Jewelry designer Amy Wells, of the eponymous Amy Wells Designs, considers herself a native Memphian, even though she was born in New York, where her dad was a pilot flying out of JFK. With her father’s family in Nashville, and her mother’s in Memphis, it seemed only natural that one day she would come to Tennessee, and her family moved to Memphis when she was 5. “My mother, Ann Bronson Uden, is from Memphis. My grandfather was Tommy Bronson and he owned Tommy Bronson Sporting Goods, so I grew up in a family-owned business where it was expected for everyone to pitch in,” says Amy, who remembers getting out of school at Grace-St. Luke’s and heading to the store to string tennis racquets. Amy worked in the financial industry for a decade before taking the leap into designing jewelry full time. She and husband Madison have a 13-year-old daughter, Sadie Ann, and three dogs, River, Dylan and Clementine.
Describe your early career. Where did you work, and what were your jobs?
After college, I worked in the financial industry for 10 years — first at McVean Trading and then as a financial consultant at Smith Barney. It was while I was with Smith Barney that I met my husband, Madison, who is still in wealth management at Wells Fargo Advisors. He has been so supportive and works with me on Saturday afternoons updating the website and posting to social media. We have a great time starting with Starbucks and ending with Miller High Life while our favorite music plays in the background.
Have you always been creative?
Yes. I have always had a passion for fashion and design. I come by it honestly. My mother has knitted and smocked for years and still does for the Women’s Exchange. My grandmother was also very creative. I have never been one to buy the clothes on the mannequin, preferring to create my own look and style from a variety of boutiques. In high school, I loved finding jewelry, taking it apart with tweezers and making something new that was my own. When I was a financial consultant, I did some interior design on the side — mostly colleagues that needed some help!
Your business started with a single piece of jewelry, the picture bracelet. Tell us about that bracelet, and how it launched your business.
I had every intention of returning to my career in the financial services industry after my maternity leave, but when the time came, I simply couldn’t leave her [daughter Sadie Ann]. One day I found the supplies for the picture bracelet at a craft store and had the idea to make the bracelet for a Mother’s Day gift for mother and my mother-in-law — and of course I needed one, too! People would stop us and ask if I would make one for them … and that’s how it started. Soon I was doing small home shows, then school and church bazaars, then the website and now I am building my wholesale business. I have started showing in the Atlanta Market hoping to expand across the Southeast. I’ve been honored to be a part of Memphis Fashion Week and love supporting local charities through donations. The largest selection of my jewelry locally is at Loni’s Fashions in Collierville and, of course, on my website, amywellsdesigns.com.
Do you still create picture bracelets for people?
I still get a few requests, usually around Mother’s Day and the holidays.
How would you describe your jewelry?
Rustic, funky, earthy, bohemian. I use the highest quality of natural gemstones, freshwater pearls, fine silver and naturally dyed leathers. I work with some amazing artisans and suppliers. My relationships with them are integral to my designs.
Are there elements you include in every piece you design?
Not necessarily. I am always cognizant of current styles and trends and try to incorporate them when they fit with my style. However, every piece I design is a reflection of my style and how my art is evolving. I don’t make anything that I wouldn’t wear personally. Of course, it’s great when my style coincides with the current trend, but I never create a piece with the sole purpose of being “trendy.” One thing that does stay consistent is that we name all of the necklaces after my favorite songs.
Do you have a favorite element to work with?
The beauty of natural, organic stones always amazes me. I so love the imperfections found in the shapes of natural stones … I always prefer something that is mishaped to something that is perfect.
What’s your biggest challenge as a business owner?
Time. There are simply not enough hours in the day.
What are your hobbies, and how do you unwind?
Creating new designs gives me so much joy. Saturdays are my day to simply create and I look forward to it every week. Apart from my jewelry, I try to walk every day and I love listening to music with a beer and playing with my dogs.
Where’s the first place you take an out-of-towner when they come to visit you in Memphis?
Keith Richards, one of my favorite musicians, said that music gets into your bones. Memphis has such a rich musical history. I love to take people to the Memphis Rock N Soul Museum, which is close to my heart. My husband, Madison, has served on the board for nearly 10 years, including the last three as chairman. We both love the story the museum tells.
Finish this sentence: If I had a superpower, it would be …
Telekinesis. I think reading people’s minds could be a blast … maybe.
What one word describes you?
What inspires you?
There are so many things that inspire my work and my life, but nothing gives me more pleasure than the smile on a customer’s face when they’ve found the perfect piece of my jewelry. Those smiles inspire me to keep creating new designs. I also find inspiration in strong, driven women. My godmother, Camille LeMaster, has always supported me in whatever I have done and has been a big part of my success.
What’s your best piece of advice for others?
I love the line from the Grateful Dead: “Once in awhile you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right.” I would have never dreamed that I would be where I am today, so I encourage people to be patient and seek out what gives you passion … you will never work another day in your life.
What are three lighthearted things you can’t live without, excluding faith, family and friends?
Dogs, music and beer!
Thank you, Amy, and thanks to Micki Martin, for capturing the spirit and style of Amy Wells and her designs!
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