Tell us about yourself! What’s your name and where are you from?
Katie Dean. Caledonia, Michigan.
So how did you get started with jewelry making?
I was in a crossroads in life. I had a great job that I could grow with and kept me really busy but I was feeling pretty worn out and not as excited about life as I used to. I realized that a big part of that was because, creatively, I wasn’t fulfilled. My whole life, hands on art was such a big part of what kept me happy. Whether it was painting or knitting or doing sculptures, it was my life blood. So at that point I started to make time on a daily basis to do some sort of art project. I kind of fell into jewelry by accident. I started designing my own pieces because I was having a hard time finding exactly what I wanted. I would see pieces and really like certain aspects of them but there seemed to always be something that didn’t quite match the style or look I was going for. I actually made my first pieces by breaking apart a necklace that I already owned and re-assembling it and changing certain details of it to be exactly what I wanted. After that my creativity was sparked in the jewelry world, I started going to DTLA and exploring the different supply stores. I went wild buying up different elements and every night I would make pieces for hours. That’s how it all began!
How was your move from Michigan to LA? If any way, how has it inspired you?
Moving from Michigan to LA was a culture shock for sure—I had a very hard time adjusting the first 3-4 years. I was constantly learning new things, getting my car towed, and having to start fresh in regards to where I fit in and who my friends were. It was challenging, but I’m so glad I stuck it out because I became independent and certain of who I was. All the experiences made me who I am today. I think it’s important to take life’s lessons and grow from them coming out all the better on the other side.
Tell us more about "that moment" when you decided jewelry was for you.
That moment was pretty early on for me. After a few weeks of making jewelry, I started wearing my pieces while I was out and I got stopped by people who would ask where I bought it. I literally sold my first few pieces off of me. As soon as that happened a lightbulb went off. I loved what I was doing and people wanted to buy it. It was that magic combination that every artist looks for when they want to take their passion to a career.
It didn’t happen over night though. I had to take things step by step. I continued to work full time as an assistant stylist for over a year while starting my line and at about the year and half mark I went to part time and then at two years I could see that I was getting to the point that I had to be very specific of where I put my time because I was getting busier with orders and events and I was burning the candle at both ends which was starting to take it’s toll. I had gained enough momentum and had grown the brand enough where I had boutiques and online traffic that created a steady stream of orders so I went with my gut instinct and decided that I was going to focus on Katie Dean Jewelry full time.
What’s the rocket science behind your products? What materials do you use and what’s the creation process like?
It’s important for me that the jewelry is high quality. I make all the rings, charms and most of the earrings with a brass base and 18k gold plating or rhodium for the silver finish. The necklaces and bracelets are all made with gold filled chain. I work with waxes, molds and casting as well as hand assembly of the pieces. I have help with the production of my pieces by hand because of the quantity we are working with now, but I make sure to spend at least one day a week hand assembling orders myself. I never want to lose touch as a business owner with my favorite part of the process!
Where does the inspiration for your pieces come from?
Right now I’m inspired by geometric shapes. I see the world as a huge art installation. I’ll be walking down the street and see a motel sign and think, that shape would look really cool as a pendant. I’m also really inspired by people. I love to travel and see how people in different areas communicate who they are through the aesthetics. They can portray a very specific side of their personality in the way they dress. I am constantly observing and taking notes mentally of what I am drawn to. I keep a notepad in my purse at all times so that I can always sketch out any ideas that I have.
Do you have a favorite piece? Is there are story or memory behind it?
My favorite piece is the Guinevere Lariat. It has so much detail in it but it’s still very classic and it mixes silver and gold so it goes with everything. It’s also one of the first pieces that I made and has always been a best seller. The balance of detail and delicacy in the design is very appealing to people. To me it was a turning point of the direction that the line went — dainty and delicate. I think it will be a constant in the collection forever.
Hmm... There have been a lot. I’d have to say when I got my first large scale order for 3,000 pieces. That was a huge moment. Also, seeing my work on one of my favorite TV shows, Parenthood and on celebrities like Kylie & Kendall Jenner, Shay Mitchell, Lea Michele, Erika Christensen, Jenna Elfman, Amanda Crew, those we’re all exciting moments too.