The Daily Aztec

Amy Devers: how to craft a career

Photo+by+Emily+Shur
Photo by Emily Shur

Photo by Emily Shur

Photo by Emily Shur

by Alumni Codices

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I attended SDSU specifically to study furniture design with Wendy Maruyama. She’s at the top of her field and the SDSU Furniture Design program is known to be one of the best in the country. I transferred in with enough credits to graduate in two years, but I stayed for a full four years just so I could fit in as many semesters of furniture design as possible. I graduated with a BA from SDSU in 1997, worked at an environmental design firm for a couple of years, and then went on to obtain an MFA in Furniture Design from RISD.

Since then my career has followed a trajectory that I definitely did not plan for or predict.  For the last ten years or so I have been a TV personality as a full-time job, mostly hosting home improvement how-to and design/lifestyle programs, but also as a journalist of high-design, travel, and food. It’s exciting, terrifying, sometimes glamorous though mostly not, always hard work, and never, ever boring. I love it, but even though I didn’t plan for it, it turns out that SDSU prepared me well for my professional adventures. When I think back to all the know-how I picked up in my days in the SDSU furniture department, these are some of the lessons that have been invaluable in crafting my career:

  1. Everything is a design challenge and good design is about solving problems, so get good at problem-solving. From fixing the world’s problems, to fixing other people’s mistakes, to fixing dinner, the better and more comfortable you are at assessing situations and crafting solutions, the better and more comfortable you are at life.
  2. Your ideas aren’t precious, but your execution of them could have some value. Ideas, no matter how brilliant, are useless if they’re just kept within the confines of your own brain or sketchbook. Exploring an idea, at the very least, provides information for the fine-tuning of future ideas.
  3. Being able to think, initiate and execute independently is a powerful asset. Camaraderie, mentoring and collaboration is equally important. Both pay off in thousands of ways.
  4. Think plans through from micro-est detail to the macro-est perspective. Thinking this thoroughly will answer a lot of questions before they are asked, solve a lot of problems before they occur, give the basis for more accurate timeline projections, allow you to manage expectations more skillfully, and make you so familiar with a project that you can be comfortable making quick decisions and changing plans on the fly. Which leads me to…
  5. Plans always change. Think on your feet. Get used to it.
  6. Even if your work is deeply personal, it does not exist in a vacuum, if you can find a way to connect it to others, then you have a market or audience.
  7. Sincerity is never a bad thing.
  8. Be hands-on. Make something. Having a tangible fruit of your labor (even if it’s not your profession) gives you a very measurable (not abstract in the least) sense of accomplishment, and hones all of the skills mentioned above. It’s empowering and deeply satisfying in a way that translates to all areas of life. 

 

Amy Devers is an artist, designer, furniture maker, carpenter, lifestyle expert, and television personality. She was born and raised in Ypsilanti, Michigan, just outside of Detroit, then zig-zagged across the country to earn three college degrees. First, to New York City for an AAS degree in Fashion Buying and Merchandising from SUNY-Fashion Institute of Technology, then to San Diego where she obtained a BA in Furniture Design from San Diego State University, and finally back to the east coast where she completed her MFA in Furniture Design at the Rhode Island School of Design, earning a RISD Award of Excellence in the process.

Since earning her degrees at SDSU and RISD, Amy has applied her knowledge and expertise in the fields of art, design and DIY to the small screen.  Her credits include host of the landscape make-over show, Fix This Yard, host and designer of Freeform Furniture, host of DIY to the Rescue, and carpenter on TLC’s hit show Trading Spaces.  Amy can currently be seen as a carpenter on Home Made Simple, airing on OWN: Oprah Winfrey Network.  Home Made Simple airs this Saturday, October 19 at 9:00 am PT on OWN.

In addition to all that, she operates Amy Devers Art/Design, a design/build studio in Los Angeles, where she lives, and is trying to find the time to fix her own house and yard. 

Photo by Emily Shur.

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