Welcome to the second installment of HANDMADE HOLIDAY, a blog series that gives a glimpse into the studios and working practices of three of my favorite artists. When searching for holiday gifts for your lovelies this year, please consider supporting makers who are creating one-of-a-kind, beautiful and functional artwork.
Kay Wang of The Things We Keep never ceases to amaze me. She designs jewelry full time, builds her own furniture, knows all of the top thrift spots on the East Coast, carves wooden cheeseboards and spoons, bakes a mean apple tart, hand-dyes fabric, traveled to Iceland by herself (sound familiar?), and is mama to the greatest cacti and succulent collection I’ve ever seen. There seems to be nothing this woman can’t do.
After Kay and I met on Instagram and bonded over our mutual obsession with Iceland, we met for real when she came for a visit to Washington. Instant friends! Ashley and I then visited her in her Brooklyn home for a weekend a little while ago. Kay lives and works out of her studio apartment in Bed-Stuy, where real estate is at a premium and finding creative studio space is a challenge at best. But she’s made it work, and her gorgeous jewelry collections are testament to that.
You can find more from Kay in her shop and on Facebook and Instagram. She also still has a flash sale going on her shop, with 20% off flash sale pieces (shown under item options) with the code flashsale13. Enjoy!
How were you first introduced to your craft, and how did you know this was something you wanted to pursue?
I’d been making jewelry as a hobby since my teenage years though mostly at an arts and crafts level with beads and cold connections and the like, but it wasn’t until I took a local silversmithing class in L.A. that I realized how much I loved working with my hands and how new-to-me methods such as casting and silversmithing really pushed my work to the next level. It also happened to coincide with roughly the same time that my then career of eight years started to really become cumbersome, so I think it was a pretty logical jump to start thinking about switching gears.
Describe your creative process from inception to completion.
So many of my ideas start as scattered musings from recent things I’ve seen, felt and experienced, and across both 2 and 3D spectrums. It will typically then start as a jot of a note or a sketch, then shaped into something three dimensional in wax, or sometimes metal. That then starts the first phase of production, which then undergoes varying rounds of shaping, casting, finishing and sometimes back to shaping to complete the final phases of production.
What are the strengths and challenges of your personal studio space?
Strength is definitely the overhead I’m saving! It’s also nice too, to be able to have access to all my tools especially when I have random ideas at random times and I can fulfill that idea on the fly. Challenges are almost entirely related to space – being in NYC, space anywhere is at such high premiums; my studio “area” takes up a good third of our entire apartment. That’s seriously challenging in a studio apartment shared with one other human, one dog and two cats!
Has living and working in Brooklyn had an impact on your work?
Definitely has quickened the creative gears and always keeps perspectives fresh. There’s such a vibrant creative community here that provides such a great backdrop to any creative idea or venture I might have, and expertise at every level of business, the creative process, production, etc. that it’s impossible to not find help when you need it most.
Which artists have inspired your work in some way?
Too many to count! Recently a lot of ancient architecture is finding its way into my work, specifically early Roman functional structures.
What are you working on now, and what’s next?
I’m hoping to finalize AW14 very soon, and prepping for the major Christmas rush and then tradeshow season in February. I’m also working on some other projects outside of jewelry, primarily in ceramics and wood, and hope I can find a way to incorporate that into my offerings some point soon.
Jewelry photos courtesy of Kay Wang of The Things We Keep. All other photos shot in film by Jess Schreibstein.