August 19, 2010

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Mid-life crisis leads ex-Hiller to jewelry design career
Amy’s Hammadde Collection of necklaces, original creations crafted with beads from around the world, are currently available at Artisans on the Avenue, 8436 Germantown Ave. (Photos by Katharine Gilbert)

Former Chestnut Hill resident Amy McCoubrey, 56, is finding her stride. This divorced mother of three young adults, a Boston University cum laude grad with a degree in Italian Studies, separated from her husband in 2005 after 24 years of marriage. Suddenly, this admittedly “very dependent” housewife was on her own. “I had to learn how to become an independent person,” she said. “I did some really hard things; like I bought a house and basically raised the children on my own.”

Amy lived in Chestnut Hill from 1988 to 2002; her family then moved to East Falls until 2005. While she lived in Chestnut Hill, her children attended J S Jenks public school. Her former husband is John McCoubrey, a building contractor whose business is based in Mt. Airy.

After separating from her husband, she lived in Old City from 2005 until 2007, when she decided one day to look for the perfect house — a house that faced south and west, a sunny house. So, she drove in her ‘little green car’ all over the city and kept coming back to the Wissahickon neighborhood, where she found bliss in a charming but in-need-of-repair 100 year-old ramshackle treasure. She has lived here for the past three years with her 19-year-old daughter. Charlotte; her 23-year-old son, Jack, and their cats, Selby and Bobby, both rescues. Her 25-year-old son, Angus, lives and works in New York City.

 “It really was a team effort,” said McCoubrey of the effort to restore and refurbish her house. “My children pitched in and helped with the plastering and painting, and eventually we made it our own.”

McCoubrey grew up in New Hampshire and later Massachusetts, where she attended the Cambridge School of Weston, a progressive high school. After graduation, she spent her entire freshman year of college soaking up the culture and language of Perugia, Italy. Her Italian accent is nearly perfect.

Education is a priority for McCoubrey, who was a substitute teacher at the Waldorf School on the campus of the New Covenant in Mt. Airy, former home of the Pennsylvania School for the Deaf. Her daughter will be a sophomore at Ithaca College, and her sons are graduates of Skidmore and Middlebury Colleges, respectively. And in the footsteps of her parents, she too believes in the need for creative self-expression and complete intellectual freedom, “My parents fostered my creativity, love of nature, resourcefulness and compassion. They allowed me many amazing life experiences in education and travel, and for this I am very grateful.”

For years Amy was a stay-at-home mom who focused on family. “All these years I was devoted to being the best mom I could be, so I never sought a career outside my house.” But changed circumstances, grown children and a trip to the Southwest to visit her sister Louisa, a landscape painter, changed all that.

She burst out of her cocoon, discovered beading and was transfixed. Ever since, she has been designing her own collection of one-of-a-kind bracelets crafted from semi-precious stones such as turquoise, jade, coral, lapis lazuli, carnelian, peridot, quartz and Tibetan silver. Her necklaces, also individually crafted, use beads from the Far East, Tibet, Italy and Africa, and some are rare, like her ancient Hebrew beads.

Both Artisans on the Avenue, 8436 Germantown Ave. in Chestnut Hill (215-381-0582) and Events in Style, 4329 Main St. in Manayunk (215-509-6400) carry Amy’s collection.



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