Featured Artist: Amma Gyan

Amma Gyan

This month Sophie Cordery met jeweller cum entrepreneur Amma Gyan at her home studio in the centre of Watford.

Amma was born in  Ghana but her family moved to England when she was 2, and she spent her formative years in East London. In 2011, she chose to make her home with her future husband, David, in Watford as it seemed a convenient place for commuting to London. Although this choice was serendipitous, she is glad she lives here. She loves the parks, the quirky shops, and the fact that you can find “a bit of everything” in Watford, city life as well as an easy connection with nature. She says it still surprises her all the time.

Amma is becoming well known for her energy and enterprising spirit. Lately, she has been very busy on three main fronts: her craft, launching Amanartis and her family, husband David and toddler Nancy.

Amma comes from a creative family. Her mother, a talented seamstress who worked in the clothes industry, is a great inspiration. She grew up with fabrics around her and, from the age of 9, was determined to become a fashion designer - much to her mother’s dismay. Practical studies at university (Multi-media and Information Technology) did not deter her to come back, in a roundabout way, to her first love and need to be creative. Perhaps because of her African background, she has a special instinct for colours, textures and gold. She is also very practical and loves inventing, designing and making.

Amma started creating original leather jewellery in 2009. She learned her specialized skills from Neil McGregor and Valerie Michaels in Gloucestershire, who are reputed to be the best in leather working in the world! From them she learnt the traditional techniques of wet leather moulding  where you stretch vegetable-tanned leather and leave it to dry to keep its shape. She then took these techniques further, experimenting with dyes, thicknesses and finishes to suit her vision. She aims to wow people and make them think differently about materials, by manipulating and transforming leather into a precious material. Her jewels are light but look weighty, They challenge the very concept of preciousness.

Amma‘s vision is ambitious. Along with producing and selling her exquisite leather jewellery, she recently set up the Amanartis  organisation. It is based at the Old Free School in the heart of Watford.

This historic building was built in 1704 under the impetus of Elisabeth Fuller, as a home for her Free School for poor children, later  to become the Watford Grammar Schools. Tucked away quietly on George Street, a few yards from the High Street, at the back of St Mary’s Church, it is one of the few beautiful old buildings remaining in the town. For many years it was home only to offices and the people of Watford were not aware of its existence. Amma aims to put it back on the map as a lively new venue for arts and crafts and a place to support and mentor creative people and businesses. It offers studio spaces and a great paneled hall for exhibitions and craft fairs.

For visitors, the next opportunity to see the Old Free School is the launch of the great hall downstairs as a gallery space with an exhibition of paintings and etchings. States of Siege will be opened every Saturday, 11 to 3, in June to coincide with the Imagine Watford  Festival. I am privileged to be the artist exhibiting there for the first time (see Exhibitions & Events).

It is admirable to see how Amma manages to juggle all these activities with a smile and enthusiasm. I strongly encourage members of HVA and the people of Watford in general to give her the support she deserves.

For further details see amanartis@wear-me.co.uk  Facebook.com/Amanartis.studios or call 07968 783760