A Las Vegas native forges her own career path, handcrafting whimsical jewelry and vibrant gifts for her online store
“There’s a lot of creativity and imagination here that tourists often overlook,” says Amelia Wignall, a Las Vegas native and versatile artisan.
Amelia’s educational path is rather unconventional. At first, she pursued studying Cultural Anthropology at the College of Southern Nevada, but she was opposed to the hypocrisy she observed from those she knew who were working in the field. This led her to eventually finding the right niche—a subject she didn’t realize she had been looking for all along, psychology and mythological studies, which explore the works of Carl Jung, Joseph Campbell, and Michael Meade.
The Las Vegas native furthered her education by earning a Certification of Applied Mythology from Pacifica Graduate Institute. She’s always been fascinated with folk art and different cultural traditions practiced around the globe, which is reflected in her artwork. But she believes education should be a lifelong goal, adding that “libraries are the coolest invention ever.”
Her online Etsy business came to fruition during a period of her life when she felt stuck and was struggling to find work. She was open to taking on a new initiative. That is when her mentor suggested that she should start a business, knowing she was a creative person who loved a challenge and feared working in a cubicle. Now Amelia makes a wide selection of whimsical jewelry fit for every occasion, especially imaginative pieces that reflect her Jewish heritage. She handcrafts pet-inspired jewelry, meditation kits, food jewelry, holiday gifts and much more.
One of the most popular items she sells are her Passover earrings, one side of which is a piece of matzah and the other a bottle of wine. She’s been making jewelry and crafts by hand for about a decade now.
“Since creating Amelia’s Art-ifacts, I’ve done several paradigm shifts—each time muttering that scary but brave word ‘help’ and doing my best to listen. Every time I’ve done this, I’ve pivoted, becoming clearer on why I do what I do, the impact I want to make on the world, and the audience I’m trying to reach,” says Amelia. “I’ve never been very religious but, with the recent rise of antisemitism, I began exploring my Jewish identity from an anthropological standpoint, and in a sense, found new inspiration for Amelia’s Art-ifacts.”
Off The Strip chats with Amelia about what she has learned from becoming a local business owner, a special experience she shared with a customer, and social issues she deeply cares about.
Why do you create art?
A Japanese Zen Buddhist monk and poet, Ikkyu, once said, “Many paths lead from the foot of the mountain, but at the peak we all gaze at the single bright moon.”
When it comes to getting in touch with yourself, some people meditate; others journal. I create art. It’s my way of getting in touch with who I am and who I want to be.
Why did you pick the name Amelia’s Art-ifacts?
Oh, great question! I chose the name when I realized I had a love for learning about cultures, art, and myths around the world. An artifact is an object of cultural or historical interest created by a person; I hyphenated the word after art because I think of each piece I create as a small work of art. I want customers to feel like they’ve stumbled upon a treasure trove, where they can find items that are both whimsical and meaningful.
Please describe a special experience you had with a customer who purchased one of your handcrafted goods.
I have had so many special experiences with customers that it’s hard to choose just one. I’ve encountered so many people who are unbelievably thoughtful, caring, and compassionate—they often buy gifts from my shop for others and attach notes that are so sweet, they make me cry. One customer had bought a Hanukkah gift for a neighborhood boy who was having a hard time in school; she asked me to add something extra to make him feel special (I was more than happy to include fun stickers and free coloring pages with his gift). I really enjoy working with the people who buy my products!
How have you grown personally since becoming a local business owner?
The lessons I ended up learning from owning my own business are not necessarily the lessons I would have ever imagined I needed or wanted to learn. I’ve gained a lot of clarity and focus in ways I didn’t think I needed. I’ve realized that changing the world and bringing people together begins with changing myself and opening up to new ways of viewing things. I learned the importance of being patient with myself so I can be patient with others (this is a huge lesson I’m still learning).
There have been many times when I’ve accidentally said the wrong thing, pressed the wrong button, or, on the rare occasion, sent a product to the wrong customer. I used to go into full panic mode when something like that happened, but I’ve learned that customers really appreciate honesty and know when you’re going the extra mile for them. I’ve learned that making mistakes isn’t the end of the world. We all make mistakes—that’s what makes us human. As my mentor always says, it’s not a matter of making mistakes; it’s a matter of what you do about those mistakes.
What is something unique about you that most people don’t know?
I really try to be an open book, but I often forget to string all my chapters together. I have a love of travel, creating art, cooking, baking, and history. One of my passions is studying ancient trade routes around the world, especially the Silk Road. I often delve into history in search of forgotten ancient traditions to modernize, or I’ll pick up a cookbook from the library from a specific region of the Silk Road. Cookbooks, I’ve learned, are a great way to learn about other cultures.
What people are usually surprised to learn about me are the kinds of pets I own and some of the odd jobs I’ve had. I have pet chickens, three cats (one of which I jokingly call a potato because he was the size of a sweet potato when we got him), a parrot, and a bunch of fish. I used to have pet rabbits. Prior to the pandemic, I created two TV series with my parents for PBS, through which I had the opportunity to work closely with several Native American tribes. I had also been a judge for the Dam Short Film Festival.
Most inspiring place in Vegas?
I’m always inspired when I visit a library or the Downtown Arts District. We have an awesome library system in Las Vegas, offering not only books and computer access but an incredible list of events, from lectures to music to theatre to art exhibits! The Downtown Arts District has a vibe that always inspires me; it’s the true heartbeat of the city and invites you to see the world from a new perspective.
What local nonprofit do you support, and why?
I care deeply about environmental conservation, women’s rights, human rights, and immigration and refugee issues. A portion of the proceeds from sales of my nature-themed jewelry goes to support the Xerces Society, which helps with bee, butterfly, and firefly conservation. I’m also a strong supporter of Planned Parenthood. I’m still looking for other nonprofits to support that deal with human rights and help refugees.
Is there anything else you want to talk about that we haven’t covered?
Everyone wants to feel that they matter, that their voice is heard, and that they are seen. I keep this in mind when preparing orders and receiving feedback from customers. Listening is a skill we often forget to teach and often overlook in our day-to-day lives. Thank you for listening.