Local jewelry designer Susanne Audette’s beautiful creations reach far beyond what the eye sees. Each piece that Susanne creates is impassioned by her own story and those of her cherished customers. In 2001, the Audettes’ youngest of three sons, Nicholas, was born with Spina Bifida. By the age of 9 months, Nicholas was receiving physical therapy about three times a week, leaving the family with hefty medical bills. To cover the costs, Susanne turned her childhood love of dabbling with jewelry into a more serious endeavor, by making and selling silver jewelry at home parties, her kids’ schools and craft shows. Now, 18 years later, Susanne continues to care for her family and grow her company, Monili Bei Designs (“beautiful jewelry” in Italian), while creating jewelry from the heart.
Susanne spends the weekdays in her home studio (made by hubby Todd), tending to her craft. Outside the window, above Susanne’s desk, Cardinals and Blue Birds flit at vintage feeders as Susanne reflects and sketches her next creations with stones, silver and beads. “As silly as it sounds I let the pieces talk to me.” she said. For her pendants and fine silver pieces, she either carves a design into a soft mold or makes a drawing onto a plate. It could be a leaf, flower or any of her vintage buttons collected over the many years of traveling abroad. She then enters a nine-step process to mold, dry, clean, fire, tumble, patina and finally, mount. The days when she is not working on a pendant or earring, Susanne spends her time beading, wire wrapping, stitching or silversmithing. She added, “I have the freedom to create what my heart literally desires.”
One of most memorable pieces Susanne ever designed was a birthday/anniversary gift for a customer’s friend whose husband was suffering from cancer. The special request came to Susanne while she was traveling and after reflecting on it, the concept surfaced - a bangle of twisted silver inscribed with a personal message. “I texted from the airport to say how excited I was that I had finally come up with an idea. She replied that her friend’s husband had passed away that morning just before her birthday and their anniversary. "My tears fell the whole time I worked on the piece, but what an honor to do it for her in memory of her husband.” Another commissioned project for Susanne came from costume designer Louise Frogley to create three styled pieces for Michelle Pfeifer’s part in the movie, Ant Man and The Wasp.
In essence, Monili Bei Designs are classic pieces that are simple, easy to wear or layer, and affordable. They are made from a single pearl, crystal or stone. Susanne advises jewelry lovers to invest in a piece that they really like and will wear regularly. In the same vein, she advises against trendy or plated jewelry because they just “fade with time.” The designer’s jewelry pieces made are .925 sterling or .999 fine silver, 14k gold filled (sterling under gold), semi-precious stones, and vintage components. For layering necklaces, Susanne recommends choosing silver or gold or both. Start with a short choker (16”) without a drop. Then, add a 18” chain with a smaller drop (optional). The longest necklace (28”-30”) can hold a cluster pendant at the bottom. This simple layering effect will create an elegant look for everyday wear or a special occasion.
Caring for jewelry is an important part of owning it. Although sterling can always return to its original shine, air and body oils can tarnish the silver. To protect the jewelry, store it in a small plastic bag and seal it tightly. If the piece is tarnished, just quickly dip it in a silver cleaner (do not soak in the liquid). Then, rinse in cold water and dry. When traveling with multiple necklaces, encircle a twist tie around the chains, store them, and then when ready to use, just pull on the twist tie and the long pieces will emerge untangled from the bag.
You’ll find Monili Bei Designs at the Peachtree City Farmers Market on Saturdays. Here, the Audettes proudly display beaded necklaces, silver earrings and other one-of-a-kind pieces, all at reasonable prices. Though her business has an online presence, the designer prefers person-to-person contact with her customers. She also consigns at a few local shops and is a dealer at art shows. When Susanne is not creating or selling, she’s learning. Lately, she’s taken up a Precious Metal Clay class in addition to a soldering & stone setting workshop. She also strengthens her craft through online videos.
For anyone who dreams of having their own business, Susanne suggested, “Let it be something that comes from your heart.” The designer believes that it can still be enjoyable, even if it is fulltime. Though she is devoted to Monili Bei Designs, she still finds time for her husband and four sons. Evenings find the couple watching their favorite TV shows, and in Susanne’s lap there is usually a tray of something silver with which to tinker. At the heart of what she does is her combined love for family and creating “monili bei.”
To learn more about about Monili Bei Designs or to contact Susanne Audette go to www.monilibeidesigns.com or email her at email@example.com. Instagram @monilibei.