By Margo Greenman
Several years ago, my husband and I were in the market for two wedding bands. We were getting married and we wanted something symbolic of our relationship to wear around our fingers — something special and one of a kind. That’s when I remembered the name Amy Reeves.
Just more than a year prior to our engagement, I had met Amy, a metalsmith, jeweler and owner of the Tacoma Metal Arts Center. I had commissioned her to cast a custom belt buckle — a gift for my then-boyfriend. The belt buckle, which depicted a deer bucking his young fawn alongside the caption “buck up” matched what I had in mind exactly. She had brought my vision to life.
As such, when it came time to select someone to make our weddings bands, Amy was the obvious choice.
We met with Amy in her studio and shared with her details of what we wanted our rings to look like. Two short weeks later, the rings were ready, and they were perfect.
The rings were both made of oxidized sterling silver, cast into what looks like two waves locking together with the inscription “let’s just ride this one out” etched on the inside of each band.
Every time I glance at my hand, I’m reminded of Amy and her talent. She’s more than a metalsmith and jeweler, she’s a visionary — and she shares her talents in myriad ways at her studio, classroom and gallery, the Tacoma Metal Arts Center.
Amy took her first jewelry metals class in 1992 at Pratt Fine Arts Center while she was living in Seattle. “Back then, I had no concept of people making one of a kind studio jewelry,” she says. “I was amazed to find a place where I could learn how to do this.”
After her first class, Amy was hooked, and she quickly found a job working for an artist who sold jewelry at the Pike Place Market and selling her own wares on the side. As Amy began to drum up more business, she saw herself making a career out of jewelry making and metal smithing and decided to return to school.
In 2003, more than 10 years after her first jewelry metals class, Amy graduated from the University of Washington with a BFA in metals and began teaching classes at Pratt Fine Arts Center — the same place where she took her first class.
Just one year later, Amy moved to Tacoma. She was working as a full-time bench jeweler, but she wanted to pursue her own work. Amy started teaching metals classes around the South Sound, all with the hope of one day starting her own school.
It wasn’t until 2009 when the Tacoma Arts Commission hosted the MetalUrge festival that Amy realized how much of an interest there was locally in metal arts. “It felt like the right time, so in December of 2009 I took another plunge and decided to open my own business,” says Amy.
When Amy opened the Tacoma Metal Arts Center at its original downtown Tacoma location, she was the only instructor teaching classes. Today the center is located in Tacoma’s bustling 6th Avenue District and is backed by the expertise of 15 professional artists who come in periodically to teach.
Amy’s metal arts journey has been a long and winding one, but throughout it, she has never lost sight of staying true to her style. “Many artists get caught up in how to make things that will be the most saleable,” explains Amy. “I always encourage my students to instead pursue what most interests them. Otherwise what you make will never match who you are.”
Interested in exercising your artistic thumb under the guidance of Amy or one of the other instructors she hosts at the Tacoma Metal Arts Center? Amy offers a variety of classes from beginner level to more advanced. Classes range from general jewelry making and metal casting to those with a more technique-specific focus. And Amy says you don’t have to be “artistic” to take a class.
“Many people come in for classes and say, ‘I am not artistic, can I do this?’ The truth is that art takes practice, and everyone starts somewhere,” explains Amy. “I try to offer a variety of classes — some that are accessible to the absolute beginner and others that are challenging to the more advanced. Some folks come in for one class, enjoy the experience and move on. And then there are other students who have been with me for years.”
Not interested in a class but would like to hire Amy for something special? She’s up for your most challenging project. “I love a challenge and anything unusual or unique,” she says. “One of my favorite things is melting down old jewelry to make a special new piece for a client.”
Whether you want to turn a family heirloom into something new that you can appreciate for years to come, test your hand at metal casting, or just peruse what’s on display (like “Link by Link, a new exhibit on display October 7 – 30), the Tacoma Metal Arts Center is a local hub for artists and admirers alike.
To learn more about the Tacoma Metal Arts Center, view a list of classes, or contact Amy for your next project, visit the Tacoma Metal Arts Center online or call 253-227-1694.