Ashley Linden is a store owner, designer and jeweler, and president of AJA (Arkansas Jewelers Association.) She kindly took time to talk with me in this interview about her career, her new line “Pink,” and the upcoming 2021 AJA Convention this September!
Watch the video above or on YouTube and check out the highlights below to learn more about her brand, career, and future!
JOTT: Ashley, will you tell everybody a little bit about yourself?
Ashley: Yeah, hi!
I’m a goldsmith by trade and a jeweler in Bentonville, Arkansas. I got started in the business in Florida and learned the repair business first, so it just really spurred my interest to go further and learn benchwork and goldsmithing. Now I have my own store. We’ve been in Bella Vista for 11 years and just moved here to Bentonville back in November. I love this business, I can’t imagine doing anything else.
JOTT: You’re so young! What year did you get started?
Ashley: I wanted to be in the jewelry business ever since I was a kid. My aunt used to bring me into jewelry stores and show me her jewelry and let me try it on. I used to go to Sissy’s Log Cabin in Pine Bluff, so that was the store that spurred my interest in this business. I have a lot of respect for Sissy, of course. She’s just a phenomenal human being and what she’s been able to do with that store has just been amazing.
I’ve known what I wanted to do from a young age. I actually went to college for Art History. My dad was not a believer in trade work. He was a believer in traditional college and pushed me to get a four-year degree even though I knew I wanted to go into the jewelry business.
In Tampa, after Florida State which is where I studied Art History, I got my start at Ackerman Jewelers. They’re family-owned and have great ethics. I’m so fortunate to start off with a store that had ethics and morals in this industry and that was able to teach me that your reputation in this industry follows you everywhere.
I also did goldsmithing with David Adams in Fayetteville and that’s where I learned how to melt metal and set stones properly, make my own channels, make my own gravers. I think it was sadistic at times to have me make my own beading tools. But when you’re in a pinch on Christmas Eve and you need to pave something, by golly, I can do it!
Ashley on Women in the Industry
Ashely: I did not know one woman on the bench for the first couple of years, until I went to work for Rogers Jewelers and they sent me up to their home office and taught me more repairs. They had one female jeweler in their repair center there, and that was the first time I had seen a woman at the bench. Of course, I’ve seen more since, especially given social media and being able to find jewelers across the country, I’ve seen many many more. The women in my family never saw anything as being a reason not to “go for it.” If you want to do it, then you do it.
Ashley on starting her own business
Ashley: In 2011, after the recession hit, I thought “People still want to have their jewelry repaired.” I built my store around repairs and repurposing jewelry and it stuck.
JOTT: You have a unique store! It’s a very artistic, specialized high-quality boutique-type store. Is that how it started out?
Ashley: I started off the store as a one-woman show in Bella Vista. All my inventory was on memo. I had a teeny tiny budget to get my store open. I had used cases that were spit-shined by my family. It was a bare-bones experience and it was fun, we slowly grew from there into a bigger vision of what I wanted. At first, I just wanted to fix jewelry. I didn’t really have a vision yet. Now I’m so excited because I get to support other women and other designers. We want people to walk in the door and feel like it’s a bespoke place where they can get a one-of-a-kind piece.
JOTT: What inspired the styles you have in your store?
Ashley: The first line that I came out with was because I’ve always been attracted to the unusual and unexpected; the juxtaposition of refined and raw. I didn’t see a lot of jewelers making things out of seemingly more obvious “rocks.” I like the rocks! Druzy quartz is big and raw, and unrefined. I love that! That’s what inspired my first collection.
JOTT: Since starting this journey with your store, you’ve grown as a company, you’re the president of AJA, you have an amazing network. You have female jewelers in your store!
Ashley: It’s such a great dynamic around here. I was talking to my husband about how important it is for females to verbalize positive comments to one another. There is such great energy about living right now and being a female and being able to encourage one another. It’s such a great vibe here. We appreciate each other for all the things we are. I can’t imagine it any other way.
JOTT: You changed locations during covid! What was that like?
Ashley: I wanted to be close to Downtown Bentonville to get the energy of the artist’s community. I signed the dotted line of the lease agreement right as covid hit Northwest Arkansas. In my mind, I was already committed. I was like “Ya know what? We’re just gonna go for this.” It was terrifying for the first few months there, but thankfully that was short-lived and we started rocking and rolling in May 2020 and haven’t slowed down since.
JOTT: Tell me about your new line, Pink.
Ashley: It’s about feeling powerful and being a woman. How it’s ok to wear your lipstick and your heels and be a boss. Embrace that feminity, yet, that power. I know it sounds weird or cheesy but it is a real thing. As a female and a boss, I’ve struggled with not wanting to be too much or too powerful. At this time in the world right now, I’ve been able to fit into this idea of being a feminine woman and being in a place of power. It’s a good and comfortable place to be in. I wanted to find powerful pieces that also have a feminine feel. I hope each piece feels powerful in its own way yet feminine, sweet, elegant, and all those things that we can be.
Ashley on the uniqueness of Pink
Ashley: We want to stick to one-of-a-kind pieces. Everything is a one-off piece. I might make one in white gold, one rose gold, one in yellow gold. Otherwise, they’re each one of a kind. I don’t intend on adding to this collection.
Ashley on AJA (Arkansas Jewelers Association)
Ashley: I’ve been a member the entire time I’ve been open, so 11 years. In the beginning, it was great because, with little money and funds to travel, buy, and network, it was a wonderful opportunity for me to do that here locally. They were big on bringing in vendors and classes, which was what brought me into the organization and made me stay. Every time we meet at the conventions, we want to bring in speakers that are not only entertaining and interesting but somebody you can learn from. We do all kinds of different classes. This year, we’re hosting AJA at Crystal Bridges which is going to be a beautiful backdrop. We have a speaker named Marion Fischer from Geneva and she is going to speaking on vintage jewelry and how to price it and value it. On Sunday, we have one class booked for sure with Remy Rotenier.
The dates are September 11th and 12th. Saturday the 11th at Crystal Bridges in the evening probably starting around 5pm, offering private tours throughout the museum, wine, and a late dinner. And the next day (Sunday the 12th) we’ll get together at 21C Museum Hotel.
Is the invitation open to other professionals in the industry?
Ashley: You can join AJA even if you’re not in the state of Arkansas. If you go to the Arkansas Jewelers Association website, you can purchase tickets (soon.) http://www.arkansasjewelers.com/
What is the future of Linden’s Jewelry and Ashley Linden Designs?
Ashley: I guess I have some small goals that feel big to me. I want to offer really good insurance for my employees. We’re big on continuing education here in the store. After you’ve been an employee of mine for a year, then I pay for your continuing education. We’re pushing ourselves and our designs, making ourselves better jewelers. That’s my goal for every day.
Find Ashley online: