Meet: Agamemnon Jewelry
MEET: Amy Agamemnon
LINE OF WORK : jewelry DESIGNER
A: Tell me a bit about yourself!
AA: Sure, my name is Amy Agamemnon. I make and design fine jewelry. I went to school at FIT in New York and I received my first degree in jewelry design; where I learned all the traditional metal smithing, wax carving, and silversmithing techniques. I worked with raw materials and forge them into shapes with fire and chemicals. I decided to stick around a few more years to get my bachelor’s in production management, which is a whole other beast, you know? It’s a different train of thought, more of a business mentality. It’s was more focused on figuring out how things work in the most efficient way, but it was very garment specific, so I was trying to take what I was learning in school and relate it back to jewelry.
A: What motivated you to move out to California?
AA: For me, three years ago my boyfriend had come out here just to visit for a wedding and when he came back he was like, "I want to move to California!” so he was able to very quickly get a job out here and he moved out in about a month and a half. Things happened very quickly and I actually just started a new job and I really liked it and I was doing well. I was able to acknowledge that I worked my way up very quickly but pretty much plateaued for at least another fifteen years. I was open to the idea of moving, and seeing what other opportunities were there. I knew California was a very liberal, open, and creative place so; you know all things I'm super down for. I really didn't move out here for the weather to be honest. It just made a lot of sense financially. I was like "Cool, I'll do it!” so Tim headed to LA first. He had a job set for him and everything, while I packed up, and said good-bye to New York. He chose Korea town, which was the happiest medium between New York and transitioning to a new city in L.A.
A: What are some of your work experiences?
AA: While I was a full-time student, I was also a full time jewelry designer. I worked in the mass marketing realm and did private labels for jewelry where everything was made overseas. They were made with very poor quality, and were basically dirt-cheap. But being a young jewelry designer in New York City, and having that big jump up the ladder, even if it was fast fashion, was great. It was really cool seeing your necklace displayed on a mannequin at Lord & Taylor, but now sometimes I have to question “Where is this thing made?”, or “Who’s making it?”, or “What impact does it have on people?” It’s just all-fast fashion. It gets old quick. When I came out here I actually was working for other jewelry companies still doing the same thing, designing for private labels. I was doing that freelance while also working at another place. That job, I felt like I was in prison. I was dealing in sourcing fine jewelry and working with gemstones, so security was really strict. It was probably one of the worst work experiences I've ever had. You had a fence like cubicle where alarms would go off any time you enter and left the room, and there were cameras watching you everywhere. I was super bummed. I was like, "Man, I didn't move to California to work in this type of environment and I also didn't come out here to continue growing someone else's jewelry brand.” So when I had the time and space, I finally got back into making my own stuff. I also started working at Poketo the same time so it was really a completely new transition into "OK I'm going to be working full time doing something not related to jewelry but I'm also going to be starting my own jewelry business." I guess. Both were just totally not intentional but you know it just worked out that way. Now fast forward three years later, and I'm at this place where I work for a small business and it's a very different work environment than anything I'm used to.
A: How was your transition from New York to California like?
AA: Right now, I have this amazing work life balance, which in New York, I was never allowed that and so after work, I would just walk from Poketo to my office studio space and chat with my studio mate who is also another local designer, where we’d bounce ideas off each other. I feel like I've totally been able to find this really cool creative community. Even in and outside of my full time job. As long as you put yourself out there, you’re good to go. I'm not going to lie, the beginning transition here was very difficult for me, and it took me two years to get used to things. After my first year living here, I was about to call quits. I made an emergency trip back to New York and had to get out of LA for a second to think. For me it was just hard easing into this new lifestyle. I had to just take it easy and be open with people. We're all really just trying to do the same type of things, so get out there and meet creative people who you are inspired by and just trying to help each other out.
A: How do you like working for your own line?
AA: Pretty much every two months we had to crank out and present a collection. So, I was used to churning out a lot of products even though they were not necessarily stuff I loved or was very passionate about, but more to satisfy other buyers. Whereas this, the beauty of having my own line is that I can just do whatever I want, whenever. Like whatever I feel is genuine and you know every piece of jewelry that I've made, I can say I love it and I would wear any of it, any day. It was for me and so it's been cool that people have stopped to look at my work and appreciate them. They can share the same love for it as well, but for me it really is just trying to always remember that I am doing this for me. I know what it feels like to try and make jewelry to appease the masses. I've been there, done that. But this is a constant work in progress and I try to work at a pace where I truly feel inspired to make things. I'll make things and if I'm not feeling it, I'm not going to force it. There's no point. I feel like I don't want to lose that sense of artistry just to appease the fashion world that probably doesn't even make too much sense anyways. You know, people are just constantly making up rules and regulations and these timelines that don't make any sense.
A: Did you have any mentors?
AA: That's a good question, yeah, I mean I'll say in school I did. So, FIT is, I mean I'm sure like FIDM is similar in a sense, where you have a lot of classes and they are three hours each and you know they're just intensive classes but they're smaller programs. So, for me there was not even fifty students in the jewelry design program at the same time and we had a lot of the same teachers throughout the program. There was a very strict and rigid Japanese man who did not speak any English. He was very difficult to communicate with, like even him writing on the board, he was just difficult. My first year after getting to know him, in a sense, I did not like him just because there was a communication barrier. I just never was fully able to understand what he was saying. So, by the end of the first year, I was really upset with him because he told me something essentially that I didn't want to hear. I had basically made a piece of jewelry in an incorrect way like, I made it even more difficult for myself and I was just frustrated so I ended up tearing up and storming out of the room. Very dramatic, I know, and not necessary. But then what ended up happening, the next year, he was my professor again, for a different class. I ended up taking those feelings I had and that resentment from the year before and just thinking like "you know what, I'm really going to show this guy. I can do this. You know, I may not have done that great, but I can do this," and he ended up really liking me. It turned into like this interesting relationship that we had where, even though I didn't know anything that he was ever saying, he acknowledged that I was willing to really work on things and show him that and despite not being good at certain things, I can still excel in other things. So, for me, that was just a big lesson without him even having to teach me because there were still so many other students who still just hated him because he wasn't that guy who was going to tell you how great and awesome something was that you did, when it wasn't. So, he changed how I perceived the idea of just taking the time to do things right. Things don't come immediately and that's OK, but, you know still work on it, it's worth it.
A: So how and where do you source your materials and what are your favorite materials to use?
AA: I try to like work as local as possible so I do a lot of wax carvings. I initially carve out of jewelers wax and then, since I don't cast everything myself into metal, I would go in the jewelry district which is basically just two blocks away. I go to a local caster and he uses all recycled metals and so I try, in a sense, to really be aware of not only what my product is made of but what type of impact it has on people. I source materials locally, as much as I can, and I try to find out where my stones are coming from. I don't really use any crazy stones so, I'm not that concerned about it, in a sense, and to be honest I'm not sure even if that's the route I want to go with things necessarily, I don’t want have rubies and emeralds and things like that, but I do think it is very important to be aware of where those things are coming from and ask things like "how did you get that product?" I pretty much make everything or if I don't do it myself, it's done locally with sustainable materials.
A: What kinds of stones do you use?
AA: Well, one of the stones I use is considered a Lapis Lazuli, but in different colors as well. One is much darker and you can see those in the light gold flakes. So this is considered a higher grade, in a sense. So it can range anywhere from a deep color or, for example, a denim Lapis. It’s kind of like denim blue jeans. There’s just different variations of it.
A: What are three tips to starting a jewelry line?
AA: So I guess the first thing, it's pretty corny and you probably hear it all the time, but be true to yourself. That really means that every decision that you make is something you know is a representation of you. When you choose to make something or put something into the world, every decision you should ask yourself, “Am I happy with this? Does it make me happy? Do I feel OK with this?” If the answer is “It's kind of stressing me out,” or“I'm not really crazy about it,” or if there's any hesitation ever, I wouldn't do it. It's just not worth it. There's so many other things happening in the world right now that are just way more important and way bigger than us and I think it's important to really make these kinds of decisions. You know that hopefully it has a more positive impact on your life and in other people's lives as opposed to doing it for a promotion and yeah, a lot of people do things now for the money or for the followers or whatever non-genuine reasons, but I know for sure those people are not any financially better or any happier than the next person so I would say, be true to yourself and you know just make sure that you're happy with the decisions that you're making. Another tip, this is kind of similar in a sense but, don't be so easily influenced by inspiration sources. I think that there's a very fine line with being swept away with current trends in the market and trying to appease certain group of people that aren't necessarily your demographic and that's OK, it's not meant for everyone and that's the beauty of doing your own thing. Trying to find your own demographic and trying to find the people who really appreciate what you're doing for the same reasons that you appreciate the things. So for me, I'm not. I try to go for a simple statement and it's not necessarily about covering everything in diamonds and everything has to be crazy blinked out gold, not everything has to be a crazy statement and you know it can be something simple but very well done. And lastly, I would have to say, surround yourself with good people. It doesn't necessarily have to be people who are in the same realm of what you are designing, or what your exactly you're doing, but it's important to have a creative outlet where you can bounce ideas off and really try to question what it is you're doing and just look at things in a different perspective. For me, coming from New York it's a very crazy contrast in the type of people and how people communicate and want to get to know each other so I do realize it's been so helpful and so important to have the studio and just talk about general stuff you know like, “Hey, what are you doing for Facebook ads?” or like “Hey we should have a studio event,” so it's just these little conversations you can have that just really spark inspiration and it really just keeps your mind going and constantly questioning and working through little problems or even ideas that can rise.
A: Do you have any tips on pricing?
AA: I think that it really depends on how you try to sell your products. If you are more successful and able to do everything directly from brand to consumer or sell through e-commerce or something like that, that would be great but, through just having your own sales and events and things like that, I think is the most you profit and you also don't have to mark up, the most. I think it becomes difficult when your brand gets bigger and then other stores want to carry your brand, so then the conversation of wholesale comes up and I think that's when things really get very expensive and I'm personally at that crossroads myself right now. I am open to doing wholesale and I'm going to see how it goes, but like I said I, if I feel like it just becomes a burden then I am not going to do it. We'll see.
A: What are some things that inspire you?
AA: I'm inspired by very much mundane basic things. I really draw from a lot of architecture. I really love clean lines and angles. It's very basic things like that but I find so much beauty in being able to meet and create clean lines and experiment with different colors. The professor I was talking about, by the way, gave us an assignment that was to file down a solid bar of brass to a perfect 90 degree angle. Most people would never understand how difficult it was, odds are near impossible but, when you actually do something like that and then take a step away and look at a large scale building and just see how many windows are on that building and how many angles and straight lines are in that building, it's mind blowing to me. I'm just really fascinated about how nowadays you can just look up and see a crazy skyscraper and it's totally manufactured and built and in what? Less than six months? And here I am like struggling to make ninety degree angles in jewelry so it's it is a challenge but it's really just trying to make, I guess, in a way, just trying to transform very simple things in many different perspectives.
A: Which piece of jewelry that you’ve made is your favorite?
AA: I love my rings right now. I didn't initially make them to be like worn together but now I see them as all the rings that I've made all together and they look cool next to each other and it makes sense to me. Now, they look cool individually or you can stack them and you still make all the metric angular shapes so I really am super into my rings but I'll be honest I think the answer changes every day. You know, that's the cool thing about being able to make your own jewelry and designs. I make things in the moment. I'm constantly wearing jewelry; I do love these hoops that I made recently. Amazonite is a stone that looks similar to jade. It is said to bring good luck and opportunity.
A: Do you have an online shop?
AA: Yes! Everything is mostly done through my online shop, Agamemnon Jewelry, and as of right now, my focus has really been on just trying to work on more press and media, because that would supply me with more ammo when I try to sell my stuff to stores, you know? Stuff like that. It’s a working progress. I am taking my time with it. It’s hard for me though, because I have this East coast mentality ingrained in me where I’m like constantly trying to work and get things done, you know? But some things just can’t be forced and it’s important to take a step back and reflect on the decisions I am about to make. It’s okay if things don’t work out in the way you intend it to, you know? You just have to keep trying.
CHECK OUT AMY!