Converse: Kathleen Whitaker / by Elise Joseph

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For today's feature, I got to ask a few questions to one of my favorite designers and someone that I've admired for a long time. I had the pleasure of lunching with Kathleen Whitaker at her gorgeous Echo Park home last month, and can vouch that she is one of the sweetest ladies around. Her generosity and support for her talented peers is contagious, and her simple, minimal lifestyle and approach to design is nothing less than inspiring.

I have six of her lovely pieces in my collection... two staple earrings that I have worn in one ear for almost two years (and never taken out), as well as the stick, long stitch, tiny dots and staple and chain on heavy rotation. They are the only earrings I ever wear! I love how special and thoughtful each of her designs are, and am fascinated how something so subtle can make such a big impact.

California friends, don't miss her and a plethora of other incredible artists this Saturday and Sunday at Mack Sennett Studios for the Echo Park Craft Fair.

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You are a jill-of-all-trades, studied ceramics at Newcomb College at Tulane University, and seemed to stumble into jewelry-making. What's the best advice you've ever received? And what would you say to (encourage) others who are trying to find their own path?

I don't know if I can look back on a good piece of advice as much as lessons I've learned.  A slower pace gives you so much freedom. Long ago the transition from New York to LA brought a liberation. I'm from New York so a certain amount of ambition and drive will always be in me. But take the freneticism out of your life and you're left with the freedom to create at your own pace. And there's magic in that. There is magic that comes from contemplation and thoughtfulness and time.  

Oh wait... I thought of good advice: Win with ease. Lose with grace. 

It's clear that careful thought goes into each of your pieces. Tell us a little bit more about the inspiration and process behind your designs.

I don't design new things each season or each month or year. I design all the time and roll a new idea out to market when it's ready. And for the most part, what I offered five years ago is still part of the small collection now. This helps to keep each design timeless.  

I make mostly earrings and, subconsciously, spend a lot of time thinking about the mechanics of the ear and lobe. I play with chain and paper and wire. And I think about the ways little pieces of metal can hang/affix/hug the ear. The gold itself does a lot of the work. Render almost anything in a shiny piece of pure solid gold and it will look elevated. It will look—and indeed is—a thing of beauty you will want to have forever. 

Echo Park Craft Fair is coming up this weekend in Los Angeles... You'll be a part of it again this year. What other participating artists should we have on our radar? What's your favorite thing about the creative community in LA?

The Echo Park Craft Fair started four years ago or so when my dear, old friend Beatrice Valenzuela decided to organize a small gathering of artist friends in her backyard. It was a collective effort with one bringing wine and another posting signs around the neighborhood. But its inception was the genius brainchild of Bea, and a testament to her foresight, inclusiveness and generosity. Some of the original cronnies are still in it -- Kathryn Bentley, Samantha Grisdale, Rebekah Miles, Ramsey Conder. Beatrice now organizes the event with Rachel Craven and the caliber of artists participating is staggering. I am at a loss to identify anyone whose creations I don't already have or deeply covet.

You've recently collaborated with Samantha Grisdale on a clutch and Gravel & Gold on an earring. Do you have any more exciting announcements or collaborations up your sleeve for this next year?

I will be doing another limited edition with Of A Kind. And I made several exclusive pieces for Mohawk General Store for the holiday season. I hope to do some non-jewelry items for a project at my friend Chay's eponymous store. And if the perfect teeny tiny minimalist retail space found its way into my purview, perhaps a flagship (flagrowboat?) will be next. No rush.

Photos from LMNOP, La Garçonne and Kathleen Whitaker.

+kathleenwhitaker.com