The People in the Neighborhood: Q & A with Kate Ellen Metals
I caught up with our friend and neighbor Kate Ellen of Kate Ellen Metals and Crown Nine Jewelry as she was preparing to move her shop to a new location. Lucky for us she just moved a 1/2 block down the street to 515 9th St. Check out what Kate has to say about the then, the now, and the future.
How did you get started making jewelry?
When I was just a kid I started with friendship bracelets and lanyards at summer camp and with my sister and cousins. Then I got into beading a bit with seed beads, and then many years later I took a metalsmithing class on a whim. I had always felt a really deep creative drive and urge but hadn't found a way to express it, but when I took that class I felt like my hands already knew what to do. It was so energizing and felt good to be naturally good with the tools. I started my business about three years later and haven't looked back!
What inspires you?
Nature is my primary source of inspiration. I make sure to schedule a couple trips each year to go explore and be outside for an extended period of time as a way of invigorating my mind and creativity. My last trip was to Mojave, Grand Canyon, and Zion. I am now in the process of working on the designs influenced by that trip.
What are your plans for the new space? The space is smaller and more intimate, will you still be teaching classes?
The big news for me personally and professionally is that the new space will house the retail and my workspace, the first time ever I'll have these integrated. That means more time to create! We will also be carrying the work of a rotating roster of some of the best jewelers from around the country, and I will still teach in the spring and fall each year-- so people who are interested in wax carving and mitsuro should join the mailing list, space is super limited in each class.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Personally I would love to have found a partner, be making babies or traveling the world... growing a garden-- and professionally I would like to have expanded and have a small staff working for me. The last five years it has been mostly me, with help from family and friends, so it will be great to actually build an organization that can support the livelihood of other people too.
What are some of your favorite small businesses in Oakland?
I have so many! Of course I love you and Umami Mart, Hawthorn, Show and Tell, Oakland Surf Club, Caffe 817, Cosecha, Betti Ono, The Grand Lake Theatre. Oh! and my favorite hardware store is Marcus Supply Ace Hardware in Jack London-- they all know me and take such good care of me every time I go in, and almost always have exactly what I need. Our downtown is 94% independently owned businesses, unlike any other city and, I really admire all the hardworking, creative people who keep that going-- it really makes me feel like I live in a community with people I know and care about.