Suzie Jellinek was born in South Africa and raised near Toronto, Canada. She moved to New York City in 1998 to attend the Fashion Institute of Technology, a program that fueled her passion for art, fashion and design. After graduating, she took a job in fashion and product development with the Associated Merchandising Corporation, sourcing fabrics and products for clients in India, Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Singapore, Guatemala, and Europe. From these culturally rich excursions, she developed a passion for exploring the world.
After working in design and product development for Ralph Lauren, Suzie turned her focus to raising her children and painting. Since then, her professional painting career has blossomed. She’s had several successful shows and is now included in Art for Restoration Hardware. With Curio, she is excited to return to the world of product— marrying design, travel and art, all in one place.
A Q&A with Suzie Jellinek
What do you love about traveling?
I love to travel because it takes me out of my space and opens my eyes to new possibilities. Seeing the world and experiencing a new culture or place is a soul-feeding experience for me. My senses open up when I travel. There is so much to take in—new colors, smells, tastes and perspectives. It is so intriguing to see how people in other countries live. It is transportive and transformative. A change of scenery always brings a fresh point of view and a chance to discover interesting and unique experiences. Travel for me is a lifeline. It’s one of the most important things I do. It’s a connection of cultures and an invitation to glimpse other peoples’ lives.
How does travel influence your personal style and Curio offerings?
When I travel, I am always on the lookout for unusual treasures. With Curio, I get to share the unique pieces that I find so that others can layer their homes in worldly beauty. When I bring back an object from India, Hong Kong, Guatemala or Italy whether it’s jewelry, a scent, or an object for my home, not only is it about the beauty of the thing, itself, but it’s also about the memories made in the finding of it. For me, that’s what makes it special. Maybe it’s the story about how I came to purchase the piece, or about the place, or the person who made it or sold it to me. The story gives the vase, or necklace, or bag a deeper meaning. Those experiences underlie the Curio brand. And I’m excited to share them with others so they can travel along with me and appreciate these global wares in a more meaningful way.
Most memorable excursions?
India, with my first job out of college. I had one day before my clients arrived to peruse the markets in New Delhi. What I still vividly recall is the multitude of colors of the women's saris, the pace of the cars, and, of course, the cows crossing the roads.
Venice, the biennale art we saw, and making Venetian masks with my kids.
Copenhagen, for its simple and elegant design and the relaxed, laid back lifestyle of the locals.
How do you define your personal style?
Classic and timeless.
How has it evolved over time?
I used to pay more attention to trends and having the latest and greatest. Now, I would prefer to spend more money on a quality piece that I will enjoy for a long time.
Who are your personal style icons?
Lee Radziwell, Carine Roitfeld, Caroline de Maigret, and Kate Moss.
What are some of your treasured possessions?
A set of silver teaspoons from my grandmother, a painting by my husband’s grandmother, a vintage marble box from Bonwit Teller, a vase (that looks like it could be from Fez) that my son made in art class, three rose gold bracelets bought on a trip to Tulum, and my books.
Do you follow trends? Why or why not?
I usually don’t follow trends. I prefer to go with what speaks to me and my tastes.
Tell me about your art — when/how did you become an artist?
I have always been interested in art but I started pursuing it as a career about 10 years ago when I had the flexibility to paint while staying home to raise my kids. I had always enjoyed it as a hobby and felt connected to it in a way that I didn’t feel connected to other subjects in school, but I didn’t really take it that seriously as a career choice until after I had kids. I am mainly self-taught, but I took a few painting classes at a local art school. We built our house in Connecticut and I have a studio now. I have had a great deal of success selling paintings and now selling through Restoration Hardware.
How do art and style inhabit your daily life and influence your Curio offerings?
My art and style are influenced by color, mainly. I am drawn to the natural world around me and the colors that come from nature. I tend to be more neutral and organic. I love organic shapes. I’m always searching for beautiful objects for my home, and when I paint I try to bring that same sensibility to my work, whether it’s a color combination I saw while on a walk, or a detail I noticed in a photo. I make a mental note or take a picture, and incorporate it somewhere in my paintings, in my home, or in my clothing choices.
Where do you find inspiration?
My inspiration comes from many different places but I find a lot of it in nature. It comes to me when I travel. I find it in museums: MOMA and The Frick (New York City), Fondation Maeght (Saint Paul de Vence), Joan Miró Foundation (Barcelona), and The Picasso Museum (Paris). I also find it in fashion books and the work of mid-century female artists.
Talk about your creative process?
It starts with curiosity—maybe a color combination I want to see together, a shape I’m interested in or a process that I want to work on. For me, art is about experimentation and trying new ideas, knowing that half of them might not work out how I envisioned them in my imagination. But I try, anyway. I always want to push creative boundaries.
Do you have any muses?
Not muses necessarily, but the painters who inspire me are Helen Frankenthaler, Joan Mitchell, Lee Krasner and my husband’s grandmother who turned my creative light back on for me when I met her. She was a docent at the La Jolla Museum of Modern Art and she taught me a lot about Mid Century Modern Art and artists I wasn’t aware of.