Welcome to Open Studio, a Racked feature where we explore the workspaces and showrooms of some of the city's most talented, up-and-coming designers.
- 'You Know Too' bangle, $160; 'Virgen de Guadalupe' cuff, $285; 'Too Much of a Good Thing' cuff, $285; 'Universe' cuff, $285; 'Eye See' bracelet, $97
Left Hand: 'Dark Angel' bracelet, $230; 'Eye' and 'Lip' rings, $85
Right Hand: 'Eye am Love' ring, $215; 'Baby Hold On' ring, $150; 'Theanine' bangle,
- “I absorb so much through osmosis. I’ve always been obsessed with Frida Kahlo and flowers and Mexico and India. When I sit down and paint it’s not in my head, my hands just move.”
- “It takes three hours minimum to paint a bracelet. I use baby paintbrushes and enamel. It’s hard to compare myself to others because no one really paints their jewelry. It’s not as serious. But colors and flowers and little worlds are me.”
- "I was watching The Beatles’ Yellow Submarine and then some of my pieces came out very ‘60s mod. Everything is sort of a reaction to what’s going on my life."
- 'Rosebud' bangle, $97; 'Black Heart' bangle, $85; 'Cherry' and 'Bexley' bracelets, $245
- “I’ve always drawn eyes without thinking. They symbolize intuition to me. And in all different cultures they’re protective.”
- “I want everything to be affordable. Maybe you have to save up a little, but it’s attainable. I love doing it. It’s a work of love. Maybe if I was miserable I’d be like ‘someone should be paying me more for this.’”
- 'Eye' and 'Lip' rings $85; Custom 'Carmen Miranda' phone case, $215
- 'Peony' bangle, $130
- 'Good Energy' cuff $285; 'Now 'N Then' bangle, $185
- 'Boob!' bangle, $95
- “Metalsmithing versus painting is like baking versus cooking. I don’t do precision. I don’t read maps. If I make something from Ikea it’s going to be missing a handle.”
- 'Universe' cuff, $285; 'Vintage Eye' bangle, $115; 'Eye See' bangle, $97
- 'Mermaid' collar, $210
- “The winter was so dark and long and the angel designs just became this idea of, ‘everything is going to be okay.’”
Photos by Driely S. for Racked
Five years ago, Susan Alexandra packed up her Chicago apartment and moved to New York with a fashion degree and the promise of styling gigs waiting for her on the East Coast. But even after lending her eye to high-profile clients like Jean Paul Gaultier and Interview Magazine, something still wasn't clicking. "I was scared and feeling insecure," she says. "I didn't know what I was here to do. On a whim I started taking jewelry classes."
Metalsmithing came with a learning curve, so Susan started covering up the mismatched seams in her early designs with tiny, hyper-detailed paintings inspired by everything from Frida Kahlo's lace gowns to emojis. One of her cheerfully manic creations caught the eye of a showroom owner, and within a few months the designer had transformed her Chinatown apartment into an at-home studio, where she fills orders from Henri Bendel and whips up Teen Vogue commissions.
"Being a girl, you want to be perfect. You want to have the best body, the best skin, the best hair. And that's not real," she says. "Accepting flaws, and accepting that nothing is perfect, is a big part of my jewelry. It might not be Tiffany's, but it's me. I want to be like the Girls of jewelry."