Creative Spaces: Kate Ellen

I first became aware of jewelry designer, Kate Ellen because I would often drop by her shop, Crown Nine in my neighborhood. I first started going in just to fawn over the beautiful jewelry but over time I found myself stopping by to chat and catch up with Kate. Kate is a perfect example of why I love Oakland so much, she embodies the creative, entrepreneurial spirit that is so tangible here. Not only does she create her own amazing work but she curates one of the best collections of other artisans work at her beautiful shop. Which is why I wanted share a peak inside her creative process and ask her a little more about jewelry and what inspires her. More after the jump...

Name: Kate Ellen
Occupation: Jewelry Designer + Boutique Owner

What made you want to be a jewelry designer?
Oh my. I love working with my hands, and it's such a powerful experience to have an idea in your head and then make an object. I can't really explain what it feels like when you just know a piece is done, but the best way I can describe it is affirming and joyful. So I love that part of it, the actual thinking, problem solving, and transforming that takes place in my studio in total solitude.

And then I just love-love-love jewelry, always have, always will. I especially love rings and bracelets because they are the two things that as a wearer you really get to look at and enjoy, you can have little private moments throughout your day in which you can look at your hand or wrist and feel happier by what you see there. For example, my Grandma Ellen gave me a necklace when when I was a girl that I outgrew, so instead of keeping it in a jewelry box, I melted it and added it to my Little Rock ring, so now I am always reminded of her when I look down at my hand.

Who are your biggest influences/inspirations for your work?
I admire a lot of different artists and craftsmen, but usually the stuff that really inspires me is not visually drawn from other artists or designers--I get that crazy buzz of energy and inspiration from listening to music (especially live music), reading, or listening to radio programs like Radiolab. I get really energized by ideas. I gain visual inspiration from nature and industrial objects and infrastructure. The best way for me to refuel creatively is to take time away from the studio and just be outdoors for long periods of time. My mind will just go nuts with ideas, and then I like to block off a couple weeks to experiment in my studio. I don't do a ton of sketching, I prefer to actually fabricate samples and then edit.

If you could travel anywhere right now, where would you go?
I want to take a month and a half to road trip from here to Joshua Tree, Grand Canyon, Sedona, Albuquerque, and then up through Utah to all the parks, Zion, Bryce, and Arches. I love road trips, and I think America is just absolutely stunning and inspiring. I really have few aspirations right now to leave the country, I want to explore all over the states. 

What do you love most about being an artist and Business owner in Oakland?
What I love about being an artist is the freedom I feel when I make things, and the joy I feel when I share that with others and they understand and are moved by what I do. And being a business owner is Oakland is amazing-- the small business people here are totally creative and extremely hard working. I feel like there is also a culture of openness, sharing, and a feeling of mutual love and respect for our city. It is hard to do business here, but somehow that brings out the best in us, it forces everyone to find creative ways of solving problems, to work together, and think outside of the box. Plus, I think Oakland residents just really naturally 'get' my values, and are already looking for ways to buy beautiful things that are in alignment with those values. Simply put: own less, enjoy more. 


  1. Thank you so much Maia! I love the Creative Spaces series, I've already devoured all the previous articles so I can't wait to read more of them!

  2. Sharon ZimmermanJuly 5, 2013 at 7:59 PM

    Beautiful interview with one of my favorite people!


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