Tuesday, September 20, 2011
Green with Envy
Amy Devers, '97, a diva of home and yard decor, wields a mean power saw.
Amy Devers, '97. Photo by Emily Shur
|Story Keywords: 360, Professional Studies and Fine Arts, Alumni, College Area, Community, Faculty, Staff, Students, Art, People, California, Leadership Starts Here|
Meet Amy Devers, ’97, designer, teacher, carpenter and TV personality.
If her face looks familiar, you're probably a fan of “Trading Spaces” or “DIY to the Rescue,” among television's most popular home improvement shows.
Anyone who has witnessed Devers’ knowledge and fabrication skill on these series has got be a little in awe. The woman wields a mean power saw.
For Devers’ current role as host of the A&E network’s “Fix This Yard,” she is part entertainer, part expert craftsman and large part workhorse. It’s a combination that reflects her off-screen persona.
“Any time you see me digging a hole in someone’s front yard, that’s real,” she said. “Someone else doesn’t take over when the cameras stop. You have to work just as hard as the crew behind the scenes.”
What audiences may not appreciate is Devers’ talent and training as a conceptual designer whose work has been exhibited internationally. Television was not part of the original plan.
A native of Ypsilanti, Mich., Devers headed to New York City' Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) after high school. She studied fashion merchandising—a safe career choice, her parents thought—but was always more intrigued by the projects assigned to her friends in FIT's design programs.
After graduation, Devers dumped the New York fashion world for California, taking odd jobs and occasional art classes. A community college instructor encouraged her to apply to San Diego State University's School of Art, Design and Art History. She chose to study furniture design after reading about department chair Wendy Maruyama, a graduate of the prestigious Rhode Island School of Design (RISD).
“It was so exciting to see a female fronting this male-dominated field,” Devers recalled. “And not just a female, but an Asian female. Wendy was indomitable. I learned a lot about problem-solving and adjusting on the fly. Her classes empowered me.”
Maruyama's recommendation helped Devers secure her own spot in the master's program at RISD, where she quickly earned a reputation as an over achiever. While most students produced one or two individual pieces for their thesis projects, Devers designed and built an entire nightclub lounge using only bathroom materials and fixtures.
After RISD, Devers moved to Los Angeles and sought out jobs that would build her skills. Earlier, she had worked as a machine shop foreman at a design and manufacturing firm, where she fabricated environmental designs and streamlined production operations. Now, she partnered with another SDSU graduate to do finish carpentry work for a general contracting firm, all of which readied her for a television career she never anticipated.
"A friend of a friend told me about a casting call for a home improvement show. The producers wanted a female co-host with real credentials. I figured why not? It was part of the L.A. experience.”
After nearly 10 successful years, Devers approaches her television career as a design project that still needs tweaking. The challenge, she said, is to please the homeowners while engaging the wider television audience.
“I am proud of the information I put out there and I love seeing the light bulb go on, especially with women,” Devers admitted. “I can guide them to the place where they say, ‘Oh, I get it. I can do this on my own now.’”
Where her career goes next is anyone's guess. But this much is certain: during the upcoming television season, you’ll find Amy Devers in the yard of some very lucky homeowners whose neighbors are sure to be green with envy.