Copper in the Arts

June 2010

Sue Runyon Designs: Handcrafted Jewelry Inspired by Nature

By Nancy Ballou

Dragonfly Pendant Dragonfly pendant

Photograph courtesy of Sue Runyon

Sue Runyon was always fascinated by nature, art and design. She was born in Michigan, but graduated from the University of Florida with a Bachelor of Fine Arts in Drawing in 1989. In 2005, as a military spouse living in South Korea with her husband and son, Runyon's first venture in jewelry began when she discovered Hongqiao Pearl Market and the outdoor “dirt market” of gemstones in Beijing, China, only two hours away by air. With beads purchased from the Dongdaemun Market in Seoul, she began making jewelry with classical pearl and gemstone bead stringing. A later family trip to Cambodia offered further Asian inspiration.

“At first, I just made designs for myself, but when my pieces started selling right off my neck, a business was born!” recalls Runyon.

She described her first work with copper as “one of those happy accidents.” To branch out from use of manufactured sterling silver and 14k gold-filled jewelry findings normally associated with pearls and gemstones, Runyon decided to make ear wires and clasps with copper wire. She found copper easy to manipulate. Its warm, rosy glow lent itself to natural pairing with substances like red coral for bracelets, pink pearls as in her Copper Buds necklace or amethyst for a rich, sophisticated look. Soon, her copper and amazonite earrings became her most popular design and she worked on combinations such as copper, 14k gold-filled and sterling silver blended to create a tricolor gold look for an affordable price.

Tricolor Bracelet Tricolor memory wire bracelet

Photograph courtesy of Sue Runyon

Being able to go into a hardware store and buy various gauges of copper wire in the electrical or picture hanging departments has been conducive to her construction productivity. Since most of her work with wire entails wrapping with some cutting, bending, hammering and filing involved, copper is the perfect metal for her trial and error methods. The unique dragonfly hairpin took about 20 meters of copper wire and a full day to create. She recently purchased an anvil and ring mandrel and uses a tumbler for polishing and hardening the pieces.

“I love making copper earrings," says Runyon. "They give me a chance to play with ideas and techniques on a small scale. I frequently wake up from a dream about a new design, sketch it and try it with earrings. Many of the designs are made using a wire jig pegboard. I am also getting comments from customers with sensitive skin that the copper earrings are more comfortable for them to wear."


Sue Runyon Designs, North Las Vegas, Nevada

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