I found this lovely pair of artist’s shop while cruising around etsy. After reading the shop profile so many questions filled my head! First off the work is amazing, and the back story turned out to be just as interesting.
I contacted Susan and she was kind enough to answer my questions, and in such a great narrative flow.
Here is her profile that sparked my curiosity:
“Born in NY,went to college as an art major, moved to AZ in 1969 in a paisley paneled van. Lived in a ghost town & helped bring it back to life. Learned how to milk goats, make jewelry, grow a garden and raise a child.
My mother taught me to be creative and productive; my father gave me his Type A personality; my 3 husbands taught me self-worth, patience, tenacity and gratitude.
Everything here in our Etsy shop is made by my husband and me, by hand, in our home in Arizona. Our 3 cats occasionally lend a paw. They are our muses, after all…”
And here are the questions I asked and that she so kindly responded to in full:
Me: I really enjoyed the short story of how you got where you are, from art school in ny to milking goats and gardening in az, would you care to extrapolate on that story? Where did you go? what did you study? How did you make the change to where you are now?
Susan: “Well, Kristin, I’ve lived a long and colorful life. I went to SUNY New Paltz, NY, and took a major in Art Ed and English. While there, I met my first husband. He was a draftsman, musician and philosopher, and we pooled resources and bought a van, paneled it with paisley material and headed west. We were looking to meet up with some friends from NY, but really had no idea where they were. So we stopped at every commune and arts colony in NM, & AZ, went up to Berkeley (just missed them) came back to AZ and found them birthing their baby in the Verde River. We stayed, camped for awhile and wound up buying a miner’s shack in Jerome AZ. That’s where we had gardens and goats and I gave birth at home to our son. We made silver jewelry and traveled to Santo Domingo, Jemez Pueblo, and the Hopi & Navajo reservations trading for heishe beads and inlaid jewelry. I also did beadwork and leather work to trade.
Later on, we started an artist’s guild, selling other local artists wares along with our own out of our van, ran an art gallery, and I wound up running for Town Council, being elected Vice Mayor. My first husband and I broke up when our son was 9. I got a job at the Jerome Post Office (small town, 400 people) and combined with the art gallery job, I managed to make a skimpy living. I met my second husband while I was working at the Post Office in Jerome. Later I got promoted to Postmaster in a small mining town, Bagdad, AZ and moved there. I did quite a bit of commuting on weekends, to maintain my marriage and keep my house and son in order. My second husband and I divorced, and I moved full time to Bagdad, living there for 17 years as Postmaster. My creative outlet was editing the state Postmaster newsletter, taking photos and doing layout. I met my 3rd (and last) husband in 1996 and we married three weeks later. He’s retired and very creative. He makes all the beautiful turquoise items in our shop. He also works with antler and inlays them with various stones and shells.
Me: In your profile is said that you and your husband currently make everything in the shop, do you collaborate or are items specifically his and your’s? how do your styles and creative methods come together, how are they different?
Susan: I have a lot of materials and supplies from the old days in Jerome, and together we’ve purchased lapidary equipment and tools. We work together on what stones look good together, how to assemble the final piece, pricing, etc. He is the perfectionist; I’m more the free spirit. He brought the beautiful, natural, untreated Kingman turquoise with him, from his days as a copper miner and rockhound. After working in awhile in his lapidary shop, he’ll bring me special beads and polished stones for me to use. (So sweet!) Or a finished piece to photograph and list on Etsy.
I retired in 2005 and have been having a blast getting back into some of the things I did when I wasn’t working fulltime. I love making my crocheted brooches- each is different and has its own personality.
Me: How did you decide to start and etsy shop together?
Susan: I started the shop last October. I had planned on doing it earlier- I joined Etsy in April- but my husband had some very serious health problems and I wound up spending most of the summer in hospital rooms and doctor’s offices. That’s where I originally started knitting and crocheting to pass the time. In September he started to heal (triple bypass, etc etc) and by October he was doing well enough I could see the way to start our shop. At first, I put up my knit & crocheted pieces, then some beaded jewelry, earrings, and then he finished the first big turquoise piece, a necklace of many drilled nuggets, so of course we had to put it up on Etsy. I started making the crocheted brooches – they were fun and quick to make, and I just love the way they look on a scarf or a shirt.
Me: What, other than your 3 kitty muses, inspires your work?
Susan: We’re inspired by the gorgeous Arizona weather, the cats, the garden and fruit trees in bloom- just about anything, really. We try to reduce, re-use, recycle as much as we can. Not much goes to waste around here. We compost and grow our veggies and enjoy each day to its fullest. Our goal is to make things that beautify the wearer and have a natural feel. And it keeps us active and in touch with so many people on Etsy. The sense of community is really great, and the satisfaction of seeing our little shop with all it’s creations makes us smile.
Me: What goals do you and your husband have for yourselves, your work, your shop?
Susan: As far as long-term goals, we look forward to continued good health and we like to stay busy. Etsy does that for us. It makes each new day a happy surprise. It gives us something to look forward to – It keeps us young!
Thank you so much Susan for taking the time to answer my questions. I have so enjoyed your story and wish you and Mitch the best in all of your endeavors! Best wishes and the Best of Health to you!
Also a PS from Susan, her sister also has an etsy shop, and it is also packed with lovely handmade things, make sure to check that out too!
See you all next week! Keep it crafty everyone!