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Susan's Story

Susan Ryza earned a BFA in Textile Design & Art Education from Rhode Island School of Design, and an MS in Bilingual Education from Long Island University's Brooklyn Campus.  From 1977-1979, she worked with weavers in the Peace Corps in El Salvador, developing new designs and marketing strategies.  Between 1979 & 1995, she owned and operated Toucan Hats & Accessories, a wholesale millinery design & manufacturing and Latin American handcraft import business.  She moved to Santa Monica, CA from New York City in 1990.

In 2000, Susan started teaching crafts at The Westside Waldorf School in Santa Monica. Since then, she has taught jewelry-making, knitting, crochet, weaving, sewing, needlework, macrame, & basket-weaving to both children and adults at Wildfiber, Crossroads School, Michael’s Craft Store, Will Rogers School and Seven Arrows School. She is currently a faculty member of Santa Monica College, teaching at SMC’s Emeritus College & at SMC’s Continuing & Community Education Program. She also teaches private & small group jewelry-making classes in her home studio. Her work has been displayed at Becket Arts Center in Massachusetts and at the Emeritus Gallery in Santa Monica.

Susan's Statement:

"I have loved crafts since I started doing needlepoint to make a belt for my boyfriend at RISD. I was so happy with the result that I switched from being a Sculpture major to Textile Design, with an emphasis on hand-weaving. After college, I spent a couple of years working with weavers in the Peace Corps and, as a result, decided to bring home their products and start a business in the U.S. My father was an accountant, and my mother is an artist, so I have both types of genes in my blood. I loved exploring Latin America and learning about native crafts, and then coming back home & selling them. The import business turned into a hat factory after I noticed how well my Panama hats (actually from Ecuador!) were selling. At that point, I started doing my own hat designs, and the business grew from there. I sold the business in 1995 to stay home with my children.

After a few years of full-time parenthood, I began my teaching career and then started designing, crafting and selling jewelry as well as jewelry-making tools & materials.

I love to explore new methods, and so I use a wide range of techniques and materials in my work - among them chain maille, bead weaving, wirework, & bead stringing. Having a textile design background, I especially enjoy adapting fiber techniques for jewelry - using wire, cord, ribbon, macramé, crochet, spool knitting, netting, weaving, knotting & braiding."