Tamarack artist and WVU Healthcare spokesperson Amy Johns juggles jobs.
When the clock strikes 5 p.m., Amy Johns’ day at work is far from over. She might be leaving the hospital, but she’s heading to The Seneca Center—where her second job begins.
After a full day as Director of Public Affairs for WVU Healthcare and Health Sciences, handling all things media, Amy wears a different hat during her evening job, where she’s surrounded by organized bins of metals, gems, crystals, and tools.
For 20 years, Amy has worked for WVU. One of her favorite parts about her day job is telling patients’ stories, especially those from WVU Children’s Hospital. “They’re so heroic,” she says. “It also makes me proud of our doctors and nurses and the people who take care of these wonderful people who save lives.”
Amy also produces a Thursday night show called Doctors on Call, which can be found on West Virginia Public Television. “I write the script, I get the guests, I decide on the direction of the show, and we’re in our 20th season,” she says of the live show. “We have five phone lines that are busy throughout the entire show, and it really gives valuable information statewide. People are hungry for health information and it gives them access to a WVU doctor to ask questions.”
But even Amy’s job at WVU is not your typical 9 to 5, given that she works a lot of overtime and may be called after hours to answer questions. Even so, she finds time to explore her passion of making jewelry. “One job satisfies my left brain and one satisfies the right,” she says.
At The Seneca Center, tables fill Amy’s studio with handcrafted necklaces, earrings, and bracelets. Old, wooden floors creak with each footstep in the small, but sufficient space, while Amy takes a break from her creations to greet each person who walks by. It all began about 12 years ago, when she had a few broken necklaces that needed repair, so she ventured into a bead shop. She decided to incorporate old and new beads to make an original piece when she realized she had a knack for the art. When she started wearing her homemade jewelry to work, friends and co-workers wanted her to make jewelry for them, too. Before she knew it, she had entered her first arts and crafts show.
Although Amy has a successful business now, she credits Tamarack for making it happen. “Tamarack has done a whole lot for me and my credibility. It has brought me along and developed me as an artist,” she says. While Amy had raw talent, the up-and-comer’s skills needed to be refined before Tamarack would accept her. It was clear that the arts group believed in Amy’s abilities when they paid for her to learn from master metalsmith Marty Schaerer Batarla, who owns a studio at The Greenbrier Resort. “She taught me the basics of metalsmithing—how to use a torch, how to hammer and saw, all of that. She is extremely generous with her time and talents and Tamarack was extremely generous by funding it,” Amy says.
Tamarack accepted Amy in 2005. That same year, she opened her shop with friend and florist, Carolyn Schuessler. With Carolyn’s florals, Amy’s jewelry, and Sarris chocolate (which just so happens to be founded by Amy’s uncle, Frank Sarris), The Little Studio is like heaven for some local women.
Amy says she finds inspiration for her work everywhere. Shapes, stones, colors, even the neckline of a dress can strike a chord with Amy to influence her design. Of Greek heritage, Amy named her jewelry line Amalea, Greek for Amy and also her paternal grandmother’s name. Amalea includes pieces made from semiprecious gemstones, sterling silver, 14-carat gold-filled metals, Swarovski crystals, and more. A colorful person, Amy loves working with vibrant gemstones most. “I like stones with personality. Labradorite and lapis have a personality and I like learning the history of them and where they come from. Lapis is a stone that is primarily mined in Afghanistan and is an ancient stone. It was used by Cleopatra and has been found in carvings in King Tut’s tomb.”
But what is it about jewelry that keeps Amy working, even after work? “A lot of people see what I’m doing and say, ‘Oh that’s so tedious,’ but it’s not tedious to
me, not at all. It relieves my tension. This
is my happy place.”
The Little Studio, The Seneca Center, 709 Beechurst Avenue, Suite 22; 304.581.6984
written by Cody Wiegand
photographed by Rebecca Devono Photography