Artists ~ Sue Gray Fitzpatrick ~ Newport

Artist’s name: suegray fitzpatrick
Shop name: suegray jewelry

1. Tell us about your work
I spend lots of time hunting…
Searching for rare and beautiful sea glass for my sea glass jewelry... using only real, found on the beach sea glass that I wrap in sterling silver wire, keeping the jewelry as simple as possible to highlight the beauty of the sea glass.
And, hunting for unique antique wax seals (stamps), which are very hard to find, and hand casting them into fine silver, instead of wax, to create little meaningful and/or inspirational wax seal necklaces, earrings, rings and bracelets.

2. How did you come to be a professional artist/crafter/designer?
I’m an accidental jeweler...
I’ve always been an avid sea glass collector and wanted to create jewelry with these beautiful little surf tumbled gems. About 25 years ago I purchased some tools, books and sterling silver wire and made it happen, originally self taught but later taking classes at RISD and Metalwerx to learn new techniques and gain inspiration. I continue taking classes when I have the time!
I started out making jewelry just for me but I received so many requests to make sea glass jewelry for others that I began exhibiting in arts and crafts shows. Shop owners began to express interest and the business grew and now with internet shopping it is truly more than a full time job!

The wax seal jewelry evolved in a similar fashion when I personally began to tire of wearing jewelry with color, desiring pure, simple silver jewelry for a change. About 8 years ago I began to experiment with pmc (pure silver precious metal clay) and a few wax seals I had from my childhood. This wax seal jewelry quickly expanded as my antique wax seal collection grew and now I’m not sure whether I purchase the wax seals to create my jewelry or if I sell my wax seal jewelry to support my wax seal collecting habit!

3. Where do you draw your inspiration?
I’m inspired by history and by nature... especially nature closest to the ocean.
I love visiting museums and viewing their collections of wax seals, Victorian period jewelry, mourning jewelry, Alexander Calder jewelry, etc. and when I cannot visit in person I enjoy perusing the collections in books and online.

What’s your favorite item to create?
Probably the wax seal jewelry and usually the favorite will be whatever wax seal I have most recently acquired. Once I purchase a new (old) wax seal I spend days getting to know it and researching it... the symbols on the matrix, the type of seal or handle in an attempt to date the seal. With the armorial wax seals I try to get an idea of the person, or kind of person, who originally had it engraved. None of these antique seals come with any information!

5. What’s your best seller?
Surprisingly, it's the Georgian period skull wax seal necklace with the engraving ES FUI SUM ERIS which is Latin and means AS YOU ARE NOW SO ONCE WAS I, AS I AM NOW SO MUST YOU BE.

The skull seal itself is one of 6 on a wheel seal and the only one of these 6 that I had no interest in. Unfortunately, the other 5 seals did not translate well in the silver and I was bummed that I had spent so much money on the antique seal so as a last ditch effort I stamped the skull into the silver and I immediately fell in love with it!
I expanded what I could do with that skull wax seal and using just a portion of the seal matrix I make earrings and rings that are really popular as well!

6. How long have you been in Rhode Island?
I have lived in RI for most of my life… living in Portsmouth from the age of 6 months (thank you mom and dad!) until college graduation when I moved all the way to Newport. I did take a few years to live aboard a sailboat, Florida in the winter and Newport in the summer, but I am firmly back on land in Newport now! I discovered "there's no place like home!"

7. What do you {heart} about Rhode Island?
I love living near the beaches and ocean… I consider myself fortunate to ride my bike around the gorgeous ocean drive every day in the spring, summer and fall and thank my lucky stars every time I cross the Newport bridge when heading home.

This wonderful Rhody ocean and nautical living has clearly influenced my jewelry... I have many anchor wax seals, one that has the word HOPE on a banner draped across the anchor, and several ship, mermaid and compass wax seals.

8. Please include anything else you’d like to add:
I have not been lucky enough to find a family signet or desk wax seal in my own family but many lucky folks do have them... and I love working with these to create necklace charms to make this piece of family history wearable for one or more!


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