Mt. Lebanon jewelry artist, Samantha Bower of designs-by-samantha is a gem. A talented jewelry designer, devoted mother, teacher, savvy entrepreneur, and a member of the Pittsburgh Beer Ladies, Samantha amazes us with all that she is able to juggle and accomplish. With her keen eye, sense of style, and impressive body of work, it is no wonder that she is one of Koolkat’s top-selling artists.
When asked about Samantha, Koolkat owner Kate McGrady replied, “When I met Samantha seven years ago she was a teacher with a hobby. It has been my extreme pleasure to watch her develop as a jewelry designer. With each new, young and funky piece, she expresses her constant positive energy.”
On Saturday, November 16th from 10am to 5pm, Koolkat will be hosting Samantha for a trunk show of her work. Samantha is known for creating stylish, versatile and affordable pieces that are as fun as they are fabulous. Whether it’s her bib necklaces, flower cabochon earrings, recycled paper bead jewelry, funky charm necklaces, or Swarovski and pearl wedding pieces, Samantha’s work is very popular with customers of all ages. Her trunk show will feature a broad range of rings, earrings, bracelets, necklaces and tile coasters.
Samantha is the subject of this week’s artist interview. See if you can guess her favorite color before the end of the interview.
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Please introduce yourself, and tell us about your handmade business.
My name is Samantha Bower, and I started designs-by-samantha in 2004. I learned to weave crystal/wire necklaces as bridesmaid gifts for my upcoming wedding. After the wedding I realized that making those necklaces was one of my favorite parts of planning. It quickly became an obsession – going from hobby to small business in a matter of months. Now, I enjoy selling at boutiques and galleries (like Koolkat Designs), and I love interacting with customers at shows!
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I live in Mt. Lebanon with my wonderful husband and our adorable son. I have loved crafting for as long as I can remember — I was the girl in high school with a lot more on the outside of her notebooks than on the inside! I love trying new ideas and using new materials — my dream studio would have equipment for many types of media. I’m left-handed, which people say explains why I often have many projects going at once.
What does handmade mean to you?
To me, handmade is everlasting. When our economy took a nosedive, the handmade movement stayed strong and helped many men and women stay afloat. Assembling and creating pieces of art into something you can truly call your own is “handmade”. Dreaming of an idea and seeing it come to fruition in your hands is “handmade”. Buying handmade, local wares has become a passion for me, as I am constantly telling anyone who will listen!
What is your impression of the handmade scene in Pittsburgh?
I have absolutely fallen in love with the handmade scene in Pittsburgh. There is a phenomenal group of men and women that keep the Pittsburgh arts scene churning everyday. I am in awe of many artists that reside in Pittsburgh — every time I meet one I feel like I’ve met a hero! The creativity and work ethic in our city keeps me motivated to be a better person/artist.
How did you first become involved with Koolkat Designs?
I first became an artist with Koolkat in early 2007. Kate took a chance on me — I couldn’t even make earrings at the time! In the summer of 2007, I became the store’s first team member. Now, I help on the weekends and help to plan events when I can.
What is your favorite thing about Koolkat Designs?
The ladies of Koolkat — the five core women that help make the store so great — are like family to me. I am so proud of what Koolkat has evolved into over the past 7+ years. And I can’t wait to see what’s in store for the future!
What art festivals and craft shows have you participated in?
I currently participate regularly in the I Made it! Market shows, and will soon be back for a third time at Handmade Arcade. I will also be trying my first show in Cleveland (Last Minute Market) in December.
What are your art goals for the coming year?
I’d love to be better organized, and to find more time to devote to creating. A real website is in the works as well.
What does it mean to you to have someone buy your work?
I am truly humbled by my customers. I feel so grateful to have others enjoy my hard work. It’s such a boost of confidence to see a piece sell to a happy customer!
What advice do you have for people looking to turn their hobby into a business?
Try and fail, but don’t fail to try. Listen and take feedback from your customers. Listen to your heart, and do what makes you happy.
How do your values impact your process?
I do enjoy being as “green” as possible, at home and with my work. I buy recycled bags, and go paperless whenever possible. The paper beads that I use are upcycled from magazines, and come from the Bead for Life organization. I buy them fair-trade from Uganda. I enjoy helping a good cause with such beautiful beads.
Just for fun, what’s your favorite color?
Any shade of blue, especially dark blues.