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the personal side of Joanna Petrone

Please tell us a little bit about yourself and your business.

My name is Joanna and I am the owner and operator of Ach Ach Liebling, a one-woman jewelry design and production studio in San Francisco. I use traditional metalsmithing techniques plus vintage parts plus recycled metal plus sundry other ingredients to make original jewelry that is accessible, aesthetic and amusing.

I get a lot of questions about the name, Ach Ach Liebling. It’s German and it means “oh oh darling.” It’s also the title of my favorite song by the band Stereo Total. Granted, the only other word of German I know is “Gezundheit” but I spent a little time in Berlin and was enamored of the city’s style, history, creativity and ecclecticism. I also was head-over-heels in love, which probably has something to do with my romantic impression. In hindsight, though, it wouldn’t have been a bad idea to pick something easier to spell.

How did you first get involved with crafting?

I’ve always enjoyed creative projects and activities– painting, drawing writing. I first got involved with the alt-craft scene about a year after graduating college and from there, it was a gradual evolution toward embracing craft as a career and lifestyle.

I feel lucky to have started my jewelry business in San Francisco in 2006. The Bay Area has a really rich and supportive community of individuals who value local entrepreneurship, small business, independent design, artistic expression and other aspects of the craft tradition. Early encouragement from shop owners, fair-goers and friends nurtured Ach Ach Liebling through its infancy.

Prior to starting my business, I spent a lot of time writing about what I saw in the world that was broken and dangerous. As a crafter and small business owner, I get to actually build something better for the future. I love being a part of something positive and feel proud to contribute actively toward crafting an economy that is sustainable and humane.

What are your favorite materials to work with?

I’m trained in metalworking and I love the magic of transforming something so hard into something plastic that I shape to express my desire or will.

I’m not terribly faithful, though, and I enjoy experimenting with other materials and techniques like printing, found objects, and resin.

Do you have a favorite color palette?

You know, I can’t say that I do.

What are your inspirations in your art and in life?

I’m constantly being inspired by other crafters and small-business owners. Seeing their creativity and hard work makes me feel proud and pushes me to work hard and take risks in my own business. I geek out a lot on history and anthropology and long, old novels, and a lot of my designs start out as an idea or question that I take away from my reading.

What is your favorite song or album to listen to while working?

Since I’ve already shared my nerdy affinity for anthropology texts, you might as well know that most of the time I work with the radio tuned to the local NPR station all day. When I do make the effort to find and play a CD, I often end up listening to Antony and the Johnsons, the Decemberists, the X-Ray Specs, Animal Collective and The Magnetic Fields.

Who are some of your favorite indie artist/crafters and why do you love them?

My home is full of handmade items: from the art on the walls to the clothes in my closet to the table in my kitchen to the food in my fridge. It’s hard to single out favorites, but lately I’ve really been connecting with the artwork of Nora Aoyagi and Lany Devening. Both women draw on a deceptively simple and psychologically compelling lexicon of familiar motifs and iconography, yet express something idiosyncratic and intimate through their work. That paradox really interests me.

Any exciting future plans or developments in the works for your business?

Yes! I just completed an 11-week business development program for women, so I’m bubbling with ideas and plans. One of the projects I’m most excited about is implementing a system of more ecologically-sound studio practices. I’ve also begun doing more custom work, making special rings for weddings, engagements and anniversaries. It’s such a privilege to create handmade objects of enduring and personal significance; I love the process of working closely with people to craft beautiful and unique expressions of their styles, personalities and love. You can follow my blog ( to stay in the loop about new projects, works and events.

You can find out more about Joanna and her products the following websites:

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