Zuzana Korbelarova’s sterling silver jewelry has been a customer favorite since we introduced it last year. Everyone appreciates her fresh and inventive designs, not an easy achievement in a marketplace flooded with lookalike jewelry. Zuzana, or Zuz as she likes to be called, was born in Prague and now lives with her husband Jason and daughter Aja on Vashon Island, a 20 minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle.
Zuzana tells the story about beginning jewelry making twelve years ago when her husband gave up on finding a piece of jewelry she wanted to wear. He gifted her with a pair of pliers, an ounce of sterling silver, and a jewelry making class. “The birthday card read ‘make your own my love.’ I then started creating jewelry that I would want to wear, and soon realized that I was not the only one wanting to wear it. Little did he know where his gift would lead us.”
The Artful Hand Gallery just received a new collection of her jewelry and we thought this would be a good time to catch up with her to talk about her life and work.
AHG: You tell a great story about the origins of Zuzko Jewelry and make it seem easy, but I know it’s not; there’s always a lot of hard work and background behind a success like yours. Did you have any schooling in art and design to prepare you for this business?
ZUZ: I have always been interested in art, visual arts mainly, and used to dabble in oil painting and interior design before I was bitten by the jewelry making bug. But I don’t have any formal art training, only a few independent classes here and there, and lots of trial and error – blood, sweat, and tears kind of learning.
AHG: We think your jewelry is unique and creative, especially the wire wrapping and hand made chains. Do you employ any other jewelry making techniques? And what is your favorite part of the jewelry making process?
ZUZ: I am trying to incorporate more fabrication into my designs; soldering and stone setting. And forging is always fun. My favorite would have to be hammering, whether for texture or to shape the metal. I find it deeply soothing and meditative. Forging (hammering with an oomph) can also be therapeutic, a good way to release any pent up angst.
AHG: You grew up in Prague, one of Europe’s most beautiful and sophisticated cities. What influence does Prague have on your work?
ZUZ: I am obsessed with Art Nouveau, which you can see at every step in Prague. I think is is the most harmonious and visually pleasing art style. The jewelry design and craftsmanship from that time leaves me breathless and inspired … but I am not sure how that love reflects in my designs. I think my design aesthetic is simpler and less sophisticated than that.
AHG: What do you love most about Prague?
ZUZ: Being exposed to art without having to seek it out. It’s just everywhere; you can’t get away from it even if you tried. We used to sneak into the Opera House without paying when we were teenagers; that was our idea of being rebels ;). And the beer, of course.
AHG: How did you end up living on Vashon Island, literally a world away from Prague?
ZUZ: That’s a good question! I have no idea how the winds of life blew me this far. Even though I call the island and Seattle home (I’ve been in this area for 20 years now), I still miss Prague every day. Truth is, I came to Seattle to visit a friend (I lived in NYC at the time), and I met wonderful people, really liked it here, and decided to stay for a little while … then I fell in love and never left!
AHG: What do you appreciate most about living in the Pacific Northwest? Has it influenced your work?
ZUZ: I love how laid back and unpretentious the people here are. I love having nature at my door step, and being a life long “city girl” I’ve never before experienced such a profound feeling of community as we have on our little island. I also like to think of my jewelry as simple and unpretentious, something that can be worn easily, but still make me feel pretty when I put it on.
AHG: With your jewelry in over 50 stores and galleries around the country, how has Covid-19 affected your business?
ZUZ: Covid has forced me to work more on my social media and online presence, focusing on direct relationships with my customers. I truly enjoy meeting the people who wear my jewelry. We’ve had a twice annual Studio Tour on Vashon Island where up to 50 artists open their studios, and people are able to see and buy art at the source. Covid has allowed me to spend my whole day with my daughter doing school in the studio with me and my husband. I will miss her when she goes back to in school learning!
AHG: Is there anything else you’d like to add about your life and business:
ZUZ: I feel so lucky and privileged to be able to lead this wonderful life of working from home, doing what fulfills me, with my family by my side! I am deeply indebted to all the people who purchase my humble creations and allow me to live this way. THANK YOU!
AHG: Thank YOU! The Artful Hand Gallery wouldn’t be half as interesting without the work of creative artists like you!