The Busboys and Poets, at the corner of 5th and K Street in Downtown D.C., is one of my favorite cafés in the DMV area. It’s a D.C. staple, notorious for celebrating local artists of all kinds.
Amanda Hagerman is not only a jewelry designer, but also an artist. Unique and simplistic, just like the small venue, restaurant, and coffee shop (yes, Busboys is all that in one). For this reason, it’s seemed like the perfect location to meet up with the Pennsylvania-native to talk about life, fashion, and (of course) her latest collection.
Derika: What’s your favorite thing about working out of D.C.?
Amanda: Getting to meet a lot of new people and discovering this whole new fashion world. Plus, meeting other designers and artisans that are as passionate about their craft as I am.
For me, looking at your collection the word “classic” comes to mind. How would you describe it?
Classic, Rustic, and Elegance. Rustic if I just had to choose one. Rustic, because it has that “makers” feel, I like for it to look handmade. I’m really into nature. It is important for me to tap into that because I think everyone has some personal connection and love for nature. I also like to look at history a lot. I like ancient Greece and Egyptian architecture.
I noticed a lot of your pieces are gold too. Is that your favorite color to use?
I love gold tone. The nice thing about brass (and silver) is you can do things with brass that you can’t do with gold (like the etched patterns I feature on my work). Brass is also more affordable, so I can make it more affordable.
What got you into making jewelry?
I’ve been making art since in high school. In college, I was still trying to find myself. So, I took a break to observe and see what people were doing. And after this break, I knew exactly what I wanted to do, and who I wanted to be as a designer.
If you could describe your latest collection in a few words, what would they be?
Statement. I love statement pieces. I love giving women that piece of jewelry that all of their friends want to have! I also love giving versatility to my pieces. Most of my work can be worn with a t-shirt and jeans as well as a cocktail dress.
How long does it take you to create?
A couple hours on average depending on the piece.
And you make each piece individually?
Yes, with the exception of the chain. Everything is handmade by me.
How do you produce and distribute your designs?
Everything is produced in my home studio, using traditional metal smiting techniques. To get it out there, I have my website, which is great. I’m starting to covert many of the pieces available on the site to “made to order pieces”, so I’ll make it specifically for that customer when it’s ordered.
How did you learn these techniques?
It started in High school. I love to draw and paint. In high school, one of my art teachers was a gold smith (who actually made my engagement ring). I was drawn to creating pieces that people actually WANT to wear. Mostly though, I learned the basics of working with metals in college.
What was the inspiration behind you starting your own line?
Getting back to what I’m passionate about and pursuing my dreams. I LIVED in the fine metals studio in college. It was my identity. Going from living in the studio and working with all the time to being a classroom teacher full time (with no studio space to continue working with metals) was hard.
Where did the name come from?
That was actually tough decision! But then I was like, "You know what go big home or home!". You have Michael Kors who did it so why can’t I.
Do you get to spend a lot of time designing?
I teach high school art and so when my students have their independent studio time, I’m sketching in my book. I actually have a fashion design class and they love having a teacher who designs. I always ask for my students’ feedback. I look everywhere for ideas and inspiration.
Do you scope out the competition, or are you so tailored in your aesthetic that it isn’t necessary?
I try not to, because it’s really important to me that everything comes from me. Of course I see other things and it inspires me, but I don’t want to obsess over what other people are doing. So, I try not to. Also, I want people to like my work for me.
Do you pay attention trending colors?
No. I mean I do for myself personally, but I’ve never been one to follow the trend. I really gravitate towards neutral and soft colors. It’s not because it’s trending just because it’s me. That definitely shows in the jewelry I make, everything I make is what I wish I had in my jewelry box.
Once you have the product, how do you get the word out?
I started contacting local fashion bloggers. Now when I’m out traveling I start looking for galleries or boutiques that might be interested. Any opportunity I can find, I’m starting to really put myself out there. Also, doing more shows. I just did one at Howard Theatre.
Where do you find models for your new pieces?
The photographer I use is actually a former student from the school where I teach. She had friends (who are also former students) and when they found out that I needed models they were super excited and jumped at the opportunity. We went to a beach in Edgewater, Maryland, accessorized the girls with my work and just went for it.
Do you send out a look book to buyers, and editors?
I haven’t got there yet (laughs), but that’s something I’ve been looking into. This whole “business” thing is new to me, as an artist. It’s like I have to allot for time to do the business side (social media, marketing, networking), which is tricky. It is quite the balancing act…especially when I feel I should just be creating in the studio all the time!
In the future, when you’re wildly successful, whom would you love to be interviewed by, and what would they ask you?
Vogue. Dionne Von Ferstenber. I was reading a biography about her and she seems so down to earth. I was able to identify with her design philosophy…designing for everyday woman. People that start from humble beginnings – like me inspire me. I was reading Tory Burch’s story too, but she’s another person who started with nothing and now has a flagship store in Manhattan!
Who are your biggest supporters?
My husband is my cheerleader in life. I have moments when I doubt myself and he’s always there. My parents have also been huge.
And—last, but not least—If you could talk to your ten year-old self, what would you like her to know?
There are bigger things that she can possibly think in store. If there’s ever a point when you think you can’t, you can.
By Derika Crowley