Suzanne Schmid wanted to be a sculptor when she was going to school in California, but she was sharing a tiny apartment with several other students, and the room she had for her artistic pursuits was too small for sculpting.
So she started working on jewelry because it was the most satisfying creative outlet she had in a small space. She came to Springfield for an internship involving one of her other creative outlets -- photography. When the internship was over, she opted to stay in Springfield, and in January, she officially became a full-time jewelry designer.
Zanne Avenue jewelry is made in a small studio, but the creations span the globe. Schmid's rings, necklaces, cuffs, earrings and buckles are an impressive, eclectic mix of maps, game pieces and recycled items.
Schmid looks at the world through an artist's eye -- nothing should be wasted, and even the most pedestrian of items can be elevated through the imagination into art.
In her home, she's got an interesting piece of art that includes sliced black olives, a piece of an old skate and part of a map. She's got a belt buckle with a piece of bacon encased in resin. "I just thought -- what would bacon look like?" she said with a deadpan expression -- and then she laughed. "OK, not everyone is going to want a bacon buckle."
The bacon and the olives are part of her artistic philosophy.
"I'm really passionate about taking something ordinary, an everyday object, and presenting it in a way that makes people laugh or makes them surprised," she said.
"The most gratifying thing for me is seeing someone chuckle when they are looking at something I've done and they realize what it is," Schmid added.
When she was studying art in California, she was trained in the classics. She worked in mixed media and metal and even put herself through school as a welder. "I fabricated and welded other people's sculptures," Schmid said.
Then she took some jewelry classes and she was hooked. "My greatest inspiration for my jewelry is going to a store and looking at items that have nothing to do with jewelry," she said.
In California and in Springfield, she haunts the thrift stores. Scrabble pieces, old typewriter keys, parts of a Monopoly board, distressed tiny copies of the Old Master's paintings become earrings or necklaces. From looking at her pieces, you can see she has a fondness for "The Wizard of Oz."
A supply of discarded eyeglasses becomes the frame for necklaces she is working on.
From looking at her artwork you can also see she has a fondness for maps. Maps are part of all of her jewelry lines.
Those wearing her jewelry can carry around a little part of their hometown, a part of their home country or part of a place they had to leave behind but still keep in their heart.
"Most people are interested in a specific city or place so they can give the jewelry as a gift to someone who is coming to a new place or leaving a place they love," Schmid said.
She can find a place on her extensive collection of maps, or sometimes people supply the map for a specific custom piece. "I can distress it or 'antique' it," she said.
Her cuffs and rings, as well as many of her necklaces, are unisex -- their statements are artistic, not feminine or masculine.
Suzanne Schmid sells her jewelry at exhibitions, online and at the Blue Door.
Story published Friday, November 6, 2009 ( Volume 4, Number 6 )