Sue Rosengard Jewelry Design E-mail



One Chicago jewelry artist proves that staying power is all about being able to adapt and change with the market.


By Bernadette FinnertySue Rosengard


Growing up in the Midwest, jewelry designer Sue Rosengard was immersed in the linear nature of art and architecture by masters Frank Lloyd Wright and Alexander Calder. These influences would surface quietly throughout Rosengard’s years as a student. She loved math and science, but decided to major in French. She graduated from the University of Illinois with a B.A. in French, and studied abroad in Paris and Italy.


But it wasn’t until she enrolled in a jewelry making class at The New School in New York City that she knew she had found her life’s work. “A friend was studying for her master’s degree there, and I just started flipping through the course catalog. The jewelry class interested me, so I enrolled. That was it. It felt immediately like something I was interested in. I had a knack for it. It never felt like work.”


Rosengard continued taking jewelry-making classes, but she considers herself primarily self-taught. “In college, I had a very strong math and science background. I used to do little geometric line drawings in the margins of my notebooks... i.e., when I wasn’t really paying attention,” she laughs.

Sue Rosengard bracelet

“Well, these doodles now remind me of my wire earring designs,” adds Rosengard. “I was always drawn to more linear things, be it architecture, art, or nature. I think that as my jewelry career developed, I became more aware of how those things and artists influenced me from afar.”


“The business started rather quickly,” says Rosengard. “I was selling jewelry here and there while I was still in New York.” One of the first fairs she exhibited in was on Columbus Avenue, at a table she shared with a friend. Eventually, she returned to her hometown of Chicago and started making jewelry full time.


Over the years, Rosengard says her work has become a bit more refined, perhaps, but she is still drawn to linear and modern designs. She loves interacting with her customers when she can, and she says her designs are somewhat influenced by what customers want to buy. “It doesn’t dictate [my design],” she says, “but it does influence me. However, I like to say that I’m not a trend follower, but a trend setter. The truth is that I strive to make my work classic and timeless.”


Sue Rosengard EarringsRosengard’s studio is located in the Pilsen neighborhood of Chicago, which has been haven for artists for more than 35 years. In addition to her studio, she runs a small retail gallery called Under the Wire, which she opened in 2006. Both are housed in a 125-year old building Rosengard owns. “I have three wonderful assistants that help with all aspects of the business and two resident dogs that lay around all day while trying to look intimidating.”


New Directions

With a studio, gallery and over 20 years of business under her belt, Rosengard knows that in this economy it’s crucial to be able to adapt and change with market conditions. Last year, in response to rising gas prices and a surge in the metal market, Rosengard started thinking about using recycled materials in her work. She experimented with paper, and after some trial and error, she found a process that worked and dove into the design process.


“Working with a new medium was a challenge,” says Rosengard. “Paper is not metal! It doesn’t bend and fold and stay the way metal does. I had to take a few steps back and stop thinking only like a metal smith.” Eventually, Rosengard worked out the kinks and developed the line, which she calls Flying Paper Jewelry. She has also created another line, called Detour, which features hand-cut pieces of vintage maps, atlases and sheet music, set inside silver or gold plated bezels and filled with epoxy resin.


Sue Rosengard Jewelry“Until the current economic situation, I would have said our business was 80 percent wholesale (through trade shows) and 20 percent retail (through retail art fairs). I’m not sure exactly what this  year will bring.” She adds that she enjoys the fact that her work is different every day. “I may be paying bills, answering emails, working in the gallery or creating new designs. It’s always changing.”


Rosengard says she has always tried to create affordable, well crafted and well designed jewelry that appeals to all ages. The contemporary geometric shapes are designed to flatter the face or lapel of the wearer, and are lightweight and easy to wear. All of Rosengard’s jewelry is created by hand, using simple tools. “My goal is to have customers wear a piece of jewelry that complements their own style and personality,” she says.




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