Beauty from Within

Human Interest: Amy Howard

Beauty from Within
Photos by: Stacy Allen

Amy Howard’s endeavor to celebrate & empower women every day.

Beauty—the act of creating it, of finding it within, of seeing it in the unexpected—can often be a profound implement of human growth. Some might even say the pursuit of beauty, and the belief in its inherent nature in all things, may in fact be the pursuit of something closer to the divine.

Alys Beach homeowner, Amy Howard has built a life’s work on this belief, and now she’s sharing that vision with her community to uplift and empower women through the restoration and creation of beautiful things. Those “things,” for Amy and the women she mentors at A Maker’s Studio, might be the reclaimed furniture they learn to restore, or candles they pour by hand. But the truth of the matter is, what Amy Howard is doing is helping women see what’s intrinsically beautiful about themselves, how to see their true worth and a hopeful vision for the future, and the power of a community rooted in hospitality.

After an incredibly successful career in designing and producing luxury furnishings for the likes of F. Schumacher and beyond, Amy realized in the early 2000s an opportunity for market growth as the DIY movement began to emerge.

“What I realized was that for many women, the appeal of DIY was not necessarily about the affordability. It was, and is, about creating something, owning something you have bragging rights over.” With her businesses Amy Howard at Home—which offers quality, high performance finishing products for home furnishings—and A Maker’s Studio—a space where individuals can learn the art and craft of refinishing furniture—Amy has created environments and tools to help make furniture restoration and repurposing more accessible.

“I love being able to teach women how to create the environment they want for their life,” she says.

The product of these endeavors is a mark left upon the lives of thousands of women across the country—whether that be their own pride in making their home more beautiful and inviting, their own creative spark re-ignited, or even, a clearer, more hopeful vision for their future. 

Her business, A Maker’s Studio, combined her business savvy, creative talents, and desire to empower women and resulted in a space where her friends, family, and community celebrate the beauty of home and hospitality. While her work has been far-reaching, there’s a particular group of women for whom Amy’s life’s work has been nothing short of life changing.

In 2018, Amy’s “daughter-in-love,” Lee Howard, shared with Amy the stories of her work with A Way Out, a program to help former victims of sex trafficking transition into new lives. Lee wondered, as these women embarked on the arduous and humbling journey to reclaim their lives and see their inherent worth within, could Amy’s studio perhaps be a further instrument of positive change in their lives?

For Amy, the answer was clear. It was as if all her life’s work—in her business life and as she built a home rooted in hospitality—had led to this opportunity. She would expand her studio offering to the women in A Way Out, as well as other programs for women’s recovery and restoration.

To the women participating in Amy’s mentorship program, the concept of creating an environment and a life for themselves is as vital as it is daunting. For many of them, rediscovering their own worth was also critical to open a new chapter in their lives.

“When I talk to these women, so many of them say, ‘I don’t know who I am. I didn’t even know I was creative. I’ve never done this and I love it. And it’s a passion of mine and I want to continue this because it’s so healing.’”

Hearing about these experiences only stoked the passion Amy already felt towards the women and the program. Although her life experiences were vastly different from theirs, she, and

indeed many women, can relate to that fundamental idea of “Who am I?” 

In Amy’s studio, she creates a space for them to discover the answer to that question on their own terms.

“I want my friends everywhere to have an opportunity to just get together and to make and create and talk and bond, as well as the women that I work with who have been trafficked or are in recovery.”


Amy’s mentorship program has helped countless women in two equally necessary ways. Many of the women who participate have gone on to have successful careers, families, and homes for themselves—things that at many times may have seemed impossible to them, but through the mentorship and life skills gained in the program were made attainable.  But beyond those vital life needs, the mentorship and makers program has allowed for a different kind of growth—a personal and healing journey that is vital to the spirit.

“Creativity is incredibly healing. We get out of our heads and we go into a process when we’re working with our hands,” Amy says. “There’s all this scientific documentation on the rewiring of the brain in the healing process. So when we’re doing that for so many of them, even if they’re not creative per se, that’s such an amazing thing to witness and be a part of.”

One of those women, Tierra—affectionately called “T”— is often in awe of the direction her life has taken today. Currently a studio manager at A Maker’s Studio in Santa Rosa Beach, T came to know Amy as she went through the program of a local non-profit, Be Generous, which supports women in recovering from addiction and abuse. Amy, whose capacity for care and hospitality seems boundless, poured her time and energy into T, believing in her abilities, seeing and helping her believe her own value, and creating a warm and creative environment in the studio for her.

“Speaking for myself, I had a lot of coping to do,” says T. “I found a lot of healing through Amy’s A Maker’s Studio. Taking furniture and refinishing it, making it beautiful again. I always felt so proud of myself when I completed a project,” she explains. 

After spending time in A Maker’s Studio, T grew not only in her skills but in her confidence, too. She now holds responsibility within the organization, ensuring projects are managed well and operations run smoothly on her watch. She’s grown to a place to now be able to give of herself—she shares her knowledge and her insight in further advancement of the program that serves so many. She’s even in school to become a nurse.

“Working with Amy ultimately prepared me to dream. To ask God, ‘what is my purpose?’ And I knew immediately it was nursing,” says T. “I had to believe and to follow a path, day-to-day  showing up for myself.”

“When you’re sitting down in a program, it’s really humbling. You’re at the end of yourself. So to be able to create and find beauty, it really is a magnificent thing.”

T admits that the journey of refinishing furniture often mirrors life. Things don’t always go as expected. The maker must always put in the work, holding her vision for the end product with hope and clarity, even if it means stripping a piece down and starting over.

“But it’s worth it, because the end product is beautiful.”


Rescue, Recover, Restore. This is the mantra of Be Generous, and its intent and meaning are a powerful summation of the work that Amy helps her apprentices accomplish at A Maker’s Studio. The rescue comes when the choice is made to seek help when that “end of yourself,” as T says, place is reached, and women find help and a hand up in programs like A Way Out and Be Generous. The recovery that begins from there is nonlinear and deeply personal. And in restoration, that’s where beauty truly comes to life.

Amy’s faith is one that speaks to beauty and restoration, and is a driving force in her life and work.

“God doesn’t see us how we are currently,” she explains. “He sees us as what we could be.” 

The space Amy creates for restoration allows for women to not only create art, but also to gain life skills. To see what they could do and be. To earn trust and build a résumé to gain work that honors who they are and provide well for their families—no matter what their lives looked like in the past. That restoration happens when people like Amy take their time, energy, and passion to share true hospitality, pouring into women like T and countless others. 

Amy will be the first to tell you that her effort is indeed a community effort. She’s enlisted those around her, drawing them into her vision for these women, to be a part of the program in a variety of ways. Whether through funds raised to provide housing for program participants or by

inviting friends and professional colleagues in to share their own advice and insights into their careers, Amy believes that the best, most powerful work is done in community.

“Of course monetary donations help, but beyond that, the sense of hope I’ve gained has made the greatest difference,” says T. “I don’t think I realized it before, but hope wasn’t something I ever had a lot of. But all it took was women sharing their time.”

This, Amy knows, is true hospitality. 

Home, hospitality, and community go hand in hand for Amy, and her home at Alys Beach and A Maker’s Studio are the epicenter of the community she’s created.

“For me, home is not a place you bring someone to impress them or show off. That’s the last thing. From the moment somebody walks in, they should feel welcomed. I want to create spaces that give off a spirit of love,” Amy explains. “When they’re here, their shoulders go down and when they leave, they feel refreshed and encouraged. If that happens, then I have been successful.”

There is perhaps not a physical home in the world big enough to encompass the work and community that Amy is building. Through joyful effort, she has crafted a space that invites beauty and radiates warmth. The energy that emanates from A Maker’s Studio draws people in and lifts them up, and it is her hope that this energy will continue to spread through the community and be picked up by those around her like a beacon of light. “The people who need help, they’re not across the world. They’re here. It starts here. At home.”