I encountered Katie and her jewelry at an artisan’s fair a couple years ago and what treasures I discovered! From petit, pearly and dainty to grande, colorful and bold. Her designs are definitely distinctive and absolutely wonderful. You will not find others wearing the same thing, because nobody else creates like she does. Something for everyone. I anticipate her next collection with glee!
Holly: What would you call yourself and what you do?
Katie: I am an artist specializing in jewelry design. Seeing it written on the page like that almost makes me feel like that’s a pretentious statement, but if I have to summarize, that would be it. The truth is I am just an energetic and hard working woman, with a passion for stones and jewelry. I love to design and create new pieces; all my designs are unique, one of a kind.
Holly: Where are you from?
Katie: I am originally from Poland. I moved to the United States 14 years ago, and I live in Chicago’s far west suburbs, in Carol Stream, Illinois.
Holly: As an artist and jewelry creator, how long has it taken you to get to the level you’re at now?
Katie: I have been designing and creating jewelry to sell, with an emphasis on necklaces, for over five years, but that interest goes way back. I have made 1,224 one of a kind necklaces (wow, seeing that number written on the page, almost astounds me!). And I have 709 clients that I know of (that again almost astounds me!).
Over the years I have worked hard to improve my designs, studying the properties of the gems, how to use the proper stones to optimize the healing powers of them. I would not describe myself as being on any level in particular; I think that when you work hard, when you believe in what you are doing, with a little luck and good energy from other people, you can make it. Is this the American dream? I guess it is!
Last October, two of my necklaces were chosen (the pieces are titled “Do You Hear the Ocean” and “Champagne By the Fire”) to exhibit in the Starline Gallery in Harvard, IL. That is something that I cherish and I am very happy about because there is nothing more important for me as an artist than to be recognized as a peer by all of these other great and accomplished artists in an exhibition.
Holly: In what ways do you promote your business? How do you sell your pieces?
Katie: I started trying to generate interest through my circle of friends and began selling pieces at trunk shows and home parties, then art shows. From the beginning, it was a lot of work to get the word out about what I am doing.
When I started making my jewelry I was trying to find places where I could sell them. What I discovered after about a year was that my clients were coming back to me for more!
This is the most important thing for me. We all know that jewelry is widely available in so many stores, almost on every street corner in shopping areas; expensive, cheap, etc. The highlight of every art show is when I see a face that I know. Many times I do not remember the name, but I remember which necklace that she got!
I have recently started a website also, www.katkodesigns.com. Go visit, you can see examples of my work, and buy if you like something there! My brilliant cousin helped me design it, and built it for me.
I realize that in this day and age a website is very important, and I am very happy when I see that somebody has found something they like, and bought a necklace or a set. My first internet sale was a necklace bought by a client in Australia! That was amazing!
Holly: What are some of the major challenges you face or have faced?
Katie: Major challenges for me are custom work and I love when I am challenged by it. For example, a couple of weeks ago I received a phone call from a very nice lady who found my website on the internet and she wanted a special piece of jewelry made for her sister’s birthday. I’ve never seen or met her, so it was a challenge for me to make something that she will like, and most importantly want to wear. Her birthday was on 11/11/11, and she was 33 years old, so I designed and created the necklace for her with all these numbers incorporated in the piece. The best and most important part for me was the phone call afterward saying that she loves it! That is what makes my day!
Holly: What mistakes have you made and what have you learned?
Katie: In the beginning, I did not have great knowledge about the stones. So, for example, one time I bought some (what I thought was) onyx, a black stone. I made a beautiful necklace and earring set that sold quickly, and three months later I received a phone call from the lady who bought it, saying that there is something wrong with the earrings.
I met with her and I saw a perfectly clear orb of glass, the black had vanished! I was so distraught! I explained to her that I must have been duped into buying a fake onyx, that I was sorry and I would acquire genuine onyx and replace them.
Thankfully she was very understanding, and I fixed it for her. But as a result, I learned a lot! I studied quite a bit about gems, their properties, and now I am very discerning and selective about the stones I purchase.
Holly: How do you balance your professional and personal life?
Katie: It can be very hard, especially before shows. My husband supports me all the way even though sometimes he needs to survive without dinner…
Holly: What artists or people have you looked up to, respected, and/or admired?
Katie: Cindy Garwood, she is the owner of Wilmot Artisan Market in Wilmot, WI. I do respect her a lot for her professionalism with promoting her work (she is a great photographer) and all the other artists that are in the Gallery along with me. She can so easily open up about her work; I wish that I could too, like her.
Holly: Do you ever enlist the services of a coach or mentor or someone who advises you?
Katie: I am always open for advice. Sometimes it will be a friend from the dog park, and other times it will be a client, artist, long time friend, or family member. I think that we can learn every day from people that are around us!
Holly: How do you refresh, recharge and stay motivated?
Katie: My adorable dog Rosie; she’s a yellow lab. She will “take me” to the dog park, especially on those days that I sit all day and make new pieces, and she knows that I need it!
My motivations are my clients. If I know that some of them will come to the next art show, I am up for it!
Holly: What inspires you?
Katie: New stones! When I go to buy them I already see and imagine new pieces.
Holly: What advice might you have to someone starting out in your profession?
Katie: Be the best that you can in what you doing and never give up!
Holly: Have you ever had a particularly funny or embarrassing moment?
Katie: I was thinking about this question… So here is one.
As women we all probably have this kind of story.
Mine happened just recently at the Starline Gallery on the exhibit night. There were a lot of people there, a lot of artists and quests. My friend Agnes and I were talking to some of the quests and I noticed, (I could feel it), that the shoulder strap from my bra became unhooked. Now this is not an ordinary bra, it’s straps are removable, so that it is reconfigurable for strapless, etc.
I quietly remarked to Agnes, in Polish, what had happened, and she jokingly replied, “No wonder there are so many cute guys around.”
After a little while we began walking with a small group of people, stopping here and there to look at different art displays as we headed toward the bar for some wine.
A gentleman approached me and tapped my arm, saying, “Excuse me, but I think you dropped this” and held out his hand with my strap in it!
I must have turned six shades of red, I was so mortified! Then, my companions all started laughing, which got me started too.
But I said, “Thank you, this is just the most embarrassing moment on my life.”
He smiled and said, “You’re welcome”.
As they turned to leave, his wife looked back and, in a hushed voice
said, “Don’t worry, he has no idea what it is.”
Please visit Katie’s site at www.katkodesigns.com to view her one-of-a-kind jewelry or call 630.835.8502 for info.