From within dreams, literally, come the beautifully handmade pieces from AnnKat Designs. Metalsmith and creative entrepreneur, Ann Kathryn Kehoe puts so much time and energy into the design of each piece as well as what each piece truly represents. Incorporating hidden messages and empowering energy into each design is a subtle, unique part of her process that adds a personal touch and connection between the artist and wearer. Between creating custom wedding jewelry to be worn til death and developing her own line, this busy maker took sometime to talk about her journey, her philosophy, and what is next for AnnKat Designs.
Maker Market: When and how did AnnKat Jewelry Designs get started?
Ann Kathryn Kehoe: I started AnnKat Designs five years ago. At the time, I was the lead jewelry designer for a company in Kansas City where I designed & fabricated hundreds of pieces. Although I worked in a studio all day, I craved creative freedom and wanted to explore my own design ideas. I built up my own collection of tools, began playing around with some unique concepts and opened AnnKat Designs. When I moved to Milwaukee a few years ago, I transitioned to working on my jewelry full-time and it’s evolved from there.
MM: What attracted you to metalsmithing? What is your workspace like?
AKK: I became interested in metalsmithing when I was 12. I met a jeweler at an art fair and would save up to buy gemstone rings from him every summer. Over time, we developed a friendship and he taught me how to forge & manipulate metal. He inspired me to attend college for metals and I later apprenticed under several jewelers before taking on a design position.
I think what attracted me most to metals is the personal connection & sentiment that jewelry holds. I love the idea that I can create a piece of artwork that is intended to be touched and worn. I love that working with metals is challenging and takes a lot of patience, but what I love most is that there is always more to learn and improve on!
My studio is a humble and beautiful space in our home with lots of natural light. I have a workbench for each station: design prep, fabrication, soldering, polishing and shipping. Organization is my key to productivity, so I have a lot of shelving and keep it pretty tidy!
MM: Where do you take inspiration from?
AKK: I’m mostly inspired by nature, textiles, antiques, art, my dreams & music. I'm attracted to antiques and gain inspiration from vintage clothes and textile patterns, but at the same time I like to follow current artists working in other mediums besides metal to gain a fresh perspective. I'm also greatly inspired by my dreams. Often times, solutions to a project I'm stuck on will appear in a dream and sometimes an entire new design will come to me. When I'm inspired by something, I'll take elements from it that I’m attracted to and approach the idea from my own perspective.
I think the most important part in the design process is to keep in check with my own vision and not get pulled into making something that feels fake or just fits a current fashion trend
MM: When selecting the gemstones for your pieces, what qualities are you looking for?
AKK: When selecting a gemstone, I look for it to have a nice balance of shape, size, quality, and color- but most of all the stone has to feel right! Basically, if I get inspired immediately from a gemstone, it’s coming home with me.
MM: How does symbology intersect with your aesthetic?
AKK: My work is full of symbolism, as every design has a meaning & empowerment infused into it. Every gemstone has it's own healing properties and I also like to include symbols and hidden words just for those who wear the piece. A lot of my rings will have sayings on inside of the band, or images underneath the stone. It is the wearer's choice to share with others or keep it to themselves for a little extra power. I like to think these secret empowerment can breathe light into dark spaces and bring a little extra strength to the wearer.
MM: Do you do custom orders? Have any favorite custom pieces?
AKK: I love making custom designs. My favorite part is figuring out what the right design is for the customer. The process usually starts with a few keywords, material/stone preference, and initial sketches, then it just evolves from there. Many of my custom designs are engagement rings, and I feel honored to make objects that hold so much meaning and sentimental value!
This 14K gold, amethyst & moonstone engagement ring is probably my favorite to date. This ring was designed for a woman who is a yoga teacher and we wanted to focus on the theme of balance. The number seven was symbolic, representing the 7 chakras & balance within the body. The Moonstone & Amethyst are symbolic of maintaining balance in mind & spirit, and the ring overall is symbolic of balance & everlasting love between the couple. This ring was completely hand-fabricated out of 14K gold, with hand-engraved details on the edge of the band. Even more unique, I made a gold midi ring that she wears as her wedding band.
MM: Are you currently working on new projects? A new line or lookbook?
AKK: I’m currently focusing on making one-of-a-kind, hand-fabricated designs combining cast elements, hydraulic die-formed pieces, mixed metals and unique gemstones.
You can expect to see many of these new pieces at the upcoming Maker Market, along with many new gemstone pendants and rings!
Join featured artist, Ann Kathryn Kehoe and AnnKat Designs at the upcoming Maker Market for Bay View Gallery Night this Friday from 5-10 pm. Maker Market for Bay View Gallery night features a brand new line up of talented artists and makers for a truly unique shopping experience.