I haven't always known that I wanted to make jewelry, but I have always known that I wanted to be a designer. The first time I ever remember feeling inspired and compelled to make jewelry was when I was 16 or 17. I was in Manhattan when I walked by some gallery in Chelsea with bright feather earrings in the window. This was the first jewelry that I remember seeing that struck me as unconventional and I thought it was the best. I loved the idea of wearing something that had once been living as accessory and I started making earrings out of flowers that I had picked. During and after college I always had a job or two. I consistently felt underutilized at jobs that I worked at and that my way of thinking was alien. Two years ago I decided I had had enough. I knew that I wanted to work for myself, assessed what I'm good at, and here I am.
I started taking jewelry making more seriously when I was 22 living in Montana. My friend and boss at the time, Jodi, showed me a couple of very simple techniques that made making professional looking jewelry seem accessible to me. After that point, I began consistently designing jewelry that was too complicated for my skill set and then figured out how to make it. My advice : the only thing that you can't do is what you think you can't do. That's it. I never let the constraints of my abilities affect what I want to make.
Reading your bio, it appears that you've lived in a diverse many places; Montana, New York, Seattle, now Richmond, Virginia. How have all of these places influenced you? Or is the act of being a nomad the main influence in your life and work?
I am inspired by manmade symmetry in urban areas and by the diversity of people that exist within them. Sometimes I will barely catch a glimpse of a woman that I walk by and see her hair pulled up a certain way and in a split second I will envision an earring on her empty ear. Then I'll go to the studio and make it. In contrast, I'm also influenced by the apparent chaos in the natural world and the order that lies beneath it. There is a sense of worldly-ness that is important to me to embed in my work; I think that is partially a product of traveling. I want my work to transcend place and time.
Your jewelry design has been compared to architecture (natural and manmade) in review. Is architecture an inspiration for you? How does architecture impact your life?
Yes. I am most inspired by Art Deco architecture right now. It represents the machine age. The symmetry and muted ornamentation - by our standards today - are almost too perfect of a balance.
I read in an interview that you mine your own rocks and cut your own stone! Amazing!! How did this interest and skill set come about? Why is it important to you that this be part of your process?
I want to establish AOKO SU as a name in the fashion industry. My next project is creating a line that bridges between garment and accessory.
People and the myriad of styles that they wear on the street. I see potential for ornamentation when I see a striking woman.
Color exploration. I am becoming more enamored with colored stone every day. I love the brilliant hues of Pakastani tourmaline, and Mexican amethyst.
My blog is a direct reflection of images that inspire me.
(All images here within courtesy of Ashley Jerman/Aoko Su- all images copyright © 2013 / All Rights Reserved)