“It's funny because nature just is something that is always underlying in my work,” Brandenburg observes. “I tend to go to the styles of art nuveau or arts and crafts, and those are things that kind of always appear. I love leaves. I love flowers. I love birds. I love all kinds of stuff like that.”
Brandenburg followed a winding path to get to Asheville and the flourishing craft community in Western North Carolina. Starting as a choir major, convinced she was supposed to spend her life singing, she ended up in theater. She left theater, and ended up doing art in a school in Chicago.
““I took everything from figure drawing to painting, then all of a sudden I started making jewelry, and I thought, 'Oh, three dimensional things that I can hold and play with and look at all sides?' It really spoke to me,” Brandenburg remembers.
She says she worked in a jewelry store and sold her first line of jewelry, but started working for a department store, where she learned the finer details of high-end jewelry, everything from “crawling around on my hands and knees on the floor looking for a tiny diamond to learning how to polish things really well.”
From the commercial jewelry world, Brandenburg entered a Theater History program at NYU and received a costume history degree and entered the theater world again. Finally, Brandenburg moved to Asheville and returned to jewelry.
“There was something inside of me that was just tired of making everyone else's art,” Brandenburg says. “I wanted to make my own art.”
Once she arrived in Asheville, she decided to start her own business selling her art.
“I kind of felt like if I was going to do it, I was going to do it full force. Then, if it doesn't work out, I can consider it a hobby and do something else. The line is, can you make money doing it? If it's just paying for itself, than it's still pretty much a hobby. The minute you're relying on it for income is the minute it becomes a real thing and you have to take the business stuff seriously, and not just fart around in your studio – which we all want to do, it just doesn't make you any money.”
Brandenburg encourages women to “adorn themselves” and “adore themselves” as the tagline for her jewelry, because she believes her craft can be a way her customers can treat herself.
“I think that's one of those things where if you can be kind to yourself, and if you have the money to be able to buy yourself a little gift it's by adorning yourself you're adoring yourself,” she says.
While Brandenburg feels like she's new to the business, she thinks the hardest part is reminding herself she is exactly where she should be.
“Sometimes I'm sitting at my bench and I'm like, 'Wait I'm not screwing around, this is what I'm supposed to be doing," Brandenburg comments. "I'm not avoiding things, this is what I should be doing. Sometimes that is the hardest thing for me – remembering I'm not playing, I'm working.”
For photos of Amy Brandenburg demonstrating making a charm out of precious metal clay, click the gallery below: Photos by Megan Dombroski
Amy Brandenburg is a member of Appalachian Women Entrepreneurs, a four-year-old project from HandMade in America. HandMade in America hopes to teach women crafters marketing skills to maintain their business successfully. Her work can be found at http://amybrandenburg.com/
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