Kari Johnson owns AOS Metals, 527 Bogart Place, Scranton, where she designs and sells handmade jewelry. She describes her products as “simple and classic, but something that will last forever and stay in style.” A graduate of Tunkhannock Area High School, she attended Keystone College and lived in Jackson, Wyoming, for 12 years, where she studied at University of Wyoming. She lives in Clarks Summit with her dog, Milo.
Meet Kari Johnson…
How did you get into jewelry making?
It first started when I was living out in Jackson, Wyoming. I was just looking for a creative outlet to do during the winter since it’s nine months of winter. Jackson is a huge arts town, so it was really great to be able to try different things. I did some pottery, I did some metal-smithing, and I really loved it. Being able to melt metal and hammer metal was a great outlet.
What led to your hobby becoming a business?
When I really started to take it seriously as a hobby, it got very expensive. The tools aren’t cheap; the metal isn’t cheap. I went to a farmer’s market in Jackson thinking, I” should try to sell some of this stuff to support my habit,” and it went really well, so I kind of just took it from there.
How do you choose the specific materials you use?
Everything I pick, I hand-pick. The blues and greens are turquoise, from people out in Nevada, Utah and New Mexico. They mine it themselves. They’re lapidary artists, so they’re bringing it back to their studio and cutting it how they see the colors. It’s another way to support the arts instead of buying from overseas where it’s mass-produced. That way I get to actually pick what I’m receiving.
Your logo is an iconic feather. How did it come to be?
I think there’s a stance with feathers that is special to so many people. I know a lot of people think that when they find a feather, a loved one who passed away is thinking of them. I think they just symbolize so many beautiful things to so many people. It’s fun to help them have that memory.
Can you describe some of the processes and techniques you use?
We’ll go back to the feathers. It’s very time-consuming. Each feather starts completely as a sheet of metal. I trace the feather and go in with a tiny jeweler’s saw and cut it out. Then you fire them; I have to solder the spine on and cut the wire. When it’s fired, each one comes out differently (colored). I try to pair them up so they have a similar color palette.
You recently started teaching jewelry-making classes. What can people expect if they sign up for a class?
They’re a lot of fun. They’re BYOB, so that always helps. You get a bar, and you can learn how to stamp using all the different designs and learn about the pressure of the hammer and how you’re indenting. I talk about some of the different metals we use and what effect the stamp has on that metal.
Have you gotten any interesting custom requests?
Sometimes I stamp something, and I don’t know what it means. Then a client will tell me it has to do with a pet they’ve lost or a child they’ve lost. It’s just these moments that you’re able to create for someone as a memory, and it tugs at my heartstrings, and to be a part of something that special and to make something for someone that they’re going to hold that close to their heart.
How can people find your products outside of the storefront?
We do a lot of shows. We usually travel every weekend, especially in the summer and fall up until Christmas. We try to keep it local. We do the Montage festivals, wine festivals in Tunkhannock, and ScrantonMade is a fantastic festival. We have satellite stores as well — Hallmark in Tunkhannock, NOTE Fragrances in Clarks Summit, and we’re getting ready to move into On&On (in Scranton). We are on Facebook and Instagram at AOSmetals, and we have a website, so you can order from all of those.
What is in the future for AOS Metals?
We love this location and there’s a lot that’s going to be happening here. One of my goals is to help other artists. As an artist, you’re putting something out there that’s very personal, and you put your time and thought into it, and it’s a representation of yourself. It’s very intimidating, so I want to have a safe place for artists to display their work without having to invest too much money. They can put their work up (in AOS Metals), and if they sell something, it’s without having to put any money up front.
What are your hobbies outside of the business?
I like hanging out with my family. I’ll visit my parents. It’s nice to see everybody, and they’ve got a lot of land, so Milo really loves it.
If you weren’t running AOS Metals as a career, what would you be doing?
When I lived in Jackson, I was a nanny for two incredible families. I helped raise the girls, and I just went to visit them a few weeks ago, and they’re still my girls. I love kids. Everyone told me I should be a kindergarten or elementary school art teacher, so it probably would have been something along that line.
What separates you from other stores that sell handmade jewelry in Scranton?
There are tons of stores in Scranton that are great at supporting artists. I was wondering, “How is my store going to be different?” I think it’s my metal work. The fact that you can walk in the store and get something personalized and leave with it five minutes later, or the fact that customers are able to design something themselves. They’re dealing with the actual artist and not just a store owner.
Photos by Emma Black