People Who Inspire Me: Heather Surma

Screen shot 2014-06-22 at 9.45.16 PMSometimes, it’s refreshing to break outside your own sphere of creativity and step into someone else’s. This week, I’m excited to enter the world of Heather Surma, the talented jewelry artist behind The Jeweled Heron.

“I have been making jewelry in one form or another since I was eight years old,” explains Heather from her home in Wisconsin. “My grandmother encouraged me by purchasing all the beads Jo-Ann Fabrics had when they were going out of business down by where I lived. I still remember her sweeping them into the cart armfulls at a time. My eyes must have been huge!”

To this day, Heather feels the weight of that investment, and the pride and faith her grandmother demonstrated through it. 

“I have always wanted to repay that kindness by making beautiful things.”

It’s not surprising, either, that Heather come from a family of creators. Her mother painted ceramics and her grandfather painted canvas, while her grandmother sewed quilts. Heather herself tried drawing comics, sewing, painting, cross-stitch, and crochet before ultimately returning to beads as her medium of choice.

“Beads . . . require precison, and in turn, are very precise. Whatever you design in your mind comes out looking ‘just’ like that because of the statuc nature of beads,” she enthuses. 

The color of the glass, too, is an attraction. “Glass reacts to light in the most marvelous of ways,” Heather explains. “The color . . . truly depends on the light in the room.” 

Indeed, according to Heather, light itself can have a huge impact on how the final piece is viewed. Along with this aspect, Shadow, Color and Shape also play a role in the final design and aesthetic. It is the creation of beauty from all these elements that keeps Heather coming back day after day.

But creating beauty is no easy task.

Heather admits that the outside criticism of others—the naysayers who’ve told her her work isn’t good enough, or she’ll never sell it, or that the arts are a waste of time altogether—has been her biggest discouragement over the years. “My biggest hurdle is to break through the fear of failure and truly throw myself into the dream,” she says.  She defies those negative voices, and the echoes of them that linger, by practicing her craft day in and day out with a determination as precise as the designs she creates. 

Her practice shows clearly in the quality of her product.

Her days start early. Heather gets down to business after her fiance has left for work, picking out her projects, colors, and materials before laying them all out on the dining room table. Here, she can spread out and be comfortable, working until she senses a need for stretches, yoga, lunch or a combination thereof. She works straight through the rest of the afternoon, then takes the evening off.

“I feel pretty good if I can get five to six hours of beadwork done a day,” she admits, noting that life always brings a few interruptions her way. 

When she’s not beading, she’s a self-described “Gamer Girl” and “Role Play Nut.” (That’s how she and I met, by the way, through a little online role play experiment called Aurelia . . . ) If she’s not in Skyrim or Guild Wars, Heather is over in Second Life building worlds and stories with the same precision she brings to her jewelry work. Not to mention her “other life” as a fan of Doctor Who, Star Trek, and ancient mythologies. 

For her beading work, Heather takes inspiration from Art Nouveau artists such as Alphonse Mucha and the Tiffany & Co. line inspired by the same. Working designer EllaD2 is one of her other main inspirations, along with Brian Kessinger. Heather incorporates many of these influences into her own designs which she sells under The Jeweled Heron. 

And speaking of that, why a heron, specifically?

“In Nordic mythology, the goddess of the household and handicrafts was Frigga. Her most sacred bird, the heron,” Heather explains. “So in honor of her I named [my business] The Jeweled Heron.”

Chase down that heron at Heather’s website, or find her on Facebook. She also offers jewelry parties for those who are interested in hosting. 

All in all, Heather’s passion for her work shows in the final designs.  “These are my tiny prayers to the universe,” she explains, “to help keep beauty alive in a world that isn’t always beautiful.”

Thanks, Heather, for bringing beauty into my life and many others.

Your prayers have made a difference.

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