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Jewelry Designers Joni Kat Anderson and Susan Elizabeth at Stylemax

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Our man about town Jared Hatch checks out this year's Stylemax show and talks to two local jewelry designers.

Walking through bi-annual Stylemax at the Merchandise Mart this year we overheard a lot of people talking about jewelry and how much of it is being represented at spring Stylemax. Traditionally, at this buyers-only market, Monday is the last day—as well as the day that most accounts signed. Monday is also coincidentally the day before the blizzard '11 and travel will come to a screeching halt—keeping all the midwestern retailers stranded in Chi-town. So walking around the jam-packed maze of racks and booths filled with garments and accessories, we're dodging hurried buyers, trying to seek out the gems among the sea of patterned fabric proved a little difficult the but we finally found the two most well known Chicago-based jewelry designers exhibiting at the show show this year.

The first is a seasoned sculptor and is best known for her reasonably priced organic sterling silver pieces. Joni Kat Anderson points to the rack of Jkat brand rings on an eye level shelf to show us a new technique of line and form she is using in her silver pieces this year. Expanding work with her foundry and signing more contracts through Pam DeLuca Showroom. Her growing accounts seem to be Hazel on Montrose in Ravenswood and Spare Parts on Broadway in Lakeview. To help adapt her line to the change in the markets, she's now offering jewelry cast in bronze and coated with a layer of fine silver for a fraction of the price. Joni says she's continually sketching out new ideas and making larger sculptures, trying to exercise her best judgement when scaling down size to feminine enough to wear as an accessory. During her process she's recently started asking for masculine input from her artistic husband and making sure that the forms of her jewelry are feminine enough for women to want but simple enough for men to understand and therefore purchase for the women in their lives.

The second is a recent featured designer in Chicago Style Magazine, who studied under renowned metalsmiths, Fred Fenster and Lisa Gralnick. It's her second year showing at Stylemax and she's represented by Studio 808. Susan Elizabeth Designs, Forest Park, is now branching into more high-end diamond and custom silver pieces and we were excited to see some examples of this work at Stylemax this year, although we didn't see many diamond pieces. Susan Elizabeth is known for her mod-shaped oxidized and patina sterling retro cuffs and wrapped cuffs which are a whirlwind of organically toned reds pinks blues yellows and grays. When we spoke with her just after the show had ended, she told us to keep an eye out for more casted rings and smaller more delicate bib necklaces which she'll start mixing in large stones. As always, with Susan Elizabeth each piece down to the earring post, is made by hand so you won't be able to find the same styles at each of her regular stockists (Cerato, Florodora, and the Silver Room). Now that Susan has branched off into bridal jewelry and custom work with gems, and its harder for retailers to stock jewelry with those price points, you may want to check out her really special items and one-offs at the annual One of a Kind Show or The Old Town Art Fair.
· JKat Jewelry [Official Site]
· Studio 808 [Official Site]