Spruce Mountain Designs is a collaboration of two artists, Suellen McMillen and James Piet Van Woert who have been designing and creating jewelry together for over 20 years. By combining their knowledge, skill and artistic energy, they have the ability to design a piece of jewelry from the beginning and the expertise to finish it through to a beautiful wearable piece of art. All work is completed by them in their Lake Placid, NY studio.
Jim & Suellen share an aesthetic which focuses on nature’s forms. They carve the model for each design into a hard wax using extreme focus and patience. This initial piece can take 40-80 hours to complete. This wax piece is cast transforming it into metal using a centrifugal machine (lost-wax method). Next, the casting is refined, details are added and it become their ‘model’. They make a rubber mold of the model, inject it with wax to make multiple castings. Doing this work themselves insures a quality result.
Many of their designs also incorporate some forged and/or hammered techniques, gemstones and enameling. Spruce Mountain Designs wants you to be completely satisfied with every piece of jewelry you receive. To do this, they use only the highest quality materials and findings available.
In 1990, Suellen and Jim met in Providence while working in the jewelry industry. Although they enjoyed the art and culture of "city living", they missed the outdoors even more and so moved to Lake Placid, NY in 1993. Spruce Mountain Designs was created shortly thereafter. What began as a part-time endeavor has now grown to a full-time artisan business.
Jim spent his childhood in upstate New York. As a young man, he canoed the waterways, hiked, backpacked and frequently skied in the nearby Adirondack Mountains. Jim's appreciation and understanding of nature’s beauty is reflected in the wildlife, foliage and pine cone designs.
Suellen grew up in Fort Collins, CO. She developed her love of nature during annual family backpacking trips in the nearby Rawah Wilderness Area. The Adirondack Mountains are now her backyard where kayaking, hiking and cross country skiing are a few of her favorite pastimes.
History / Education
Jim earned his BFA (Sculpture) at the Tyler School of Art and his MFA (Sculpture) at the Rhode Island School of Design.
Suellen completed both a BFA (Metalsmithing) and a BA (Interior Architecture) from CSU; and a MFA (with honors) from the Rhode Island School of Design.