Designer Spotlight: Susan Wheeler

Susan Wheeler and I met for the first time last year at JCK Las Vegas. I was manning a booth for a fellow artist and stopped in my tracks when I saw her work. Even though I was not wearing a buyer badge, Wheeler took the time to show me some of her favorite pieces and even let me try a few things on. Fast-forward six months later and we were coincidentally reunited by Monica Stephenson of iDazzle. Life has a funny way of working like that. I am so thrilled that Wheeler is a member of the JCK family, and it’s only a matter of time before this JCK Rising Star begins to blind us with her brilliance.

Can you tell us more about dendritic quartz? When and where did it capture your attention? Why is this gemstone so prevalent in your work?

Susan Wheeler: I first saw dendritic quartz in Tucson four years ago. The booth caught my eye, and I stopped in for a quick peek. I ended up staying for three hours and gathering the inspirational multicolored dendritic quartz gems that helped me launch the collection. I use a lot of the dendritic quartz because my jewelry is about how everything in nature is formed.

Do you believe in a stone’s metaphysical properties? Why or why not?

Wheeler: I do believe in the metaphysical properties in stones a little bit. I like that some stones can bring you good luck or love, who wouldn’t? But I think the whole feeling and karma of a finished piece of jewelry is the most important part. All of my pieces are made with love, and I always hope that whoever they end up with will feel loved in life.
Dendritic quartz ring in 18k recycled gold 

How do you want your audience to interact with your art? What story do you wish to tell? What emotions do you hope to evoke?

Wheeler: A friend of mine was over her diamond solitaire engagement ring and wanted to use a small dendritic quartz to wear as an “engagement” ring for her 20th wedding anniversary. She pored over my collection of loose dendritic quartz (it’s a huge collection) and picked out my absolute favorite piece. I was secretly saving this piece for myself.  

What has had the biggest impact on your design philosophy?

Wheeler: Zen. It just happens. Sometimes, like for this year’s AGTA Spectrum submission, I have an idea in my head that’s very specific. But as I start putting that idea in motion and gathering the gems, designing the gold bezels and assembling, a piece of jewelry will take its own path and you’re just along for the ride—and the fabrication and the bill.

Citrine and fire opal Sunrise necklace with precious topaz and yellow sapphire baguettes

Three kids, two pets, one husband, and a very successful business. Can you teach us some of your secrets about time management?

Wheeler: Yes. It’s okay to have a messy house! I’m not the best person with time management, but the pets get fed. Deadlines in business help a lot. I also have [my assistant] Eric. He is Mr. Awesome. 

Why are you excited for JCK Tucson?

Wheeler: I’m so excited for JCK Tucson. I think it will be like breath of fresh air for designers and retailers alike. Tucson is always fun and laid-back. It’s a perfect place and time of year for everyone to meet and mingle.

Much of Wheeler’s work is inspired by nature.

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