Putting the Statement Back in Statement Jewelry

THE HANDS-ON APPROACH
Amanda Ray Danko is all about simple shapes and bold expressions.
Portrait by Lauren Rutten

Amanda Ray Danko’s jewelry isn’t for everyone, but it does feel fashioned for the moment. Working out of Marshall High Studios, she crafts outspoken adornments — brass “boob pins” etched with bosoms of various shapes and sizes, earrings modeled after alien lifeforms, and, her personal favorite, tombstone studs emblazoned with the words “R.I.P. Patriarchy.” 

“I create bold statement pieces,” says Danko, the woman behind Lost Cove Jewelry. “My stuff is loud and big, reflecting my want to feel seen and heard.”

Though America’s polarized political climate has, in part, motivated Danko’s proclivity to produce art that is spunky, even shocking, she was never a conformist, anyway. She grew up in a rural New Hampshire town where her mother worked in a factory and her father was a police officer. Both wore uniforms each day, but Danko preferred a brighter, louder style. “I was obsessed with hippie culture and adornment in general,” she says. 

At 14, Danko took a jewelry class at the Sharon Arts Center in Peterborough, a creative hub that was later absorbed by the New Hampshire Art Institute. There she met Sussy-Rose Shields, a skilled silversmith and Joni Mitchell lookalike with gray, flowing hair.

“She was really scrappy. She had a futon, which I had never seen before,” Danko recalls with a laugh. “She ate miso soup and homemade sushi. We’re still in touch, almost 30 years later.” 

The artist often works in brass for her dangle earrings, including a popular tombstone series, but her on-trend paperclip chains with asymmetrical stones contain a signature edginess, as well.

Shields encouraged Danko to get out of New Hampshire and to attend the California College of Arts and Crafts. But in her sophomore year, she moved to New York — “I fell in love with the city” — and began circling near the A List, working for famed event producer Susanne Bartsch, assisting Clyde Haygood (now the Kardashians’ stylist) with hair, and collaborating with Lysa Cooper, who styled Beyoncé in one of Danko’s necklaces. Danko sold her first jewelry line at a Mara Hoffman show, then at Steven Alan, Borealis in NYC, and stores in LA and Japan. Following a rural stint in the Catskills with her boyfriend (now husband) and the birth of their son, in 2008 the family moved to artsy Asheville, close to her husband’s hometown in East Tennessee. Eventually, she waded back into her craft, choosing cost-effective metal as a medium. “Handmade jewelry is so expensive. It just feels more democratic and accessible this way,” explains Danko (though she still uses stones occasionally).

Working with lightweight brass lets Danko cut forms quickly using metal shears. “I’m not so much about the process, which I know many jewelers love,” she admits. “Instead, I like the instant gratification of simple shapes.”

Much of Danko’s work is just that — circles, squares, triangles, and arches. Her popular chain necklaces are made of earthy, asymmetrical links; her “Moon Surface” earrings are brass circles hammered to resemble lunar craters. Uncomplicated geometry also makes an appearance in Danko’s edgier pieces, like her infamous R.I.P. Patriarchy studs and accompanying necklace.

“I’ve had people ask, ‘Can you make them really small so I can wear them to my corporate job?’” Danko says of the earrings. “I always have people telling me I should do this or that, but it’s such a trap. It makes artists feel like they’re only going to succeed if they produce something that’s popular. But there’s enough bodies and ears to go around.”

Amanda Ray Danko, Lost Cove Jewelry, Marshall (Marshall High Studios #108, 115 Blannahassett Island Road, Marshall). The artist’s work can be purchased at lostcovejewelry.com and at Garden Party Elevated Objects (315 Haywood Road, Suite 113, West Asheville, shopgardenparty.com). Danko will vend at the Big Crafty, happening Sunday, July 11, 12-7pm, at Pack Square Park in downtown Asheville. www.thebigcrafty.com.

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