Susan Crow
Sustainable Design Certificate
Jewelry Designer and Manufacturer

What is your favorite thing about your job?

My passion is to design and create jewelry that is beautiful and sustainable for the discerning, conscientious person who understands and loves good design. I am also an agent of change when it comes to environmental and ethical impacts surrounding the jewelry industry and mining. My favorite thing about my job is being able to do those two things.

Why did you choose to get a certificate in sustainable design?

In 2007 I began working as a product designer for a Chinese manufacturing facility in Shenzhen, China, where I experienced firsthand the environmental destruction and ethical abuse that comes from our overactive consumerism and need for inexpensive goods. When I discovered MCAD's sustainable design program I realized it could give me tools to change the way I design.

My certificate taught me about closed-loop manufacturing, zero waste, ethical marketing, and life-cycle analysis. With this information I launched East Fourth Street Jewelry in 2010, concentrating on the environmental and ethical backstory of my supply chains and switching up the environmental impacts of jewelry making in the studio.

In 2013 I partnered with Ethical Metalsmith and became licensed by the Alliance for Responsible Mining out of Columbia to sell Fairmined gold and silver in the U.S. We are the first thirty-six jewelers in the U.S. to achieve this goal and hopefully it will spread to the entire jewelry-making community.

What was the online educational experience like? What would you say to people who are hesitant to try an online curriculum?

An online course of study was by far my best choice because of travel distance. I was very impressed with the program and the professors. They each had their own "online personality" which put an individual spin to each class.

One of the main advantages of being online is how it changes the demographics of the class. I had a professor in California and fellow students from all over the globe. This diversity simply would not happen in an on-site classroom, and with sustainability as the subject it was very engaging.

Did you have a job while completing the program? Was it stressful to do both simultaneously?

Yes, I was running my own design consultancy company. It was a very busy time, but I was able to spread the program out over two years taking one class each semester.

How do you find inspiration when you are feeling stuck?

Inspiration comes to me when I change my environment. So if I am feeling stuck, I go out where there are people, hopefully a new city. As a visual maker, I get charged by being in groups of people in everyday situations that are new to me. I also really like taking three- to five-day workshops in technical jewelry making.

What advice do you have for art and design students?

Creativity is a gift, one that most people have some percentage of. To succeed using your creativity as your vocation, skills are of the utmost importance. Technique and individuality can only be honed when you develop technical skills that broaden your creative ability. Every time I take a class with a new technique I go back to the studio and take my work to new levels that I wouldn't have been able to without that new skill.