After art-filled life, Zurcher at home in jewelry | AspenTimes.com
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After art-filled life, Zurcher at home in jewelry

Stewart Oksenhorn
The Aspen Times
Aspen, CO Colorado
Paul Conrad The Aspen Times
ALL |

ASPEN ” When she wasn’t founding modern Aspen, Elizabeth Paepcke looked at her world with a designer’s eye.

In her early years in Chicago, the late Paepcke designed the windows of the Marshall Field’s department store. When husband Walter bought the Hotel Jerome in the 1940s, “Pussy,” as Elizabeth was mostly known, went from room to room, redecorating.

The designer’s eye has apparently been passed down two generations to Ariane Zurcher, the Paepcke’s granddaughter by way of Paula Zurcher, Walter and Elizabeth’s middle child. As a kid growing up in Woodside, in the San Francisco Bay area ” Zurcher considered Aspen, where she spent summers and Christmas holidays, more as home ” she loved to draw, and envisioned herself studying fine art.

That notion was drummed out of her head as impractical, so she switched focus slightly and entered New York City’s Parsons School of Design to study fashion. Of her class of 110, only 23 graduated, including Zurcher.

“Long line of tenacious women, you know,” said Zurcher, who pronounces the Paepcke name “PEP-kuh,” as do all the family members.

But fashion didn’t make perfect sense to Zurcher. “There was a lot I loved about fashion, but there were parts [that] were so foreign to me,” she said. “I felt alien on that level.”

Zurcher again switched gears, moving into the advertising world. She rose to be the creative director at an agency, and also worked on a documentary film about eating disorders.

When her daughter, Emma, now 6, was diagnosed with autism, all creativity ceased as Zurcher focused her energy on finding a solution to the disease.

“I stopped everything,” said Zurcher, a regular Aspen visitor who lives in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. “I quit my job. I was going to find a cure. I really felt I was going to find a way to cure her. I read everything; I talked to everyone.”

The futility of that quest took a toll on Zurcher, and her husband, Richard Long, an entrepreneur and writer, advised her to find another outlet for her energy. “He kept saying, ‘You’re not going to cure her; we can help her,'” Zurcher said. “He told me, ‘You’re a creative being; you need to be creating something.'”

Zurcher knew someone who made jewelry, and on a whim she bought some basic jewelry-making supplies. In jewelry she found not only a distraction, but a passion. “I just fell in love,” she said. “I didn’t know if I was any good, but I loved the process.”

Zurcher has a coming out of sorts in the town she thinks of as home. Her first trunk show opens Wednesday, in the Library at the Hotel Jerome ” a space which she remembers, from her grandmother’s stories, as the old soda fountain where miners would order milkshakes laced with whiskey. The show runs through Saturday, July 5, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. each day.

Having found a channel for her creativity, Zurcher honed her skills. She took a class in a tiny space on the Bowery, one of Manhattan’s seedier locales. When she expressed interest in furthering her knowledge, the teacher invited Zurcher to share her studio space, setting the stage for Zurcher to become something of a protege in goldsmithing. She also took further classes in setting gems and making clasps.

“People have been very generous and kind and helpful,” she said. “And I’ve just grabbed it. Anyone who offers training, I just say yes.”

Zurcher retains that newfound love for creating jewelry. She takes a variety of approaches to her designs: Some pieces are made with meticulous thought, using wax molds; other times, she will cut a design right from a raw piece of metal. She uses gold and semiprecious stones in one-of-a-kind designs.

“With jewelry, I feel I get to do these wild shapes,” said the 47-year-old, who has a studio in Long Island City, Queens. “It turns out, jewelry was everything I wanted to be as an artist. When I found jewelry, it was like I found home.”

stewart@aspentimes.com


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