I recently was asked, "What is something surprising about you that most people wouldn't know?" Oooooooh! Great question!
I don’t know about you, but I absolutely LOVE finding out fun and quirky little details about other people—whether friends, family, or people I admire. You know, those little tidbits of gold that make you go “Ooooohhhhhh” Wow!”? And since I consider you all family here at KDJ, I thought I should answer that question myself, but take things up a notch and share with you ten things you probably didn’t know about me.
Full disclosure time! Here goes!
#1 KDJ Started in a Closet Under the Stairs, Harry Potter Style
KDJ began as a creative outlet. I was working a fun but intense day job that was sometimes all-consuming and I wanted to get back to my creative roots. So, I started a handful of personal projects to feed my inner artist and let my creativity out.
I was painting, making greeting cards, and jewelry! Since I had roommates and space was limited, I cleaned out the utility closet beneath our stairs, painted the walls, built a desk inside the closet and set up shop. I quite literally worked in a closet! When I tell people this, they often say, “Wow! You’re the modern day female version of Harry Potter!”.
I love this response because anyone who knows me well knows I’m a massive Harry Potter fan. I’ve read all the books and seen all the movies numerous times!
#2 I Worked As a Celebrity Stylist for 4 Years
I made the big move to Los Angeles in 2007 to see what the west coast could offer my young artist self and began working a number of jobs—including working as an assistant to a celebrity stylist for about 4 years.
It was a very eye-opening and rewarding job and although I loved (and still love) fashion and expressing yourself through style, I knew that being a celebrity stylist wasn’t for me in the long haul. When I realized this, I started to do personal creative projects with no pressure of making it into something other than to satisfy my own creativity. That was really essential in this period of self-discovery because I didn’t have any pressure to have to do anything.
I had a full-time job that paid all my bills, I was comfortable and liked who I worked with and this allowed me to follow my own curiosities on the creative side. It really allowed some time to discover what truly enhanced and fulfilled me as a person. During this much-needed self-discovery time, jewelry became my main interest and also, naturally started to take off. It was all very exciting!
After a few years of juggling both jobs, I decided to put my effort wholeheartedly into KDJ and in 2015 I took the plunge, quit my day job, and went full force into Katie Dean Jewelry. I’m proud to say it was the right choice!
#3 We’re a Small but Mighty Team of 10
From the outside looking in, KDJ looks like a huge company and while that's a great feeling, the truth is we're a small but mighty team. Lots of work is on the shoulders of a handful of people. I’m very proud of this!
Having a small business is a handful for anyone but throw on top manufacturing and doing all production within the USA and it’s a whole other beast in itself! Outsourcing to a country outside of the States would be far cheaper, but it’s always been important to me to continue giving back to people here in my community of America!
My grandfather truly inspired this mindset in me—he worked for General Motors for over 40 years and was a part of the automobile boom in Michigan. It’s pretty special and I take pride in knowing I’m doing my part to provide work and jobs to people here in the USA!
#4 Each Piece is Handmade (Still!)
Although as KDJ has expanded I’ve had to pass on some of the production work to my team of hand-selected helpers, one thing I never wanted to lose was the uniqueness and quality that comes from having each piece made lovingly by expert hands. When something is carefully handmade I think it shows and I love that it means no two pieces are exactly the same—you get to own a one-off piece to treasure.
#5 We’ve Been Around for 7 Years Now
It’s been a lot of hard work, persistence, and hustle but I wouldn’t have it any other way. It’s hard to believe my Harry Potter moment was seven years ago! Since starting KDJ the passion is as alive as ever—I still love creating every new piece that comes into the line. We’re now launching a new piece nearly every other month too!
#6 Our Production is done In L.A.—But I Live in Oakland
I started KDJ in Silver Lake—a super trendy and artsy filled borough of Los Angeles. It was such an amazing area to be in! I still love it dearly but when I met my husband, who works in the tech field and whose work was based in Northern California, I knew that ultimately one of us would have to move if we didn’t want to split our time.
Both of us agreed that it made sense for Northern California to be our home base so gradually over a two year period I moved and most of the company up to Oakland! All of the production aspects continue to be done in LA (waxes, molds, castings) but I now design from Oakland, make the samples of each piece and oversee the order fulfillment. Oakland is growing wildly and with it, there are so many opportunities that I’m excited to explore here!
#7 I Have a Major Weakness for Sweet Treats!
Ever since I was a little girl I have loved three foods: chicken nuggets, cereal, and sweets! Let’s be real, my Mom is a Doctor and has raised my brother and me with a very healthy lifestyle and attitude so greens are a huge part of my diet but ...a girl still loves what she loves.
Right now my top three sweet treats that I indulge in are:
Maxims chocolates. I blame my husband for introducing me to these on our first trip to Paris!
So Delicious, Salted Caramel Cluster Cashewmilk Ice Cream. All I can say is YUMMMM.
Birthday Cake Truffles from Milk Bar. I get the gluten free ones because that obviously makes them healthier, right?
#8 I Sold My First Piece of Jewelry Literally on the Spot
While working as a stylist, I started disassembling jewelry that I owned so I could create something new. When people started asking me “Where’d you get that…?”, I started selling the pieces I was wearing, quite literally on the spot! I started to realize that there was a demand for what I was creating. I could barely keep and wear a piece for more than a week before someone purchased it!
#9 My Inspiration Comes From...
...so many things—traveling, architecture, people, cities, shapes, and so much more. I’m inspired by how those things make me feel. I love looking at art from the past with a special eye on the shapes that are used and how I could incorporate it into a new piece. So much of what I create now is centered around the question, “Does this spark joy?” -- thanks to Marie Kondo!
#10 I’m a Total Cat Mom!
Hi, my name is Katie Dean and I am obsessed with my cat. There I said it! And honestly, more correctly, I’d say I’m an animal-obsessed person. Growing up we had rabbits, birds, snakes, fish, ...cats and many more amazing pets. The one very common pet I’ve never had is: a dog! Which both my husband and I want to have in our life someday. If you have any recs for an amazing dog that we should consider definitely leave a comment below!!
And there you have it! 10 things you didn’t know about me. :)
If you want to follow along with more of my everyday life, feel free to check out my personal Instagram, @katiedeantam, which I just started recently!