Tell us a little bit about who you are and your life up to this point in time.
My name is Amber Johnson and I am all over the place. I grew up in Los Angeles and should have known I was an artist when I drew two perfect flamenco dancers in the 6th grade. Didn’t get the hint. I wanted to major in Interior Design in college. Granma told me “you better not waste your momma’s money.” I took the “braniac” route and went to college for Communication. I graduated with a BA and MA from Saint Louis University in 4.5 years, and went on to Penn State for my PhD in 3 years. At 25 I had my PhD and a great teaching job. Then, I took a jewelry class since it was free. Fell in love. It inspired me to start painting, learn photography, and make jewelry. I do them all now in hopes of quitting my “day career” and enjoying life as I should be.
The name of my company, Erama, is my son’s name spelled backwards. His name, Amare, means beloved, immortal, and builder in different languages. So, you can say that I am a building a company that will be loved by many and last forever.
Besides your fantasy creative life, what else are you doing currently?
I am full time professor at Loyola Marymount University.
What do you offer in your Etsy Shop?
Custom Hair Ties for thick hair, curly hair, locks, super sleek hair, thinning hair, or any other hair that doesn’t mesh well with traditional ponytail holders. They won’t pull the hair out, and instead of carrying around unsightly elastic bands on our wrists with little hairs dangling from them that have been pulled out, these hair ties can double as pretty bracelets or necklaces instead.
I also make custom jewelry with natural gemstones, fuzed glass, and crystal.
Where do you create?
I have a lab at home. It is definitely big enough to share. I would love to host an EAOC workshop. Come over and let’s be creative together!
From where do you draw inspiration?
My inspiration comes from nature, African Adinkrah Symbols, and really anything I see that looks cool, unique, or interesting. I find myself browsing through etsy for inspiration a lot. There are some really amazing products begging to inspire us!
How did you learn your craft?
I am a self-taught beader. At Saint Louis U I started working with a brother named Jebel of Spider’s Web Custom Jewelry. He is an amazing beader and wire-wrapper who taught me about semi-precious stones, metals, spacer beads, so many cool tricks and tips! When I moved to Pennsylvania, I stopped creating and focused on my final degree. Lat summer I took a metal-smithing class at Loyola with Sue Dorman and fell in love all over again. In her class I learned glass fusing, metal manipulation, and lost wax casting techniques.
How do you promote your wares?
I blog, participate in forums, and talk to everyone I meet with thick hair, locks, afro puffs, etc.
What has been the most important lesson you've learned since you started selling your own creations?
Don’t spend hours mulling over a design. If you have an idea, then put something together. If you don’t like it, someone else will. You don’t have to like everything you make. I used to make things for “me.” But my style isn’t everyone’s style. I had to learn to watch what other people are wearing, doing, and enjoying and use that as inspiration. It makes it much easier to let go of creations. I also find myself making things much faster because I don’t second guess my style and taste. It isn’t for “me.” It is for someone special who is going to love it!
Is there any advice you can give others who are just starting out?
- Be nice, cordial, and inviting at all times. When people like you, they want to buy from you. I am nice anyway, but at shows and in dealing with other artists, customers, etc. I am always nice, positive, and energetic, even if I don’t feel like it.
- Sharing your ideas is a good thing. We are taught to keep our ideas to ourselves in fear that someone will run with them. However, one-man boats tend to sink. Working together creates more energy and inspiration. Besides, fear is an illusion. Don’t let it blind you.
- Get a merchant account and take those credit cards. I don’t know if it is the economy, or cash is just 1980’s. I have lost so many sales because I didn’t have one. I have on now!!!