• History of Amano

  • Snake cameo pendant necklace hanging on hourglass with stack of books

Let me start from the beginning. After studying Anthropology at UC Berkeley and doing field work in Oaxaca Mexico, I went to work in the vanguard of the Fair Trade movement with Global Exchange in San Francisco. This work instilled in me a desire to bring matters of social and economic justice into commerce. It was my dream to use design as a tool of economic development in Mexican artisan communities. It was with youthful optimism, energy and delusion, that I set out with $800 of seed money and a plane ticket to Cuba to change the world. Yes, Cuba.

Surprise, surprise! Nothing worked out as I imagined. I sold my Cuban carnival masks and painted cigar boxes which I smuggled into the country at the time when Strom Thurmond had just implemented legislation making it a SERIOUS crime to trade with Cuba - oops! Whatever! Mexico was always my true love anyway. I had dreamed of working with women’s cooperatives, and helping artisans access markets more directly. What happened was completely, hilariously different. The fact was, I didn’t have any money to start a nonprofit! I had to hustle and sell some stuff. I was living in the San Francisco Mission district at the time when the street art scene/Rockabilly scene and Mexican pop culture icons all collided. I ended up mostly working in Mexico City designing and working with small manufacturers to create a product line that reflected the zeitgeist of the late nineties / early aughts.

  • Tiny sterling silver devil mask stud earrings

    Tiny Devil Mask Stud Earrings

    Sterling Silver - Taxco, Mexico

  • Tiny sterling silver devil stud earrings

    Tiny Diablo Stud Earrings

    Sterling Silver - Taxco, Mexico

  • Tiny sterling silver spider stud earrings

    Tiny Spider Stud Earrings

    Sterling Silver - Taxco, Mexico

  • Tiny sterling silver guitar stud earrings

    Tiny Guitar Stud Earrings

    Sterling Silver - Taxco, Mexico

  • Gold sacred heart pendant

    Sacred Heart Pendant

    from the workshop of Ruth Cortes
    San Miguel de Allende

  • Lucha Libre Mexican wrestling masks

    Lucha Libre Masks

    made in Mexico City

  • Pink cosmetic bag with vintage ladies advertisements

    Cosmetic Bag

    designed by Tara Brown
    made in Mexico City

  • Red pin up girl purse

    Vintage Pin Up Girl Bag

    designed by Tara Brown
    made in Mexico City

  • Blue crossbody handbag with rockabilly art

    Rockabilly Screen Art Bag

    artwork by San Francisco Mission District artist Txutxo Perez
    made in Mexico City

  • Pink and black coin purse with pin up girl graphic

    Coin Purse

    designed by Tara Brown
    made in Mexico City

  • Pink handbag with graphic of Che Guevara

    Campy Che Guevara Bag

    What can I say? I thought it was funny
    made in Mexico City

I enjoyed a lot of success with this line. I took it to Paris in 2003 and it was a huge hit, we had tons of Japanese customers and some of the coolest shops across the USA carried the line. What I didn’t realize at the time was that it was a TREND and that trend came to a screeching halt just as the Great Recession hit like a hammer, and the party was over.

Out of the ashes of the Amano Trading Company dumpster fire, Amano Studio was born.

At the very same time my Mexican business was failing, I was introduced to Providence Rhode Island (jewelry manufacturing capital of America). With the help of my sister, jewelry designer Tara Brown, and a team of small workshops in Providence, we developed something new. In the first year my sister Tara assembled every single piece of jewelry we sold.

  • Gold binoculars and bird pendant necklace on stack of books
  • Green gem teardrop earrings with gold roses on stack of vintage postcards
  • Daisy and bee gold hair pins next to dried flowers
  • Silver octopus pendant necklace on vintage binoculars
  • Beetle cameo pendant necklace on stack of vintage books
  • Silver sacred heart and miraculous medallion pendant necklace on vintage book
Seana and Tara posing with stuffed wildcat in living room

Tara and I in the early days of Amano Studio. Tara has gone on to create her own business: Mind's Eye Design.

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