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.
13threads: Although born and raised in Scotland, I have also been incredibly lucky to have lived, worked and studied in Los Angeles, Portland (Oregon), San Francisco and Zurich. Now back living in Edinburgh I have the opportunity to focus my passion for sewing and design into a full-time job. (Ok I need to revise this bit. As a mother of two, my ‘passion for design and sewing’ are moments grabbed between the school run, their social life and my need to have the occasional morning coffee with friends).
Lots of things inspire me but I am especially interested in the history and design of fashion, traditional costumes and textiles. I like to mix the old with the new to create something a little bit different and special. Many of my pieces are one-of-a-kind or limited editions and are all designed, cut and stitched by me in my room with a beautiful view of the castle.
I love a good lamb gyro perhaps as much as anyone can love any food. Ever. In the world. But I also have a soft spot for lambs. I cannot resist their particular brand of cute. So much so, in fact, they are the only livestock I have been reluctant to try my hand at raising for meat myself. I simply cannot say with any sort of confidence whatsoever that processing day would be even the least bit tolerable. And since tolerable is the best any processing day can ever be, I’ve yet to take the plunge.
Luckily, others do not harbor my biases and sheep farms are anything but scarce in most of the United States. And though the traditional holiday for lamb eating may have already passed, a good rack of lamb is a celebration in and of itself fit for any time of year.
In fact, there is an often unforeseen bonus in buying lambs after the Easter holiday has passed — especially if you’re buying a whole or half lamb — ethnic markets for lamb are strongest just before Easter and demand for a smaller carcass there drives down the size of lambs sold around that time of year. After Easter has passed lambs are often grown out longer, making for a larger end product; a bonus if you’re feeding a family of four or more as am I.
In an ideal world we’d all buy our lambs — whether we’re looking for wholes, halves, racks, legs, chops, roasts or a combination of all of the above — from the farm down the road, and we literally have a sheep farm down the road here, but not everyone is so lucky. To find fresh, local lamb you can search Local Harvest for sheep farms near you, but if that fails you can also buy lamb online. Upper Dry Creek Ranch, a family owned farm in Western Oregon, offers their lamb products on Foodzie. That’s a picture of their loin chops above.
And as long as you’re at it, don’t forget the toppings, rubs and marinades. And don’t be afraid to think outside the box, the Chipotle Pepper Jam by Uncle Berch’s Foods, also via Foodzie, is reportedly a great accompaniment.
Today has been a long time coming, and I really couldn’t be more excited to introduce the first of several(!) new contributors to Try Handmade.
Leah Peterson is a master interviewer, and she has graciously agreed to join the team and work her magic on the finest makers around. Have you ever wondered what goes on behind the scenes in the workshop of your favorite artist? Leah will deliver the goods to you every week in the first new Try Handmade column: “Focus on Makers with Leah Peterson”
Join me in welcoming her, and please make her feel at home :)
Erin Bruce at Kitty Empire creates the most lovely purses, wristlets, wallets and messenger bags, which are sturdy enough to hold a laptop. Her products are all 100% vegan. Continue reading to find out where she gets her ideas and what she eats for breakfast. Don’t forget to check out her items on sale!
What are vegan products? Why is that important to you?
Vegan products are made without using any animal products (wool, leather, etc). Animal rights are hugely important to me and I try to focus on that with this business. I also donate 5% of my sales each month to a different animal charity.
Do you have pets?
3 cats named Sebastian, Belvedere and Smokey.
How long have you been sewing? Why do you sew?
I’ve been sewing on and off since I was a teenager. I find it to be a great creative outlet and also very calming (despite the occasional frustration).
Can you explain your process?
I come up with a design idea then draw out the stencils and the bag pattern. Then I usually make a prototype that I can give to a friend and get feedback. If all goes well, I start production.
Your designs are so fun and whimsical! Where do you get your ideas?
I can get ideas from anything really. Fairy tales, art, my ceramic animal collection and just random ideas that pop into my head.
Do you have a favorite piece you’ve created?
Hmmm. Maybe the Red Ridinghood messenger bag. My favourites change.
Do you do any other types of crafts/art?
I make some pillows, mobiles and sometimes stuffed animals, but mostly only as gifts for friends.
Do you sell your products in stores?
I sell at a few local stores, but I don’t have time for crafts shows. This is my little side business, my full time job takes up the rest of my time.
What were you like as a kid?
I was a bit shy, but very creative. I’ve always had very creative friends and my mom is extremely artistic so there was always some sort of art project on the go.
Tell me more about you…?
My favourite color is green. I don’t drink soda, but my favourite drink is a vodka tonic. I drink berry smoothies instead of cereal for breakfast.