Making jewelry keeps skydiver grounded
Ryan Summerlin November 9, 2012
Bambi Knight has a bad habit of falling out of perfectly good airplanes. She doesn’t see it that way, of course. The veteran skydiver and longtime Park City resident claims she took up jumping because she had a nagging fear of heights. But her logic is suspect.
"I took flying lessons in my early 20s but was a little nervous about being up there," says Knight. "I’ve always tried to confront and overcome my fears. I thought, ‘I need to figure out how to get out of the plane and back on the ground in a hurry if something goes wrong.’ So that’s why I took up the sport."
Over 30 years and more than 5,000 jumps later, Knight holds six world skydiving records and still jumps regularly as a member of the Misty Blues, a world-renowned all-woman skydiving team.
Knight, a California native, has also made a name for herself in Park City as a gifted and innovative jewelry designer. She specializes in designing and creating common-sense, durable jewelry that can be worn every day. "That doesn’t mean it can’t be beautiful," she’s quick to add. Based on this simple, heartfelt philosophy, she’s gained and nurtures a loyal local clientele.
Knight’s lifestyle embraces both extreme sport and elegant art, on the surface a baffling combination. Dig a little deeper and it somehow makes sense.
Knight moved to Florida in the early 1980s to work in the banking industry and pursue her newfound passion for skydiving. "Florida was Mecca for skydivers back then," she explains. "I started jumping (with) the new steerable square chutes that are now commonly used and got pretty good at it." She did the third tandem jump ever attempted with legendary skydiver Bill Booth, who invented the tandem harness.
Soon, she was invited to join the Misty Blues. "They were looking for talented young women with good personalities who loved to travel. I definitely fit that last requirement. I’ve always wanted to see the world." She’s traveled with the team to jump and attempt world records in such diverse countries as France, Spain, Malaysia, Mexico, Portugal and Japan.
Knight occupied her Daytona evenings taking continuing education classes. "I knew I wanted to do some kind of art. I chose jewelry-making because my mom said if I picked any other class I’d be a starving artist," Knight chuckles. It was a perfect match and her career path crystallized. She’d found her second real passion.
Within months she had quit her job to apprentice under a veteran Florida jeweler. "Apprenticeships were definitely old school even then, but I’m glad I did it. I really learned a lot," says Knight."
An avid skier, she visited Park City in the mid-1980s on a ski trip. "I saw this great little town and I thought there was a lot of potential here. I realized I couldn’t make much money in jewelry in Daytona Beach, so I moved out here."
Knight partnered with veteran Park City jeweler Dick Doty. Over the years, working with Doty and other jewelers, she has created her own unique style of jewelry. She opened her own business, Designs by Knight, in the mid-1990s.
"I design my jewelry for active people so they can wear it all the time, Knight says. "My style is classic, not trendy, so it doesn’t go out of style. I think I build a nice product. It has a little bit of weight to it, some substance. I use only nice gems,18-karat gold and platinum."
Knight was in the process of moving into a bright, spacious new studio in Prospector Square when interviewed last week. "Just look at this view," she grins, gazing through expansive arched windows at the snow-dusted slopes of the Park City Mountain Resort.
She points out the open foyer, complete with a wet bar. "I want to use this space as a showcase for other local artists, painters and sculptors. There’s plenty of room." She envisions a different display every couple of months. She’s planning an open house for late November.
Knight’s longest lasting love affair has been with the town itself. "Park City is still a great place to live. I like the people here a lot; they have a great mindset. They’re intelligent, well-traveled and they stay in shape. It’s easy to strike up a conversation with people and talk about the world or current events. I love the fact that you can go outside and play all the time, winter and summer. There’s so much to do."
Pausing a moment during her move, Knight reflected on her admittedly unusual lifestyle: "I guess skydiving and gemology sort of give my life balance. I love to make jewelry. It’s a happy business. You’re always making really fun, special things for people. As for skydiving, it gives me the ultimate adrenaline rush and has taken me all over the world. I’ve got a pretty simple take on life now. We live in a time when so much is changing, we’ve got to find joy in the moment. That’s what I’m trying to do."
Two weeks ago, Knight took a day off to go skydiving in nearby Tooele. "I had a great time, learned some new tricks and met some nice people. I also realized I’m still a little afraid of heights. Weird, huh?"
Steve Phillips is a Park City-based writer and actor. Send your profile comments and suggestions to him at firstname.lastname@example.org
Favorite things to do: Ski, swim, hike, ride horses.
Favorite foods: Sushi. "I’m a total foodie. I love real flavors."
Favorite music: "All kinds. I have everything from Pavarotti to the Rolling Stones."
Favorite reading: "I love the classics, like ‘The Portrait of a Lady’ by Henry James. Right now I’m reading ‘American Gods’ by Neil Gaiman."
Bucket List: Travel through Africa and South America; learn to fly sailplanes.