The Craftsmen Behind Common Ground Jewelry Come Together In Surprising Ways

Artisans Suess (left) and Pridham at Common Ground Fine Jewelry & Studio, their shop on Front Street in Greenport. Photograph by David Benthal

By December 2017, Susan Pridham was officially sold out.

The dual demands of being the sole owner and operator of her Greenport jewelry store, Blue Ruth, and making many of the handmade pieces she sold there had caught up with her after the busy holiday season. She was so desperate for the change that she even considered selling the business.

Then, one day, jewelry designer Alexa Suess – a talented silversmith, silversmith, and gemologist who also lives in Greenport – walked through the front door. The couple started talking, and suddenly Pridham had another idea.

“I was saying how tired and miserable I was,” Pridham said. She turned to Suess and asked her, “Well, what are you doing? Do you want to become a partner? ”

Photograph by David Benthal

Pridham told the story with a big laugh as she stood inside the beautifully appointed Front Street little store, leaning against a glass case adorned with necklaces, earrings and other made jewelry. handmade by her and Suess.

“She kind of dropped him out of nowhere,” Suess said, with a laugh of her own. “It took me by surprise because I wasn’t expecting this conversation to happen then.”

It didn’t take too much thought for Suess to realize that this was just as perfect a time for her to make a change as it was for Pridham. This is how their new store was born. After initially naming it Orenda, they recently rebranded the boutique as Common Ground Jewelry, a name they say celebrates individual principles while recognizing “we are all part of the land that bores us”.

Photograph by David Benthal

Pridham has been making handcrafted jewelry for almost four decades and worked in retail spaces for years before opening a boutique in Greenport in 2010. Growing up and living in a small town like Greenport means “everyone knows it all. the world, ”Suess said, and each craftsman knew the other.

Suess launched her first line of handmade pieces – which she offered for sale at a local salon – when she was just 10 years old. They sold out in a week. She had just graduated from Parsons School of Design in New York and had become a certified gemologist when Pridham made her impromptu offer. She was sort of at a crossroads, trying to decide if she was ready to “make my own reality,” she said, or stay in the “safety net” of working for others.

The collaborative act of faith has paid off. The design and overall aesthetic of Common Ground is a perfect blend of the sensibilities that define the two craftsmen. They readily recognize their differences, but have also found the kind of balance that their business name implies. “We’re very different, but if you do a Venn diagram with the two of us, we have the really important things in common,” Pridham said. “I really appreciate her vision and she appreciates mine. We fell into a rhythm, and here we are.

Photograph by David Benthal

Suess recalled a moment from the early stages of their partnership that sums up their differences. They were working on a logo design, which required a choice between an ampersand or a plus sign. Pridham preferred the swirling, non-linear aspect of the ampersand, while Suess, who describes himself more as a left-brained, analytical type, preferred the minimalist simplicity of the plus sign.

“She’s nailed to the ground and I’m in the air,” Pridham said with a laugh. They joked that their astrological signs – Pridham is a Gemini, Suess a Taurus – also reflect their design approaches and the store has become a mix of these different styles.

“There’s a really nice balance between science and ritual, color and architecture, and things that are linear and things that are free-form and organic,” Suess said.

As a result, the parts they manufacture provide customers with a wide variety. Suess said she enjoys working with couples to design jewelry for weddings, engagements and other important occasions, especially for the growing number of people looking for something non-traditional when it comes to these. major stages of life.

Photograph by David Benthal

It’s clear Suess and Pridham are enjoying the moment, having arrived – after years of researching and working in all kinds of jobs, from catering to graphics, retail and the aerospace industry. – to their passion project. “It was fantastic,” said Suess. “We are supported by such a beautiful local community and we are eternally grateful. And we’ve met so many new people from all over the world that we always find something in common with. We are really lucky to be here.

They are determined to share their passion with the community, not just through sales. Common Ground began to host goldsmith workshops, run by Suess, and recently remodeled the store to create a studio space with a large work table. On a nearby wall, painted black, are these words: “You have the potential to do great things (yes, you). ”

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