I met Heather Kita of Heather Kita Jewelry Design this past fall when she participated in the HOME event by Birdhouse Interior Design at Omaha’s Sweatshop Gallery. At first I wasn’t sure how we would incorporate handmade jewelry into a curated space staged as living and dining rooms.
But I was assured by Kim Reid Kuhn, Sweatshop co-owner (and the subject of a forthcoming COOP feature), that she was a lady I needed to meet.
Heather’s home studio.
One Sunday afternoon last fall, Kim and I made a visit to Heather’s studio.
Oh man. I had the overwhelming desire to pocket every single piece from Heather’s collection.
When the goods are at your fingertips, your hands get a little antsy. (This is only 40 percent true.) Really, though, I mostly wanted to take my hard-earned money and pay for a pendant necklace or giant gold ring. Her pieces are original and beautifully hand-crafted. After taking a closer look at her work, I quickly found it quite easy to incorporate a few pieces in HOME.
A few of Heather’s one-of-a-kind pieces. Much of her work starts with a wax mold that she hand carves and then has casted.
And it turns out, Kim was right: I’ve really enjoyed learning more about Heather. (And on at least one occasion I mentioned my girl crush on her. She is supremely comfortable in her own skin, and it shows.)
I recently invited Heather to brunch at Dario’s to discuss her creative process, the motivation behind her designs, and to eat some damn good eggs.
Heather at her workbench, blow torch in hand.
Heather began taking jewelry classes in high school and after several years in other industries, she landed at Goldsmith Silversmith in downtown Omaha. That’s where her passion was reignited.
She was hooked – obsessed even. Heather took classes, bought books about gems, and started practicing whenever she could. Her husband helped by welding various tools to complement the ones she already rummaged at local estate sales. They even set up a workbench in their basement.
Heather used her tools to turn her ideas into tangible pieces.
Custom pendant design.
Then people realized her jewelry was good. She sold her jewelry to friends, at Goldsmith Silversmith, and more recently, through online retailer Cisthene.
Selling online and the massive exposure to all design mediums through blogs and Pinterest has brought up some interesting questions. How does Heather approach the dilemma of staying true to her design sensibilities while appealing to an audience large enough to support a business?
We agreed that the process is tricky. A fine line exists between what sells (or what is trendy) and maintaining the artist’s voice.
It seems the deciding factor is craftsmanship (or craftswomanship). Heather is known for crafting one-of-a-kind statement pieces that demand attention and allows – even encourages – every customer to feel special. Rather than following traditional techniques, Heather creates new ones that prove difficult to mimic.
Looking closely at Heather I notice she’s always wearing her own pieces. It’s a testament to her belief in and enjoyment of her products. The large gold cuff on this day caught my eye each time Heather reached for her Bloody Mary. The reason? It wasn’t encrusted in diamonds or even opulent in nature. Rather, the cuff looked interesting, felt different, and genuinely reflected Heather’s strong style.
And it was then that I discovered Heather’s process begins, like any other artist, with the need to create not for others, but for themselves. The sketches and ideas become models and then (lucky for us) finished pieces to covet, wear, and enjoy.
(Stay tuned for a more in-depth studio and house tour tomorrow as Heather’s spaces will be the subject of the newest This Spot feature.)
All photos by Hooton Images.