see the brand grow and be available globally in retail destinations. We work hard to meet the expectations of our buyers and clients alike and we respect and value these relationships, so I would like to see this grow and progress in 2017.”