Today we’d like to introduce you to Amanda Lockrow.
Amanda, we appreciate you taking the time to share your story with us today. Where does your story begin?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been drawn to the arts. My favorite classes in school were always the arts and creative writing, but my teachers & guidance counselors consistently pushed me to keep art as just a hobby and to focus on academics. It’s interesting how my mom saved lots of my grade school projects and she always encouraged my artistic side as well as all of my other facets.
In looking back at the work I did in my pre-university days, I realize I was always looking for ways to turn any project into an art project. I began college as a communications major but my freshman advisor had the insight to ask me why I wasn’t in the visual and performing arts college instead. Thanks to that advisor at Syracuse University and the support of my family, I finally followed my creative soul nudges and put together a portfolio and was accepted into the arts program.
While at Syracuse, I tried out lots of different mediums from metal to resin, ceramics, fibers, wood, painting and more. I soaked it all up and spent as much time in the studio as I could. The com art building was this amazing place that felt like home and there, I was able to work across mediums to really find my passion. I fell in love with welding and casting in my sculpture classes and eventually found my way to the metalsmithing studio upstairs. Before college, I had no idea that I could learn to make my own jewelry and small sculpture and as soon I found this medium, I was hooked. Working in metal challenged and excited me in a way that nothing ever had before. It still feels like magic that I can form metal with the help of my torch and hammers into a beautiful piece of jewelry. I immersed myself with the deep history of metalsmithing and learning as many techniques as I could. My work-study job as a studio tech enabled me to learn about all of the tools and do every step of the casting process. I loved learning ancient techniques and then combining them with more modern materials and telling a story through a piece of jewelry. One of my projects in college where I took vintage buttons and gave them a new life in rings actually was the beginning of Amanda K Lockrow and I still create work with vintage buttons to this day. I even got to work on building some of my displays for my senior show with my late grandfather. It was really fun to bond with him over building and tools & I still treasure those memories. He worked his whole life as a plumber and I’m fortunate to actually have a few of his tools that I still use in my studio today. When I first found metalsmithing, I actually thought I wanted to learn to make swords and knives, so it was exceptionally cool to learn that one of my ancestors had actually been a samurai sword maker. I think my love of forging metal was inherited.
If you’re still with me reading, I appreciate it, I’m not great at short stories clearly. After I graduated from college, I moved out to California thinking I wanted to find a master’s program. I interviewed at a few different schools but didn’t end up finding the right fit at the time. In the years before I finally leapt into my business full-time, I worked a bunch of different jobs that gave me many important skills that I use to this day in running my company. Babysitting when I was a teenager taught me patience, communication & organization skills. As a teen, I also worked every position in my mom’s friend’s restaurant from dishwasher to busgirl, short-order cook and server, which further honed those same skills and taught me about ordering, inventory control & customer service. During college, I worked as a server, tutor, board shop sales and more. Then after college, I moved to Los Angeles and got a job as a salesperson at a snow/skateboard shop, eventually learning about merchandising and ultimately became the women’s buyer. This job was invaluable because it gave me deep experience in sales/customer service, merchandising and buying all in one place. It was also a really fun job, snowboarding is one of my favorite things to do and with this job, I got to test out all of the new equipment every year so that I could help choose the products we carried for women. I also broke my ankle skateboarding at this job. I had only been in LA for a few years and was thinking of moving back east. Somehow breaking my ankle kept me in LA leading to where I am today. I later worked at a jewelry company with their own line that also did production for other brands. I wore lots of different hats at this job and what I learned taught me so much about the business and production sides of the jewelry business.
While I worked my post-college jobs, I was slowly growing Amanda K Lockrow. It’s really amazing to look back and see where this journey has led 20 years later. I’ve grown from working at a makeshift Ikea bench and doing flea markets and craft shows to having sales reps, doing trade shows and seeing my work on the shelves of stores across the country. Through my small business, I have built strong relationships with some of my craftsmen, casters, stone setters and suppliers that go back 10-15 years. I could not have my business without these people and am very proud that to this day, all of my jewelry is handcrafted locally. I’m always working to find new ways to support other small businesses, charities and make my footprint on this planet smaller.
I’m sure you wouldn’t say it’s been obstacle free, but so far would you say the journey have been a fairly smooth road?
I can’t even imagine what a smooth road would look like. I think being an artist and running a small business is bound to have bumps, forks, u-turns and unexpected obstacles. Those twists & bumps are what helped me identify what is truly important to me including always treating people with kindness, maintaining a sense of humor and flexibility in life and running a business.
One struggle was breaking my wrist snowboarding when I was in college. I was advised to look for a different major. I ended up needing a couple of surgeries on my wrist but I worked with my teachers to find ways to complete my projects with my right hand in a cast. Luckily I am left-handed so I still had use of my dominant hand. If I had given up on metalsmithing back then I would have had a very different life.
I also started my business in 2008 so just as my sales had started to take off the economy took a turn for the worse and the metals market skyrocketed. At times I worked up to 3 jobs to stay afloat in LA. I didn’t take the leap to make jewelry full-time until maybe 12 years ago. There were lots of bumps along the way. I would have great shows where I would think, wow I can really do this to others where I lost money. I remember actually crying the bathroom at a popular craft show in Los Angeles because sales were so bad. There were so many times that I could have thrown in the towel but then something great would happen like a store wanted to carry my jewelry, then more stores, then I had some great sales reps work with me along the way too.
Then the most recent bump in the road was when Covid hit. Pre-pandemic, selling wholesale to retail shops made up about 80% of my business so when lockdowns began, I suddenly lost 80% of my business. This was a huge obstacle and I suddenly needed to find ways to reach retail customers directly online. Transitioning from wholesale to retail has not been easy. I ended up using the past year and half to really focus on online sales and building relationships through Instagram. Slowly I started to make up for some of these losses. Eventually, I landed a few new wholesale accounts with stores that had quickly pivoted to online sales. It was really sad to see some of my long-term stockists close their doors permanently though. Since I shifted my focus to online sales through both Etsy and my website, I got to tap into my creativity and make designs that I’ve had in my head and sketchbook for years. I did a bunch of lives on Instagram and also started recording meditations to share with & offer some support. I never had the time before to make as many one of kind designs so I really dove in and just kept making jewelry.
All of this is to say that if I had a smooth road, I wouldn’t be where I am today and I am so grateful to everyone who has supported my small business over the years.
Alright, so let’s switch gears a bit and talk business. What should we know about your work?
Growing up on the beautiful rugged coast of Maine and spending my days playing in the ocean and forest and learning about life through the tide pools, shells, animals and trees shaped who I am and is woven into my designs as well as the values of the brand. My mom taught us to be curious lifelong learners and to care for all life and we grew up learning how to put that love into action. What sets me apart is how I try to incorporate all of my interests & beliefs into my work. I draw my inspiration from the ocean and forests as well as my meditation practice and this all is part of the story that is held in every piece I create. I strive to create pieces that will last for years and even generations to come. I believe in quality over quantity as an alternative to fast fashion that just ends up in a landfill. I continue to look for ways to make every part of my business more sustainable in everything from my printed materials, my packaging, to recycled metals and working with artisanal mines and stone vendors who actually help the communities they mine and cut in, and finally by using a local casting house & stone setters. I think the values that I was taught from a young age influence how I run my business and that because I care about every step of my supply chain and am always looking to learn and do better my customers can feel this intention and love in the jewelry.
My pieces all hold a story within them. I love being able to tell someone about the special stone that I had custom cut for a piece. Or the custom orders I create that commemorate special events from anniversaries, to engagements, to weddings, births of children, graduations and more. I know my pieces are given as gifts to loved ones who are not just celebrating but also grieving from divorces to deaths of loved ones. Sometimes the stones are chosen to help someone battling cancer and more. I use reiki to clear my stones and charge them with intentions for the wearer. I have been lucky enough to receive the sweetest messages over the years about what one of my pieces means to someone. Even the collaborations that I have done over the years with meditation and yoga teachers were chosen because of my own deep and personal practices. My path of seeking and learning about different religions and studying under different teachers that began in middle school is all a part of my work. I think all of this is what I am most proud of, that I get to create jewelry every day that holds so much love and intention in every step of the process that it can be felt by the wearer.
I love working with stones especially lesser-known ones that are often considered less precious but hold so much magic to me. My most recent Aislinn collection, I worked with all different included quartzes. I’ve chosen each stone individually for their beautiful natural inclusions. The metalwork that I do is usually very simple to let the stone be the star of the show. I’ll often cutout the back of a piece because I think the back of the stone is just as stunning as the front of the stone. This collection has my heart and soul in it and I think it really shines. It is filled with stones like rutilated quartz, tourmalinated quartz, garden quartz and tibetan quartz.
We’re always looking for the lessons that can be learned in any situation, including tragic ones like the Covid-19 crisis. Are there any lessons you’ve learned that you can share?
When what felt like overnight, I lost so much of my livelihood I used the time to see how I could help others and also work on myself and my business. One of my stockists, Gratitude Market runs a nonprofit called the Peace Project and when schools closed & many kids lost their free lunches, just as their parents were losing their jobs, she jumped into action and turned her gallery into a food bank to help out the community. When she asked for volunteers, I raised my hand and was there twice a week for months helping to feed so many families around Culver City. I got to see firsthand how so many people came together to help each other and I think there was a big lesson that when you are struggling, it always helps to look outside of yourself & help others.
So much felt out of my control but when the hospital my dad works at needed masks, it was so great to be able to pull my friends and family together to sew hundreds of masks to donate to the hospital and then also at the food bank and local shelters. I was overwhelmed with how much people wanted to help. Whether it was their time or money there was huge outpouring of kindness that kept me going. When we help each other, we also get the help we need and it’s so amazing to see love in action. I hope we can all carry some of these lessons with us.
The pandemic also further highlighted so much of the inequality and broken systems in this country and around the world that I hope we all learned some lessons that we’ll take with us about the world we should be working to create together.
- Email: hello@amandaklockrow
- Website: https://amandaklockrow.com
- Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/amandaklockrow/
- Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/AmandaLockrow
- Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/user/amandaklockrow
- SoundCloud: https://soundcloud.com/amanda-lockrow-387086750
Porterness studio, Elina Lewis photography, Sharilyn Wells photography, Mike Kelley