Susan Miller, founder of SKM Artworks, designs handmade jewelry inspired by a deep connection to nature, fascination with multi-cultural influences, and an appreciation for simple, natural, yet lovely adornment. Using the techniques Susan created to merge the craft of crochet with the art of jewelry making, SKM Artworks’ trademark weaving of precious metals and gemstones within natural leathers and Irish waxed linen tap into a desire for meaningful jewelry with an organic feel… rustic and spiritual with a luxury twist.
First I need to ask, how did you get started in jewelry design? Is this a lifelong passion, or something more recent?
Art and all around crafting has been a lifelong passion that took a turn towards jewelry design several years ago. Right before SKM Artworks was born, my passion was focused on textile making, knitting and crochet. I spent countless obsessive hours creating all sorts of amazing things. One night before bed I came across a pattern for a little crocheted choker that I made on the spot – and that was it for me! I started experimenting with all kinds of materials and began the journey of figuring out how to join the craft of crochet with the art of jewelry making in a new way. Once I saw the possibilities, I worked obsessively (did I mention I’m obsessive?) to develop the techniques and original designs that would become SKM’s signature.
I know that I gravitate toward certain designers (fashion, jewelry and interiors) who seem very in tune with my personal style aesthetic. Which designers are you primary influences?
I think I am influenced by the styles I love more so than by any particular designers. Clothing wise, I prefer feminine bohemian styles with a bit of western thrown into the mix (LOVE my Old Gringo cowboy boots!!!), kind of a marriage of the rustic with the feminine – which definitely finds it’s way into my jewelry design. My favorite interiors tend to be a sophisticated yet eclectic mix of antiques, world cultures with the sleekness of contemporary design thrown in, which is why I think I tend to feel very comfortable mixing materials in unusual ways. My studio space is the perfect example of this – modern meets rustic old world.
Are you also influenced by what I call the “trend of the month”? (neon or nautical, for example)
I’m generally not interested in what’s trending. I have a signature style, that although is evolving, tends to be rather consistent — earthy and organic with a luxury twist. The “luxury” comes from the quality of the materials I choose, the quality of the gems, often faceted giving an unexpected sparkle and the quality of the metals. Our jewelry is for the sophisticated hippie, the art jewelry lover, the woman who knows her own individual style and doesn’t want to look like everyone else wearing the flavor of the month.
One trend, however, that has been very helpful is a re-energized consumer appreciation for handmade. This is beautiful jewelry that tells a story you won’t find in a mass-produced item.
Where do you find inspiration for your various collections?
Inspiration comes first and foremost from my love of nature, which is why our jewelry has such an organic, earthy feel. The hand-woven waxed linens and natural certified-green leathers add to this feeling in an incredible way. I am always on the lookout for interesting stones and artifacts and when I find something unique, it finds it’s way into our line. Often times the form or sizes of what I find help shape the design so I do find my materials very inspiring on their own. My interest in world cultures, especially eastern and south asian, also tends to lead my design in certain directions.
Equally important is my absolute amazement at the process of creation. Whenever I create something new, I am always struck by this feeling. I take these raw materials, a ball of string, a pile of stones… and turn them into something that didn’t exist before…new, beautiful and useful – with their own life with whoever wears them. I imagine all the places they’ll go, the memories they will become a part of. That incredible feeling of awe for creation is what keeps me going and what keeps the new designs coming.
Which materials do you favor? And, do they change from season to season?
I do favor working with Irish waxed linen and natural leather cords. These provide that organic feel that I love and work really well with my weaving techniques. There is such a wide array of gemstones that I love and these do change slightly season to season as I may highlight darker stones for the fall/winter months such as garnet, labradorite, smoky quartz or onyx. You may find more turquoise in the Spring/Summer collections but really, so many work year round due to the neutral nature of gems.
My interest in eastern cultures and spirituality also plays a part in material choice since many of my pieces incorporate antique or reproduction artifacts, like a bronze Buddhist wheel or a Sanskrit coin wishing good health.
“Meaningful jewelry” does more than make you look pretty. These are pieces that evoke a connection (spiritual or otherwise) to something larger than yourself… jewelry that makes you feel as good as you look. I can’t tell you how often I’ve heard people say they love our jewelry because it “means” something and that meaning can be very personal to the wearer.
For me, I experience an overall connection and grounding to nature through the use of such earthy, organic materials and the way they are hand-woven. Various pendants and charms have meanings that are more specific; a necklace like the Family Tree, evokes feelings of love and family connection, a bracelet with an ancient Roman coin evokes connections to the past as you wear an amazing piece of history. Many of our more spiritual charms and pendants remind people to slow down… take a breath… experience feelings of gratitude, express a prayer for good health… and of course our Cause pieces are the epitome of “meaningful jewelry” as you feel great knowing you’ve contributed to helping others.
So, which charities do the sales of your designs support?
We have three specific pieces that are designated to helping three amazing non-profit organizations. The Ignite for Kula for Karma (providing yoga, meditation and stress management for free to at risk populations), iHug Wristhug for The International Help Uganda Grow Foundation (iHUG) (helping the most impoverished children in Uganda) and the Oasis necklace for Oasis – a Haven for Women and Children (feeding and clothing needy women and children while offering educational resources and skills to obtain meaningful employment in an effort to break the cycle of poverty).
It’s so gratifying to be able to use what I love doing to help others. I have a background in social work and these projects mesh perfectly with our mission to create gorgeous wearable art with a focus on social contribution. Do well while doing good. A mouthful right? But we really mean it.
I also read that you recently were commissioned for a custom piece to support Oasis. How did this come about?
I often donate pieces to be auctioned at events held by causes that I support. Oasis was getting ready to have their annual fundraising gala and they asked me if I would consider designing a custom piece symbolizing their organization that could be auctioned the night of the event and then be offered for sale going forward with a portion of the proceeds for Oasis. I was thrilled for the opportunity as I had been interested in helping Oasis on a more meaningful level for a long time.
My 13 year old son was even inspired to run his own collection of supermarket gift cards to be given to the woman Oasis serves. He raised over $500. I can’t tell you how proud we are of him getting into the action and experiencing at such a young age how great giving feels and how everyone has some way they can contribute.
And, of course, the question we all want to know… where can we find your beautiful designs?
For the widest selection of SKM Artworks jewelry, check out the SKM website, www.shopSKM.com, or you can click on our Locations page to find a shop near you. Following us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/SKMartworks) is always fun since we post lot’s of custom one of a kind pieces and special offers that you won’t find anywhere else.
Now, SKM Artworks is offering readers of Susan Said What?! a special Coupon Code, good for 25% your order now through August 31, 2012. Simply use: SSW2012 at checkout!
Plus, SKM Artworks has also generously sponsored a giveaway of the beautiful “Reef” earrings pictured above. A $65 retail value! The gorgeous “Reef” earrings are hand crafted of blue impression jasper with natural markings evocative of a tropical blue reef. The stones hang from 24K gold Vermeil earwires with a sophisticated brushed finish.
It’s simple to enter using our Rafflecopter form below. Giveaway is available for readers 18+ in the USA only. Odds are determined by the number of entries received. Contest ends 8-15-2012. Good luck!
While you’re here, please don’t forget to enter our other CURRENT GIVEAWAYS:
- Kenzie Mac Beth interchangeable freshwater pearl strand, sterling Kenzie clasp, and three Murano beads. $350 retail! Ends 7-30
- Shoes Under shoe storage system to maximize your closet space, keeps shoes clean and safe! Ends 8-15
Susan Conforte McNeill is a wife, mother, author, entrepreneur and the co-founder of the literacy organization Success Won’t Wait! In addition to Susan Said What?! Susan also writes for It’s how you play the game!, Success Won’t Wait! and Have the Best Christmas EVER!
Photo: Used with permission by SKM Artworks.
No payment or product sample was received in exchange for this post. I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will be good for my readers.