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Annie Glass Blog - Mar 26th, 2012

I am looking forward to hosting Kathleen Plate for the April First Friday and Saturday trunk show at my Santa Cruz store. Partly because I want to show off my art-loving town, and to share our mutual love of glass. I know that she is as hooked on the material as I am. We are pulling out all the stops for her show here- live mural painting, live music, champagne, food, gift with purchase. We are so lucky to have her visit Santa Cruz. Kathleen recently received a patent for her technique of slicing bottles widthwise and kiln firing the rings to round the edges and give it texture. Then she makes the rings and other parts of the bottles into earrings, necklaces, bracelets…even chandeliers. “Drink it, wear it” is her brilliant tagline. In preparation for the big event, I caught up with Kathleen for a quick interview to share her fascinating story with you.

AM: Kathleen, Thank you so much for coming all the way to Santa Cruz from Atlanta to do the trunk show and First Friday. Your jewelry sells so well in my shops and all around the nation; it’s hard to keep in stock! And I know many merchants feel the same way about Smart Glass. You keep coming up with better and better designs. How do you keep reinventing what you do?

KP: Sometimes I laugh and say my job is to reinvent the wheel – literally! Glass is such an amazing, dynamic medium the possibilities seem to be endless – I love it when we have time in the studio to play and try new things. The best part about my job is there are absolutely no rules and we get to create whatever I think up.

AM: Congratulations on your success, you are an inspiration to many, including me- when I saw one of your chandeliers for the first time, I got chills and immediately started squealing with delight. You must get that reaction to your work all the time. I love how you suspended the rings of glass over and over almost like an organic version of mid-century modern design. Where did you get the idea to make something so monumental from small pieces of jewelry?

KP: For some reason I thought if dangly earrings look good, think how amazing a whole structure of dangling glass would look! Little did I know how complicated electricity is – I’ve learned so much designing the chandeliers. The larger works are  going  really well – I’ve had amazing clients like the Guggenheim NYC and am working on a 23 foot tall sculpture for the Marriott Warner Center in California as we speak. Each piece is custom, and the challenges and scope have stretched me as an artist after so many years on the jeweler’s bench.

AM: I’ve read your bio and press, your story of making a pair of earrings as a gift while you were studying for your Masters in American Literature (can’t wait to talk books with you too) it could not have been easy, starting out with craft festivals and building your business…or was it? We have a town full of creative folks who would love to hear how you took an idea and made it into a fun and fulfilling career.

KP: Yes, I started my business 19 years ago with a $500.00 loan from my parents. I decided early on that my “job” was going to be the best steward of every opportunity that came my way, and I think that attitude helped me keep my eyes open and looking for the open windows rather than knocking too long on closed doors. Early on I think people not only bought my jewelry, but they were buying into my enthusiasm and the story of someone having the courage to pursue something they truly loved. On the business side I always say I was both the tortoise and the hair – I took risks and tried new things, but was always simultaneously creating a solid foundation for my business and never skipping over the fundamentals like a great product and excellent customer service. It sounds cliché but taking care of customers goes a long way these days.

AM: Tell us about your next project and what YOU want to do after that.

KP:  My current big project is the Marriott Warner sculpture – it is the largest piece of art I’ve ever built. I am learning so much about engineering and large scale design through the process – I can’t wait to see it all come together – to stand back and think wow – I made that. It’s a great feeling when you actually impress yourself! After that, well, I have a good dose of gypsy blood and am looking forward to fun travels this summer. Traveling always relaxes me and it plants the creative seeds for whatever is to come next.

AM: Please share with us your list of favorite books/authors. What are you reading now?

KP: Oh geez, you had to ask…. My time for reading these days is so limited. Let’s see, what is on my kindle?: The Help, The Slap, The Hunger Games, Intro to Quantum Physics and non-linear Dynamics, and The Science of Mind by Earnest Holmes. I’ve been revisiting some Emerson essays recently, and I re-read a few short stories by Flannery O’Connor a few weeks ago – living in the South will do that to you.

AM: You love to travel- what is the place you love most and the place you have got to see next?

KP: I am completely in love with Central America – I’ve traveled to almost every country and my entire family lives in Merida, Mexico so I visit the Yucatan Peninsula a lot. I’ve climbed pyramids, swam with whale sharks in Mexico, jumped into caves full of clear blue water, risen before dawn to watch holy processions in Guatemala, and have seen a parrot fish asleep on the ocean floor inside the iridescent bubble it blows each night for protection in Belize.  I still need to see the place in the mountains outside Mexico City where the monarch butterflies go to winter – you ride in slowly by horseback because even the path is covered in millions of butterflies, and they say the beating of their wings is louder than the beating of your heart. Oh, and the northern lights – there are igloo shaped glass huts in Iceland made for sleeping under the northern lights, I need to go there too.

Meet Kathleen in person at the Annieglass Store Santa Cruz Friday April 6 from 5-8 and Saturday April 7 from noon to 5pm. She will be bringing her newest works on the first stop of her trunk show tour…don’t miss it!

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