With Mexico City being the inspiration for our current season, we are thrilled to talk to Suzzan Atala - the founder and creative director of Tuza Jewelry, a Mexico City based jewelry studio that creates unique, timeless pieces designed to capture the bold and elegant nature of an empowered woman.
CREATURES FEATURES: Tell us a little bit about yourself. Where are you from, and where do you currently live? What do you like to do when you aren’t making jewelry?
Suzzan Atala: Hello!! I was born and bred in the surreal and stunning Mexico City. I currently live between NYC and CDMX. When I am not working on Tuza I love spending time with my friends, walking around the cit, and discovering new places both in NY and Mexico or wherever I am, but mainly I love spending time with my loved ones. I love live music and museums and galleries so I try to do as much of that as I can!
CF: Where is your new store? How’s it going?
SA: The new store is in Mexico City in Roma Norte. I’ve always dreamed of having a little store. It started as a pop up for Christmas to get Mexican designers together and sell their stuff next to mine, and support Mexican design, but it went really well and people really liked it so we decided to stay and make it permanent.
CF: When and how did you learn to make jewelry?
SA: I studied technical arts and classical sculpture at the university of the Arts in London, and in my final year I had a part time job at a bronze foundry. I wanted to do something else, so I happened upon an internship with a jewelry designer and she taught me some basics. In doing so, she opened my eyes to a whole new world of possibilities, and that's when I decided to commit to Jewelry making. I then did a BTECH on jewelry making in London. I also got a more hands on internship at Laura Lee jewelry, and my boss Hannah De Bruyn, who is also an amazingly talented jeweler, taught me a lot and gave me the confidence to start doing my own thing.
CF: Have you always been using metals such as silver, gold, and rose gold in your work? Or did you start with other materials and then transition?
SA: I always try to keep my hands and my brain busy, so when I was at uni watching a tv show or a lecture or whatever, I would be making femo or sculpy earrings or pieces for my friends.
CF: What is your design process and studio practice like? Do your designs start on paper and then become physical?
SA: I always have a theme for a collection. I normally choose a song, mainly from the 70’s or 80’s, and that sort of sets the brief. I'll listen to the song, and then that makes me imagine a person wearing certain shapes and colors in a place. From that I make a mood board and research about stones, colors, shapes, and normally make the prototypes in metal or wax. After that I work with my head Jeweler to make the masters and the samples in our workshop in Mexico City.
CF: We love your charm pieces! What was the influence behind these?
SA: My dear friend Maia Ruth Lee came up with the idea of making a charm collection. She grew up in Nepal, and similar to Mexico, people love charms and wear them all the time. So we decided to combine them and make some more, and we ended up with 50 charms that represented both of our lives. We separated them into 10 stories like the "nightlife" necklace or the "sex" bracelet - they all tell a story that is meaningful to us. Maia is amazing to work with, and we are working on another collab now - probably my favorite yet!
CF: As you know, our SS17 collection was inspired by Mexico City, so we immediately thought to collaborate with you for the show! Where did you get your inspiration for the beautiful jewelry you created for the collection?
SA: Yes! I was so overwhelmed when Jade contacted me and asked me to do the collab. We had a chat about what she was imagining and the references she had. She loved some of Frida’s old jewelry, the Luis Barragan towers, as well as the charms I made with Maia, so that was basically the brief she gave me. I grew up seeing all those references, and somehow you end up taking them for granted, so seeing Mexico through Jade’s eyes was very refreshing. She showed me the color pallets that she was using and I did the prototypes on paper, figured out the materials, like the mixed metals, the corals, turquoise and the pearls. We understood each other immediately and the process was super smooth and easy. I loved working with her; she is truly inspiring and very open to new ideas.
CF: What has currently been inspiring your work?
SA: I don't think I can say that I’m inspired by something in particular, but being able to come back and forth to Mexico City is truly inspirational and I think there is something to always admire and appreciate in literally everything we see. I do feel truly inspired by the women I work with and collaborate with. Working with Maia, Jade, and currently with Rachel from Small Spells is so inspiring.
I love big statement earrings like the ones our mums used to use in the 80’s and 90’s. I feel less shy about using colors and experimenting with new shapes. I always feel influenced and inspired by sculptors, current and classic. I feel that it’s a constant way of feeding my creativity.
CF: Your jewelry seems like it is made to empower strong, forward thinking women. How is today’s delicate political climate affecting your designs?
SA: As a brand we have a social responsibility, and I purposely have my workshop in Mexico, as it's extremely important for me to create jobs and support the economy of my country.
The vagina necklace is definitely the most empowering statement piece we have, it is unapologetically feminine for sure. I think when there is so much bombarding of mixed information attached to what it means to be a woman today, it's important to have a sense of union, and I think that's what that piece has ended up doing. It created a strong sense of sisterhood.
CF: How would you describe how you accessorize / what kind of jewelry you like to wear personally?
SA: I don't really like to take my jewelry off - if I take it off, it's because I'm probably giving it away to someone. I like mixing metals, but it goes through stages. Sometimes I'll be dripping in jewelry and sometimes I'll just be wearing my basics that never come off.
CF: What do you never leave the house without?
CF: If you weren’t making jewelry what would you want to be doing instead?
SA: Well I studied classical sculpture, so probably that. I also always wanted to study marine biology, but I've never been very academic!