Susan Ohrn was traveling in Stockholm when the painted star motif of a church building caught her eye. Not only was the circa 1500s art beautiful to look at, but it inspired her to consider own life and the role that hope plays in inspiring us every day.
“It was a symbol that reminded me that you should always be hopeful,” she says. “Even when you’re going through a challenging time, you have to look for that positive inspiration.”
Those beautiful stars and the reminder of hopefulness translated into Astrid, a design for her Wellesley-based jewelry line Susan Ohrn Jewelry. That simple and beautiful star design draws inspiration from those abstract paintings from more than half a millennia ago and tells a story of a very specific moment in Ohrn’s life.
Life is made up of small but significant moments that add up to the tapestry of our days, and for Ohrn, the pieces she creates are deeply inspired by that truth.
“I’m really very much inspired by moments that evolve your spirit,” she says. “For me, jewelry was always a passion, and then I translated it into learning the craft.”
Ohrn learned and honed her craft working globally for some of the world’s most well-known jewelry houses, including Tiffany and Co., De Beers, and Swarovski, but wanted to create pieces that were representative of those moments of significance, rather than for a traditional luxury brand.
Inspired by nature and Nordic design
She launched Susan Ohrn Jewelry to friends and family at the end of 2020 with a focus on fine, sculptural jewelry, including pendants and earrings, in sterling silver and 18-carat gold. Her aesthetic draws from the clean lines and elegance of Scandinavian design.
This launch, a scaled-back version of her initial plan, represented Ohrn’s determination to overcome the hurdles of the pandemic. During this challenging time Ohrn, a single parent, regularly brought her child to walk the restorative Dane Street Beach and Singing Beach on the North Shore. Experiencing their bracing air and the majestic ocean helped rebuild their resilience, a theme she embedded in her initial pieces.
Astrid is only one of the collections in the Susan Ohrn Jewelry line that are inspired by nature, femininity, strength, the Nordic aesthetic, and life’s meaningful moments. Another, Lucia, was inspired by candlelight.
“It’s part of living in our northern climate, where it’s very dark in the wintertime. There’s something very meditative and reflective about a candle’s dancing flame,” she says. “I was really drawn to the idea of trying to create that three-dimensional movement in metal.”
The result is a delicate pendant that hangs and moves like gentle candlelight that’s distilled in a soothing way.
“It’s a double helix that wraps around itself,” she says. “When it spins in the air, or moves on the neck, it looks like a flame at every angle, at every point.”
That careful craftsmanship and attention to detail is part of what makes Susan Ohrn Jewelry so special. Sketches and 3D sculptures become honed and refined, making sure every detail is exactly right. Unlike many other jewelry designers, who work with modelers who bring a piece to three-dimensional life from the artist’s original sketch, Ohrn does it all herself in her home-based studio.
“Every element of what I create is my hands creating it,” she says. “That’s very, very important to me because I want every element of it to be actually shaped by my fingers, my hands.”
After local New England casters cast the piece in sterling silver, Ohrn shapes them more, grinding and polishing the pieces until they’re perfect.
“The pieces are very sculptural, with timeless motifs. They’re not fashion pieces. They’re really fine jewelry,” she says. “What’s very important to me, and what always has been, is that a piece has the perfect balance and finish It needs to have what would make the difference between a seasonal trendy piece and a timeless, fine piece of jewelry.”
A blossoming business
Since the launch, Ohrn has grown her line organically. Repeat customers have brought in new customers via gift-giving and word of mouth. Ohrn prefers the focus be on her pieces and design themes, saying her studio is her “happy place,” but has conceded that “to connect with people means sharing the journey of the piece—from inspiration to creation. Telling my story is inevitably part of that journey.”
In addition to her existing collections—which include Astrid, Lucia, and Freya, which incorporates symbolic runic shields to honor female warriors—Ohrn is also launching a new collection called Flora Nordica, which includes six different wildflower-inspired motifs. Rather than literal interpretations of flowers, Ohrn again draws on a more esoteric, modern, and even abstract designs, inspired by the Scandinavian tradition of female artists in folk art painting and embroidery. Pieces like the chamomile-inspired Camilla and Moondaisy, which evokes a wild daisy, nod to that craft: Camilla with its geometric folded petals, and Moondaisy’s bold oval swirl.
“These are motifs that you find in a lot of different interpretations of wildflowers by female artists,” she says. “They are like symbols of the flowers themselves.”
Flora Nordica also includes wild tulip, forest starflower, linnea, and meadow bloom inspired designs. No matter the piece, each speaks to something that’s both deeply personal and incredibly collective: nature, beauty, resilience, strength, and hope.
“It’s a really a lot more of an internal inspiration,” Ohrn says. “It’s also very universal.”
To learn more, visit susanohrnjewelry.com