Allison Ford, owner of studioAMF, has been in the wearable art and jewelry making business full-time for almost eight years. Though Ford had been working on and off in the arts field since her college days, at one point, she also had a stint with a regular 9-to-5 until one day she woke up to a disconcerting thought: “Is this what work will be like for the rest of my life?!” The realization that she needed to return to pursuing her creative interests coincided with her first pregnancy and brought her back to the arts and to ultimately creating gorgeous, hand-crafted jewelry which we just can’t get enough of!
What piqued your initial interest in designing your product(s)? The material itself. After I made my first wood ring, I was hooked and never looked back.
What principles do you use when designing? I love focusing on line, repetition and sometimes scale. I try not to over design, only using one or two elements for each piece.
After I made my first wood ring, I was hooked and never looked back.
Who and/or what influence your design style? How would you describe your design aesthetics and values? I’m highly influenced by nature and the Indiana landscape – especially insects. I love the arts and crafts movement, the ancient Egyptians, Art Deco and Art Nouveau. I’m also inspired by the wood itself. I don’t know if I have a specific aesthetic, but all of my work looks like mine. I guess it’s a combination of my skill set and manipulation of the material.
What comes first for you, the design materials or the design concept? Depends on what I’m working on. Usually the idea comes first.
Could you describe the process of creating a piece – from conception to finish? The creative process as well as material selection and labor process, too? I’ll describe making an insect ring (one of my favorite things to make).
- Decide on the bug and finding an inspiration image that captures the overall look/shape/size/orientation that I’m going for.
- Make some decisions about metal type, any fill colors and wood for the actual ring
- Manipulate the image to determine what I want to highlight. I could never get all the details Mother Nature has to offer, so I give it my own twist.
- Apply the image to metal sheet and hand cut the insect shape. If I’m on my game, it comes out ready for the next step. If not, I’ll have some final finishing work with files.
- Rouch carve a wood ring
- Cut something down to a usable block
- Drill a hole
- Shape using various sanders and hand tools
- Do lots of sanding
- Apply the metal sheet to the wood ring
- Additional shaping of the ring
- If I am using fill colors on the insect I would apply them now
- Resin mixed with various sawdust or other natural materials to make a color paste. My own version of cloisonné
- More shaping
- Final sanding and sizing.
- Apply finish
What is your favorite tool, and why? Either my dremel tool or my hand rasp. I just use them all the time! They have helped to refine my process.
Describe a piece you’ve created that you are most proud of. What was special about it? I just finished a collection that I was really proud of. I made 14 insect rings this spring. My timeline was really tight and I was working on them all the time. I have never made so many at once and seeing them altogether was so cool. I don’t aim for a specific look but my work has one. That makes me proud. It means that I am giving a bit of myself to every piece and they are well made.
Describe the commissioning process. What are the best and worst aspects about doing commissions? What are the best and worst aspects about doing commissions? I love commissions that give me creative freedom. I have some clients that just trust 100 percent in the end result. I also love creating things for people to capture moments or memories – jewelry with hidden meanings. The worst part is the time spent. I only have so much studio time and if I’m not careful I will just fill commissions rather than come up with wild and wonderful new things.
What advice you would give to aspiring designers like yourself? Trust your point of view. A designer doesn’t have to appeal to everyone. You will find your people/demographic.
What is one thing that the creative/design community can do in Indianapolis to help grow an audience for custom or handcrafted work? Competition brings more business. I think Indianapolis needs to keep building and bringing attention to its makers. Having a wellspring of quality, locally made items will eventually make Indy a destination for makers and consumers. It seems like the arts and crafts movement is having a renaissance, especially in the millennial demographic. If Indy is able to keep appealing to the live/work aspirations of that group, the money will (hopefully) sustain and grow the maker movement in the future.
Dream commission/client? I don’t really have a dream client, but I would love to try my hand at costume design (accessories only, I can’t sew!)
What makes your work different from anyone else’s? I think the only thing separating one persons work from another (assuming no one is copying) is point of view – how experience and inspiration shape what our hands create.
What’s your most rewarding memory in your business? My kids want to be artists when they grow up.
In a way, the birth of the baby and the art career happened at the same time. I was scared as hell to be a mom and put myself out there as an artist. (I) didn’t think it was possible. Each gave me courage to succeed at the other.