In 2018 we launched a new level of membership for recent graduates, to support and guide them as they launch their creative businesses. In 2021 we’ll be turning the spotlight on these talented early career designers and makers, and sharing a lot more about their practices and their ambitions.
To kick start this project we’re delighted to bring this recent conversation with silversmith Suzanne Seed. Suzanne joined Design-Nation in 2019 and after only a year was ready to apply to move up to full membership. She shared her journey, inspirations and hopes for the future with us.
Please tell us about your practice and how your business began.
I began making silver jewellery at evening classes in Norwich and fell in love with working with silver. I decided to pursue it as a career after doing it at that level for a few years, so applied to do a BA Hons in Silversmithing, Goldsmithing and Jewellery at UCA and it’s all developed from there really. I started the degree thinking jewellery was my path, but during the three years I naturally found myself more drawn to creating larger functional pieces. Now I make both but if I had to choose I would definitely say my passion is the larger items.
What inspires you?
Shapes and lines inspire me most I think. It took me a while to realise that most of the artists I appreciate use bold imagery rather than fine details. I love utilitarian design, form follows flow and truth to materials etc which is probably why I enjoy modernist designs and brutalist architecture. I feel safe with function and strength. I envy people who create fluid sculptural pieces and would love for my work to flow in that way but I’m very rigid and find it difficult to stray from that.
Please tell us a bit about your design process.
This depends on the project and how much time I have; if I’m starting a piece off from scratch I like to research forms to get inspiration, mostly architecture, and create a sketchbook without considering an end product. I’ll go through this book and see what stands out, or what shapes are featured repeatedly, and by doing this I find designs will start to evolve naturally.
Other times I have a very strong sense of what I want the resolved design to look like so I will work with paper or card models to get the proportions and dimensions right before working in silver. With jewellery I tend to work through my idea in the metal as I have a strong sense of how it will work.
What is your workspace like?
I have an insulated shed in my parents garden as my studio. I’m very lucky to have somewhere I can work any time/day and while it’s small it’s perfect for my needs. Occasionally a fat pigeon or a squirrel will jump on the roof and give me a heart attack but aside from that, and my terrible singing to the radio, it’s very peaceful.
What attracted you to Design-Nation’s graduate membership programme and what did you get from it?
I knew other designers who had joined Design Nation and it seemed like such a proactive group to be a part of. As a graduate I had access to various training sessions, as well as a buddy system, and now there are the regional hubs which have been a fantastic source of support, information and encouragement.
And what influenced your decision to apply for full DN membership?
I like that there are very few staff members of DN and it really does feel like everyone takes time to get to know you individually. Everyone is so passionate about what they do and achieve so much, you’d never know that it is such a small team doing all this amazing work. I wanted to be associated with that. There are so many opportunities for exhibiting at shows with DN which makes it a little less daunting when it is your first time to go for these shows, as well as help with anything you may be having a problem with in your practice.
What are the main challenges in your practice?
Finding a balance between teaching (generating a regular income) and making the time to develop my own work to push my business forward. I think I’m getting closer to what I want it to be. That and the price of silver shooting up in price this year, that is not a help.
Where would you like your practice to be in 5 years?
There are a few shows I have on my wish list so hopefully I will have ticked those off by then, which in turn will help to increase my client base. Ideally I would have a couple of large commissions a year as well as working on a new series of designs to show throughout the year. I enjoy commissions as they often make you look at things in a different way, get you out of your comfort zone. Jewellery will always be part of my practice, but I’m gradually making fewer pieces so I have a couple of condensed collections which gives me more time to work on the functional items.
If you could collaborate with someone new who would that be?
There are so many current designers I would like to collaborate with, but my dream would be Salvador Dali or Max Ernst as they would both push me to the limit and I would equally love and hate that.
If you weren’t a designer what would you like to do?
I’m not sure but I know that I couldn’t go back to a job which doesn’t involve making. I have never been as content as I am now I am a silversmith.
Do you have you any exhibitions, commissions or events coming up that we should know about?
I’m currently making a left handed fork as a commission. Which causes me panic constantly as I’m forever making sure it is left handed (I am right handed).