aha /ä- hä/
the discovery or sudden realization of something amazing
Aha Crafted was started as a collaboration between two creative professionals, myself (Heidi Dametz) and my partner in more ways than just business; Jamie Dandrea.
As a NYC Parsons School of Design graduate, Jamie studied illustration, product design, drawing, painting, sculpting, pottery throwing and interior design. His career began in the graphic design field. He worked as a Senior Designer for several years in Manhattan and then in San Francisco. After developing his own niche design style sought out by large corporations and start up companies he decided to branch off on his own and start his own freelance company; Jamie Alan Design.
Since then Jamie has worked as a designer in many fields including fashion, photography, graphic design and product development. His work ranges from creating identity systems for some of the largest corporations in the world to designing packaging for bands in the music industry.
I (Heidi) had worked in business development for the majority of my career, but had a love for crafting handmade jewelry dating as far back as my early teens. I worked my way through college as a full time employee at a fine jewelry store back East. In my spare time, between selling diamonds, class and homework I designed my own handcrafted jewelry and sold it on the side. I consigned in boutiques, set up shop at festivals, concerts and at craft shows. Sometimes I even sold my wares on the beach. I would put down blankets, lay in the sun with friends, while I weaved hemp and beaded pieces to sell to the passersby. There were a couple of summers I took off to tour with bands. To pay for gas, food and concert tickets, I crafted jewelry along the way and sold it before each show on quite literally what one would call “Shakedown Street”. I loved incorporating sacred, powerful gemstones in my designs to help people with elements they needed to strengthen or subside and teaching my shoppers about the powers gemstones possess.
After college I landed what I considered a “real job” and worked my way up the corporate ladder in sales and business development, dabbling with a few creative start ups here and there as side projects.
The combined passion Jamie and Heidi have for art and design made for an easy transition into creating the Aha Crafted brand.
Then sometime around 2010 my journey in the leather earring business began. My initial inspiration came from my sister. She started handcrafting leather clutches and I became especially interested in leather work. (Come to find out my grandparents were leather artisans in the 1930’s. More on that bit of history in a blog post to come).
With my career rooted in business development, I couldn't help but brainstorm for a way to tweak her leather clutch business to become more profitable. It came to me in an Aha moment; what if we created earrings out of leather? It was a newer process to the jewelry industry and it would be a more profitable use of leather! She was too busy to take on something new at the time so I dabbled with some designs on my own. I started handcrafting a few leather earrings and sold them at festivals and craft shows along with my other handmade jewelry. I made the leather earrings in shapes that were already popular in metal. The first leather earrings were teardrops, feathers, leaves, triangles and hoops. Right around that same time though my life got busy with other opportunities. I opened an internet company and began yoga teacher training and so my leather earring business went on the back burner.
I met Jamie a few years later and at the time I was fully engrossed in the corporate business setting. I felt stagnant in my own career but being around someone who made their career as an artist was inspiring. Watching him work brought me back to the feeling I had when I designed jewelry. It began to stoke a fire and feeling in me again that I knew I needed to keep lit.
The more time Jamie and I spent together, the more we naturally started to create art together for fun. We set up photoshoots, visited bead stores, art galleries, drew and painted together. When we weren't running around in artsy play mode our business minds were at work. We knew that between the two of us we had everything it would take to run a business together. But, what would we do?
One evening I told him about my tabled leather earring business, he loved it and thought we should run with it.
From the very beginning the vision for our business was to build a brand around quality and uniqueness. If we were going to create leather earrings we didn't want to lead with designs that had been done a million times over in metal.
To be happy with our product we would need to create a design that was solely our own and something that had never been done before. While we knew the common shapes like teardrop earrings and feather shaped earrings would sell, we wanted our brand built on a design that had a connection to our roots. In turn our shapes and designs would carry meaning, an identity and stand for something. Plus while most of the traditional shapes like teardrop earrings are flattering for most, they don't work with every face shape. I personally found that because I have a round face I do better with something longer and thinner in design. While hoops or teardrops are OK on me, they aren't my best fit. So part of our mission was to create an earring style and shape that would be flattering for anyone! This shape would need to be able to be tweaked in thickness and length so that we could offer more than just one option to give women the perfect fit, every time.
Coming up with that perfect earring design wasn't easy though. While I have a boho-chic style we’d need our design to translate and be accessible to every woman. Whether her style is Chic, Classic, Bohemian, Trendy, Arty, Preppy, Punk, Rocker, Goth or Romantic, our goal was and is, to have the Aha earrings elevate any look. When women try on our earrings and gaze in the mirror they need to say either out loud or to themselves…AH-HAH!
In the end, the inspiration came right from our backyards. As a bi-coastal couple we spend part of the year on the beaches in Southern Cali and the other on the beaches of the Jersey Shore. One day while sitting on the beach we zoned in on the sleek look of a surfboard that had been standing in the sand. That day we looked at it separate than its purpose in the water and we had that aha moment. This is it… this is the shape! It's noble, sleek and fun, and as an earring it will be flirty and flattering for anyone. The symbolism then for our design became perfect for our desire to use our business to give back. We have both always been extremely concerned with the environment as a whole and particularly our oceans. When we decided on the surf board as an inspiration for our brand protecting our ocean waters through the Surfrider Foundation seemed natural and good fit. (You can read more about this in our blog post here)
Once we had the Aha Signature Shape we copyrighted it along with the design variations with chain and gemstones and the rest just fell into place. Later we thought, after our brand takes shape (pun not intended) we’d add more of the common earrings shapes like the teardrop earring to our line up for fun.
And so we got to work on our start up… creating and developing the rest of the business in that space where you have those aha moments. Its those moments when you are completely connected to your true self…where elements, feelings and visions come together and you know its right.
The Aha Crafted collections are built from the surroundings, activities and people we personally fill our lives with. We gather inspiration from the surf community, nature, art, yoga, musicians and mysticism in daily life. Each and every day we put our creative energies to work to build jewelry with quality materials that inspire. We don't skimp on the materials we use and we don't ever plan on doing so. Each earring is still handcrafted in our Southern California studio. A lot of love and positive energy is put into these gems, and trust us when we say... “you’ll feel that vibration passed down when you put them on”.
Neither myself or Jamie for saw it happening this way but our earrings have become more than just a product. There is a sense of community that has started to form around the Aha Brand. The shape is original and recognizable even from afar and because of this it has a way of bringing people together. We receive countless stories of how it connects people who might not have been drawn together otherwise. Women recognize Ahas on others and it often serves as an ice breaker. Friendships are formed and people realize they only have a few degrees of separation from each-other. Our earrings have organically created #TheAhaTribe.
The Aha earrings have become a symbol of embracing that simplistic clarity and being present and connected to your true being. With that consciousness, a door opens to so much more. It creates a vessel that enables one to have time and energy to give back to community, families, mother nature and just as important; one's self.
So find the Ahas that speak to you. Wear them with a smile, feel their flow and how they personally connect with you as a unique and beautiful individual.
Live light. Be Light.