March 1, 2018 / Written by Rachel Gallaher / Images by Dylan Cross
Ask jewelry designer Amanda Brotman where her inspiration comes from, and one of her first answers is the Pacific Northwest. Born and raised in Seattle, Brotman grew up exploring Puget Sound beaches—landscapes that would serve as an aesthetic toolbox for her future designs. Launched in 2008 as an artisanal accessories company focusing on evening bags, the eponymous AMANDA PEARL pivoted its emphasis to jewelry a few years ago. Looking to create “pieces that could be worn all the time,” Brotman introduced a demi-fine collection with designs based on forms found in nature (from spiked bracelets and rings that take their cue from urchin spines to undulating pendants that reflect aqueous movement). Materials are elegant (white cultured pearls, semi-precious stones, gold and gunmetal –plated brass) yet durable, with neutral tones meant to encourage layering and mixing, both within the collection and with an individual’s own pieces.
We caught up with Brotman in New York via phone to get the details about the launch, her evolution as an artisan, and how a childhood in the Northwest takes shape in her designs.
How did you get your start in the industry? Jewelry is something I’ve loved throughout my entire life. When I was little I made beaded pieces and sold them in a little stand at Green Lake! I’ve always collected beads and colored stones, and there’s something very appealing about working in a medium that results in something that people can wear. I first launched AMANDA PEARL as an evening bag company, making clutches and bags out of luxurious textiles sewn through with vintage beads and stones, but I re-launched a few years ago with jewelry. I like the immediacy of it—a great piece of jewelry can really elevate your mood.
How does the Northwest influence your work? Seattle is such a forward-thinking, innovative place with so many creative thinkers; I like to think that I’m capturing the spirit of the city in my work. Growing up I loved going to the beach—looking for shells in the sand and searching the tide pools for creatures was like a treasure hunt each trip. A lot of those shapes and ideas have made it into my work, for example our core collection is based off of sea urchin quills. The pieces wrap around the fingers or climb up the ear—they’re fluid and sculptural at the same time.
In the initial collection you incorporated pearls into many of the pieces. Aside from the fact that it’s your middle, what draws you to this gem? I like that pearls are organic gems and that each one is a little bit different. In order for pearl oysters to thrive they need a pristine environment, so pearl farmers are always ensuring that their environment is as clean as possible. Additionally, pearl oysters are filter feeders, cleaning the water they live in.
Tell me about the new collection. The fine jewelry collection takes a cue from shapes made on the bottom of the ocean by waves at the surface. It’s a phenomenon I’ve always been attuned to and enjoyed watching. When gathering inspiration for this collection, it started with some images, of course, and then some study of scientific articles and illustrations. Ripples are outlines of energy and power in the water. On one hand they look very abstract and sculptural and at the same time they are a reminder of feminine strength and power.