Today we’d like to introduce you to Amy Leff.
Hi Amy, thanks for joining us today. We’d love for you to start by introducing yourself.
The backstory: after college, I got married and divorced really young. At 25 years old, I felt like I was too young to be “divorced” and too young to feel sorry for myself. So, soon after my divorce, I moved from Santa Monica, CA to Vail, CO. If you can picture it, I lived 2 blocks from the beach. I walked along the beach every day, and in the summer I would surf the smaller waves or hang out with friends on the beach. I truly was a beach girl at heart. I took a 180° turn and moved to the middle of the Rocky Mountains. I went from the predictable 70°-80° sunny days to snow and ice. It was late 2001 and I was living in a new town, making new friends, working at a new job, learning how to snowboard, and living with people I just met… Looking back, I was still so young and every emotion was so big. The nighttime was the hardest for me. My new roommates and I would watch Law and Order, but I needed something to keep me busy with my hands. I started beading necklaces on my dining room table. Then, I started to wear those necklaces to work and out at night.
Can you talk to us a bit about the challenges and lessons you’ve learned along the way. Looking back would you say it’s been easy or smooth in retrospect?
I don’t even know where to start. When I started beading, I immediately wanted to learn more. There’s a saying out there, “beading is like the old drug commercials. It’s a gateway drug to metalsmithing”. I quickly wanted to learn all things metalsmithing! I wanted to learn how to make rings, how to set stones, and especially how to hammer metal and solder!! It was a totally new craft for me. As a reminder, this was over 20 years ago… 2001/2002. Every new thing I wanted to learn, I had to ask a jeweler or take a class. I wasn’t near a jewelry supply store like a Michael’s, and Amazon was only shipping books back then, and there wasn’t YouTube, or if there was, I didn’t know about it. It wasn’t an easy road to even learn a new skill. After living in Vail, CO for about a year, a few friends of mine encouraged me to apprentice a master jeweler. It was a tough call, I went from having a secure paycheck and health insurance to working a low hourly wage, working a couple of extra jobs, and paying for emergency health insurance.
But I was driven, young, and naïve enough to try the apprenticeship. It was hard physically and mentally. The jeweler I apprenticed treated me poorly. He yelled at me daily and purposefully didn’t teach me certain techniques. The whole reason I was willing to work for little money was to learn! He also proceeded to tell me I didn’t have any natural talent and that I would be a good bench worker, not a designer. (A bench jeweler is someone who only does the grunt work). He favored the other male apprentice, took him out to lunch daily, and had design sessions with him. Looking back, it doesn’t surprise me that he went out of business. Karma I guess… The whole time I apprenticed him, I learned “what