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Amy Sternberg began her entrepreneurial career as an artist at a young age: In high school, her hand-painted sweatshirts and other pieces of clothing were in demand with her classmates and friends, and she honed her unique customization techniques.

“I’ve always loved drawing and painting and doodling on anything I can get my hands on,” says Sternberg, who started taking art classes at the Birmingham Bloomfield Art Center when she was 7 years old.

The West Bloomfield mom of two college-age daughters began her career at Eastern Michigan University as an art major. “But I realized that I did not like being graded on my hobby,” she says, and she soon changed her course of studies to English and journalism.

Working as an assistant editor in the educational technology department of a Chicago publisher until her first daughter was born, Sternberg’s doodles sat on the backburner; as her kids got older, she went to work in various local retail shops, making occasional customized paint pieces for friends and their kids along the way.

Finally, a little over a year ago, Sternberg listened to the longtime faithful urging of her mother-in-law, Judee Sternberg, and went into business for herself, creating Artworks by Amy, LLC. Buying stock from a growing assortment of vendors, Sternberg custom hand-paints everything from piggy (and purse and tzedakah) banks to pencil boxes and camp clipboards to step stools, rocking chairs and larger-scale furniture out of her home, with her living and dining rooms doubling as packing and shipping areas. Meeting with clients who choose the designs they want, from flowers, princesses, sports, a favorite book or pretty much anything the child or parent is interested in, Sternberg creates heirloom-quality works of art that are completely intended to be well-used and hands-on adored.

Whether created as charming little personalized party favors, or as a little girl’s prized possession, like a sweetly painted diminutive doll bed, replete with blanket and pillow, Sternberg gives her customers exactly what they want. Last summer, she worked with a mom and her 10-year-old daughter to create a desk that incorporated all of the girl’s favorite colors and patterns, plus a special quote that her parents had picked out for her.

Often, clients will bring her an old, weathered piece of furniture, and Sternberg will renovate it, breathing new life into something that had sat for years in the basement, like a scratched-up and water-stained pine dresser that she sanded, then coated with chalk paint, and waxed before distressing it. “It’s a favorite piece of mine,” she says.

And she loves giving them what they want. “I love that my gifts make people happy,” says Sternberg. “I get to use my creativity, and have fun with it, while working.”

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