It might surprise you to learn that Bay Area jewelry designer Kate Ellen was never a girlie girl, which might seem like a prerequisite for success as a maker of pretty things women wear on their wrists, necks and lobes.
“I was always kind of drawn to the blurring of gender stuff. I grew up as a tomboy…The metal smithing end of [jewelry design] is something that girls aren’t traditionally taught to do. I get dirty. I’m wearing a mask when I work, and that’s part of the reason that I think it’s so much fun. It’s not totally over the top feminine. It’s somewhere in the middle,” says Point Richmond-based Ellen, who solders and shapes each piece of her silver, brass and gold jewelry ($80-$350).
The Bay Area native decided to pursue jewelry as a business only after intending to follow a career in public health. But the end of a relationship that led her across the country and back again sent her into reevaluation mode. That’s when the 28-year-old decided to take what had always been a hobby and turn it into a full-time gig.
“I felt like I really wanted to be doing something really creative and artistic. I basically just decided to just go for it,” she says.
Ellen may make it sound simple, but ask her more about her journey, and you’ll quickly discover that hard work and entrepreneurial spirit lies underneath. In addition to classes at East Bay creative hub The Crucible, Ellen took business and accounting classes and reads voraciously about entrepreneurship.
Her advice for budding designers?
“Even if you’re really, really talented, just prepare yourself that it’s marathon and not a sprint,” she says.
As for the pieces that Ellen makes for men and women, the frill-free designs mix hard and soft sensibilities and can often be worn in more ways than one.
“My aesthetic is sort of industrial, but very organic at the same time because a lot of the shapes aren’t perfectly symmetrical and a lot of the pieces are sort of androgynous.”
Want to peruse Kate Ellen Metals in person? You’ll currently find them at Wonderland in San Francisco. Custom orders are also available by contacting Ellen directly.