Manny Beads: I’m Manny and I live in beautiful Vermont where the colors of Summer in bloom, and Fall happening inspire me. Some years ago I found myself really wanting to breath some fresh air into my creative lungs. I learned how to knit, took some pottery courses and dove into making jewelry. I had been creating jewelry for myself and others for many years, drawn to the challenge of making a reality what my imagination cooks up.
I have a passion for unrefined stones and other elements that inspire me to create jewelry that is designed with an organic feeling to it: a bit unrefined, beautifully irregular and suggestive of the spiritual. Some of the elements I am most drawn to are organic and unrefined stones, ancient pieces, vintage buttons, Tibetan mala beads, and ethnic additions. I prefer to use creative elements that are not too many steps removed from the earth…imperfectly perfect. The stones and beads are often hand-cut and unrefined, left to speak for themselves, reminding us that they are of the Earth.
Andrea D’Ambrosia knows what she likes. As the designer behind her ever-evolving creative business, she knows that Washington, DC is the right place for her, and the right place for her designs. “DC style works for me,” she says. “Understated elegance, but with an element of drama.”
Andrea has always been creative, and grew up in a family of makers. Her father built motorcycles, her brother built radios, and she started sewing and knitting with her grandmother at age five. She was the “weird dresser” in high school who made her own clothes instead of flocking to the mall spots the other girls liked.
So when she decided to start her jewelry business full-time in 2006, she knew exactly the type of pieces she wanted to make: elegant items that were versatile and beautiful, but also completely functional.
Andrea’s favorite materials are semi-precious stones like jade, onyx, lapis, and turquoise. She especially loves to combine pearls with turquoise. She uses her favorites, along with whatever she finds that inspires her, to create jewelry that is timeless and sophisticated, never “crafty-craft” or trendy.
Her line is always evolving, because when inspiration strikes, she just goes with it. Andrea finds herself being inspired by fashion, art, music, and the personal style of her own customers. A customer once came to Andrea with a problem. She had an unusual, vintage jaguar pin that she loved, but didn’t want to just stick it on her lapel. She wanted a more modern way to wear it, and Andrea was struck with an idea.
Andrea created a necklace, using the jaguar pin as inspiration for its color and style…but also as the removable clasp of the necklace. This created a one-of-a-kind, versatile look that was really three looks in one! Her customer was delighted, and Andrea was inspired.
In addition to her usual favorite sources for new and vintage beads and stones, Andrea began collecting vintage brooches as well. This is the style that caught my eye and made me pay attention to Andrea’s work. I love the combination of new and old, and that such a simple piece can still be so dramatic, and so versatile.
The vintage brooch items are especially popular with brides, who are often looking for ways to incorporate family jewelry into their wedding looks. Andrea loves the fact that her necklace or bracelet is often the only item from the bride’s wedding day outfit that ever gets worn again!
Andrea loves to work with individual customers on unique looks for them. She has found that she is particularly good at understanding a client’s personal style, and translating that into wearable jewelry that is dramatic and elegant. One of her current projects really intrigued me: combining a customer’s antique cameo collection and a copper chain to create a one-of-a-kind necklace.
Necklaces and bracelets aren’t the only accessories that Andrea likes to make. She credits her professional background in engineering with her emphasis on functionality. Placing function on the same level as form and style naturally translates into a love of all accessories. What other way to make practical dressing exciting and interesting, if not with unusual accessories?
Her obi belts made from men’s neckties were born when she found a particular tie that she liked so much she wanted to wear it herself. She played with the concept for a while until she came up with the current design, just in time for wide belts to come back in style.
Will she continue to branch out into fabric accessories, or make more jewelry? “Who can say what will inspire me next?” she says. There are always ideas for elegant and versatile accessories floating around in her head. You can find Andrea’s work in her Etsy store and at local juried craft shows. You can also contact her for a private appointment or consulation.