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ONLINE EXTRA: Q&A with Kate Maller

How did you get into jewelry design?

My husband, Scott Maller, is a gem and mineral collector and dealer, he has more specimens than stones for jewelry. I wouldn’t know what metalsmithing was if I didn’t know him. He has 250,000 followers on Instagram. We’ve been together 10 years now and I’m used to being around all the rocks all the time. My last year of grad school, when I was studying architecture and landscape architecture, I wanted to take metalsmithing for my birthday and I took a hobbyist class one night a week. And I knew from the moment I sat down at the bench I could do this forever. I felt something special. After I graduated I felt really uninspired and unhappy working at a desk. I’m really free spirited and love working with my hands. Jewelry became an expensive hobby. I did sell some pieces, but nothing consistent and I hit a wall with my skills. So I found a school in Austin, TX, where I could take weekend courses in goldsmithing. I ended up taking a la carte the skills I wanted to take. It was 500 hours over six months and I developed my style and skill set. Four years ago I left my full-time job.

You started selling your own jewelry designs online six years ago. How and why did you move into retail?

Since I started my jewelry business, I always envisioned having a store where I could display and share my work in a relaxed, beautiful environment. My work is organic in its process and also in its aesthetic. Even with great photography it is always best experienced in-person. It is very tactile with all of the texturing and unique quality imbued by our hand-fabricated processes. In addition to sharing my own work, I also enjoy sharing things I love with others, which is why I curate jewels and goods of other independent artisans. Supporting and sharing the work of other artists brings me great joy. I also have always had an innate design sensibility and instinctive sense for what I love. When curating for the shop I bought things that I truly loved and wanted to share with others. I think that joy carries through and people appreciate it. I wanted to create a store where people feel comfortable to simply pop by and see what’s new. A warm, informal and inviting atmosphere where I could share my work and love for beautiful, well-made, sustainable jewelry and goods.

What else do you enjoy about having a retail outlet?

As we sell to stores across the country, it’s exciting for us to get the feedback, and to get to know our clientele better. And to share the work of other artists that I love with Denver. My line has a different, untraditional aesthetic, and we’re looking for unique jewelry handmade by the artisan. For every line we carry and represent it’s really important that they are hand made by the artist in house or mostly in house. We ask that the metals are at minimum recycled. That’s somewhat baseline, but not everyone is doing that. We’re part of Ethical Metalsmiths. Aesthetically, we look for what kind of wows us. That is an instinctual thing. Our store manager Amy and I both have very different styles. When we shop now, it’s fun to bounce what we like off of each other. I hadn’t anticipated how fun curation would be. It’s exciting to put your taste and style into the store.

How does your store appeal specifically to women shoppers? Are they your target audience?

The environment we have created speaks directly to women. Having designed the space myself, I intended to create a beautiful, edgy-yet-refined space that would feel warm and inviting. I feel our space resonates with women because it appeals to their senses. My ideal client/target audience has always been women. I design jewelry that appeals to women’s sense of style and their desire for authenticity. I have always aspired to create jewelry my clients will love and the same was true for the store. I aimed to create a space they would love and want to visit, and that would call to their sense of style, while also feeling authentic.

How does your online sales experience appeal to women?

I have always been very detail oriented, so I am always very intentional with any content I put out there, which includes Kate Maller Jewelry’s website. My background in design has provided me an innate sensibility for my brand and brand image. I view any content we put out there, or experience our clients have with us, as an opportunity to share our story to help make that connection that is so important in gaining an authentic audience. Thus, everything we do on our website is a direct extension of us, and just like our store, it aims to appeal to our client’s senses and desire for authenticity. From our imagery to text we are extremely intentional to help share why we do what we do, who we are and what we do, which we believe helps make the truest connections.

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How do you think women entrepreneurs are shaking up or even reshaping the jewelry industry?

I think women are able to provide a unique perspective when it comes to designing jewelry and also environments and experiences (both online and in-person) for connecting with and purchasing jewelry. The majority of people who wear jewelry are women and so I think that it’s a natural fit that women would have unique insight into what women want.

Additionally, seeing more and more women entrepreneurs, across a diverse range of fields, shifts the market for who is purchasing high end heirloom quality jewelry. Work trends have shifted income trends, and the dynamics of society so that it is not typically always men buying for women. A good percentage of our buyers are women purchasing for themselves. I buy myself high quality jewelry and we do see a lot of that these days. I think this is a direct reflection of how many women are more financially independent these days, and certainly some of that comes directly from how many women entrepreneurs we see excelling at what they do. This gives women jewelry designers and store owners the unique opportunity to design for and appeal directly to the ‘end users,’ which provides valuable feedback. It also is shifting the environments that are being created for shopping for jewelry. I feel the look and feel of jewelry stores are shifting to directly appeal to women, because we see more women out there buying their own jewelry.

What do you think women need to be comfortable in a retail environment?

I think feel is everything. They want to feel welcome and comfortable. They want to feel a connection to both to the goods and the environment. So, style and authenticity are everything. They don’t want a generic, stodgy environment – they want to shop somewhere they can genuinely connect with and feel relaxed in.

Over the years, INSTORE has won 80 international journalism awards for its publication and website. Contact INSTORE's editors at [email protected].

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