Tucked away in third-floor space in her Kingston home, Kimberly Amonte has created a jewelry lover’s dream.
On one wall hangs dozens of leather and wooden earrings each handmade by Amonte herself — no two pair alike. Under a bright window sits a laser cutter; a desk is stocked with jewelry boxes, snaps, earring hooks and other essentials; and in a small office on the second floor sits a desktop computer where Amonte designs and brings her creative ideas to life.
Amonte is celebrating the two-year anniversary of her small business, Couture Designs Studio, through which she makes jewelry of leather, acrylic and wood. The South Shore native spent 15 years as a corporate headhunter, but a family emergency two summers ago forced a change in perspective.
“I was this career mom, working 50 hours per week, and I just realized that I wanted to do something else — and I wanted it to be the exact opposite,” she said.
Jewelry wasn’t where her mind first went. She experimented with sewing and even did some vintage hat work, and it was then that she fell in love with leather — the first of the materials she turned into earrings and cuffs.
“It could be very subtle and neutral, or it could be very edgy,” Amonte said. “There was so much you could do with it.”
After a year of selling on her website and Etsy store, she took the plunge and made a big investment in her work — she bought a laser cutter. With it, she’s able to design pieces using a special software on her computer that tells the machine to cut leather and various woods, including walnut, zebra and bass.
Until she bought the laser cutter, Amonte’s leather pieces were either cut by hand or using steel rule dies, which are basically super sharp cookie cutters that punch shapes in leather, felt, wood and other materials.
“With those, you’re only as good as the die. But with a laser cutter, you can custom design a certain piece of jewelry, load that design into the machine and tell it to either cut or engrave,” she said. “The possibilities really are endless.”
In the last year, Amonte’s orders have gone up by nearly 800 percent, her website’s analytics show. In August, nearly 300 orders were placed — all of them filled in her kitchen by herself, her husband or her dad. Every morning, Amonte fills the orders from the night before, packs them and takes them to the post office. The afternoons are spent making new pieces to post online and experimenting with new designs.
“I love hand cutting the leather, I love to design the piece and I love photographing it,” she said. “I really do love it all.”
In addition to additional design possibilities, the laser cutter also opens Amonte up to mass production and wholesale options. But that, she says, is where she draws the line.
“I never wanted to be so big I had to hire other people,” she said. “This year I’ve been able to officially call my self ‘successful,’ but I don’t think I’ll ever get to a place where I want to move out of my home studio or hire a team. . . I like the small aspect of it. Every piece is cut per customer and per order, so the attention to detail is always there. I keep some inventory of best sellers, but I don’t cut 50 pairs of earrings at a time.”
All of Amonte’s pieces are available at couturedesignsstudio.com or in her Etsy shop. Her most popular items are her fringe leather earrings — the bigger the better, she says — and wooden bracelets and earrings she carves with the laser cutter. Earrings sell for $10 to $20, cuffs are $22 to $24 and necklaces are $26 to $28.
Photos in this post were taken by the wonderfully talented Greg Derr. They were originally published in The Patriot Ledger.