Above the raucousness of a summer day on Main Street in Greenport sits Alexa Suess’s art studio loft. The aesthetic of the place makes it feel like you’ve been transported 100 miles east to Brooklyn, but when you look out the windows, there are no hipsters in sight, just families walking the streets and eating ice cream.
Suess, a graphic designer and metalsmith trained in New York, studied graphic design at the School of Visual Arts. Once she graduated, she found herself immersed in design work on the computer, something she loved but was also bothered by.
“One of the reasons I started smithing,” Suess says, referring to her work with metal jewelry, “is because I can’t stand staring at the computer all day. So I needed something to balance it out.”
Smithing, Suess says, is more of a science than an art. “Most of smithing is forging metal, forming metal into different shapes, a lot of filing, a lot of hammering, a lot of hands-on work.”
The concept of working with her hands appealed to Suess, who subsequently started her own jewelry line called Common Ground Adornments. Most of her jewelry is made from heating gold and sterling. “I just love those metals—they’re easy to work with, they’re soft and pliable and manageable.” Suess also features stingray hide, bone, horsehair, lava stone and beach stone in many of her designs.
She currently has jewelry on sale at the Orenda in Greenport and at several stores in Brooklyn.
It seems like Suess would fit right in with the New York art scene, but she said she came back home to her native Greenport after college “because I love the water, I was born on the water. I felt like something was missing, so I came back and I don’t regret it at all.”
Even though she envisions expanding her jewelry line to cities across the country, she says she wants to stay in Greenport. “I would love to keep my home base here. I love the people here, I love the atmosphere; it’s really refreshing and inspiring.”
Besides, Suess says the East End art community has been a source of inspiration for her and is more welcoming than the environment she encountered in New York. “There’s a large community of artists that do so many different things,” she says. “We’re all open to collaboration and sharing ideas instead of competing. It’s about working with each other and working off of each other. We’re tightly knit and have a better attitude.”
There aren’t many fellow metalsmiths on the East End, perhaps because it seems intimidating at first, Suess speculates. “I started silversmithing with a crème brûlée torch,” she says with a laugh, but she’s hoping to change the way locals look at her work.
Last summer, Suess started Intro to Silversmithing workshops and now leads them at the North Fork Art Collective. “We go through all the basics on how to work with fine metals and it gives people the confidence they need to see that it’s possible,” she says. The two-and-a-half-hour class teaches participants to make three sterling silver stacking rings that they can then customize.
In addition to her Common Ground jewelry line, Suess also does custom work, most often for couples looking for wedding bands. “There’s something really nice about meeting a couple that just got engaged and working with them to make their wedding bands. I love that interaction,” she says.
Though she has found local success, Suess’s goal is to build her brand nationally and then internationally. “I’m very lucky to have a great team that I can trust to handle my affairs in the city so I can stay out here and keep myself happy, healthy and inspired.”
Learn more about Suess’s work at commongroundadornments.com.