Many of you probably already know of the fabulous Kate Jones and her jewelry line Ursa Major. Not only does Kate make the most beautiful jewelry, she’s one of the chicest and kindest women in the North East. Though a current resident of NYC, Kate hails from Boothbay, Maine where she grew up sailing and enjoying the coast of Maine with her family. And it just so happens that her family and my boyfriend’s family grew up together. Yes, small world indeed! Kate was kind enough to do a Q&A with me and answer some questions about Ursa Major, what inspires her, and her new F/W 2011 collection. The photos here are some samples of the Ursa Major F/W 2011 lookbook which you can download here.
Q. So, first things first, where did the name Ursa Major come from?
A. Ursa Major, aside from being the Big Dipper, was the name of our sailboat we lived on as a kid.
Q. How did you go about becoming a jewelry designer and creating Ursa Major?
A. Well, I guess I should tell you that I was always making jewelry as a kid . . . yes, I was the one making little brooches out of clay, and actually selling them at some local shops. I think I had a business number when I was 12 or 13. I remember trying to fill my first order of 20 brooches for this shop in Falmouth, Maine, and hitting the wall at about 8. That was my first shot at production. Years later I went to Rhode Island School of Design. I studied jewelry for one incredible year, before giving into my frustrations and changing my major to Textiles (I had plans to become an apparel designer), but every summer I’d go home to Boothbay Harbor and work in a little jewelry store called The Silver Lining. I did repair work, ring sizing, and custom projects. The owner, Tony Heyl, taught me a lot, in terms of working efficiently, tricks of the trade, and production. After RISD, I moved to Melbourne, Australia- studied fashion for a year and a half . . . it wasn’t until I studied fashion, an industry that’s much generally much more commercial that it began to make sense for me to do my own jewelry line. The idea of working in collections really appealed to me. I returned to live in Portland for a couple years, where I picked up work as a jeweler again. This time in a beautiful high end shop called Folia. I learned about working with clients on custom designs, casters, gem dealers, and…gold. Then somehow in there I started to create a jewelry line with Jay Carroll (now of Levis) for Rogues Gallery . . . call it proximity, or that I’d already known Alex Carlton for several years. That was really the beginning. After a couple years, I left Rogues and began work on Ursa Major, which was launched last February.
Q. Your sailing adventures throughout the Caribbean and Central America were the inspiration for your S/S ’10 collection, what inspired this one?
A. Yeah, I think the incarnations of my inspiration for the previous one were much more subtle. A few literal pieces like the Monkey’s Fist necklace and Milagros pieces, but in general it was probably from years of watching the horizon line at sea and looking at shells, stones, and such which had eroded and tumbled at sea and washed up on shore. Thanks to the photos in this F/W ‘11 lookbook, the inspiration is pretty clear. My mom always had a house full of amazing American Indian pieces. The standouts were this Haida mask, hopi bracelet (which I now wear everyday), and collection of Edward Curtis photogravures. But the jewelry itself, I wanted to be subtle, in part because a huge chunk of the market has been driven by this theme in the past couple of years. There’s also a little bit of Central America left in there. I thought it a natural progression to go up through Guatemala and Mexico to the American Southwest.
Q. It must be nice to be able to make your own jewelry and wear it! Are there other jewelry designers whose designs you wear and/or love?
A. Ha! It’s great. Have you seen me? I’m a walking showroom. But if I could have a collection of jewelry from anyone else it would be Ted Muehling or Alexander Calder.
Q. You’re from the coast of Maine and currently reside in New York City. What are your favorite spots in both locations to help you get your creative juices flowing?
A. Fortunately my parents home in East, Boothbay is right on the ocean, and a studio included, so I don’t have to go far. But if I wanted to take a trip I’d probably go to Monhegan Island or the Farnsworth Museum to see the collection of Wyeths. You can really put my anywhere on the water there and I’ll be happy. In the city I run around Central Park and on the West Side and that helps a lot. But in NYC all I have to do is look up at all of the variations of architecture to be inspired.
Q. Are there some design elements and jewelry techniques that you hope to try your hand at in the future?
A. I’d like to do more with enamel. In the process of trying to buy a kiln and finding more time. And right now I’d trying to come up with ways to make jewelry look eroded . . . like a sandstone sculpture.
Q. When and where will people be able to purchase pieces from your amazing new collection?
A. The new jewelry will be available this summer. Right now, to mention a few, you can find previous pieces at Castor and Pollux (NYC), Bazar (Venice, CA), Levis (Malibu and Boston), Gravel and Gold (San Fran), and me if you aren’t in proximity or can’t find the pieces you want. Working on a bunch of others at the moment. It’s always about finding the right fit. I’ll try and keep an updated stockist list for the new collection on the site, or at least my blog.
Q. You’ve been praised as one of the most stylish women in NYC (for good reason!). Where are your favorite places to shop?
A. Oh boy. I try to stay sharp with help from Zero Maria Cornejo (conveniently around the corner from my apartment), A Detacher, Assembly, and Project No. 8. But my friends in the business keep me pretty well supplied with goods for which I am always grateful, particularly the men’s stuff.
Thanks again to Kate! She has a lot of exciting projects in the works for this coming year. One of which is a small capsule collection for Julia Leach and her line Chance (which I just posted about yesterday). Kate will also be appearing in their short film series. And for all the gentlemen reading, Kate is working with a couple talented guys on on a side collection of men’s travel accessories (belts, cufflinks, and the like), and down the road she hopes to add a full men’s collection to Ursa Major. Kate also curates a blog of stunning artwork, photography, and designs that inspire her, so be sure to bookmark it along with the Ursa Major homepage.