By Amanda Zurita
The newest name in local design has a fresh website, a bright studio, seemingly boundless enthusiasm, and a truly stunning collection of fine jewelry featuring one-of-a-kind gemstones and modern styles.
Kathryn Hagstrom founded her line Kathryn Elyse—Elyse being her middle name—after a short stint in banking. “My artistic expression had taken a back seat during my college years,” the UW economics grad told us. “After graduation I took a job as a personal banker, and a few weeks into my first gig in the ‘real world,’ I was robbed at gunpoint.”
Realizing life was too short to not follow her passion, Hagstrom left the finance world and enrolled in San Francisco’s Revere Academy of Jewelry Arts. Now back in Seattle, she’s giving us an inside look into her Mercer Island studio space.
What neighborhood is your studio in?
Hagstrom: I recently moved my studio to Mercer Island, just a few blocks from the Lid Park overlooking Lake Washington and the Seattle skyline. While I miss the bustle of Downtown, I’ve found the natural beauty and the relative peace and quiet of the “burbs” to be quite a boon to my creative productivity.
What is your earliest memory of designing?
From a young age, I was always hands-on and artistic. Thanks to having an elementary school teacher for a mom, I was an “art project guinea pig.” She nurtured my creativity especially with beading, my first foray into jewelry. I began gem scavenging at bead shows and she encouraged me to sell my necklaces and earrings to her friends. While my personal style outgrew this aesthetic, it spawned my fascination with gemstones and solidified design as my passion.
What do you do to get yourself in a creative or productive headspace when you’re feeling stuck
Maybe it’s because I’m young and eager, but I have the opposite problem! I can’t work as fast as my ideas generate. It’s simultaneously a strength and a weakness, but I excel at starting projects because I am ambitious and excited. At any given time, I have countless sketches, gemstone layouts, and renderings in the works. But that’s what keeps things interesting—I’m never focused on one project and I’m perpetually brainstorming the next design (which also, unfortunately, causes too many sleepless nights).
Five things you can’t work without:
1. Gemstones. My first love and the reason I became a jeweler. I’m fascinated by opals, geodes, turquoise and any stone with unique inclusions, colors, or shapes. They take on individual personalities; like a finger print, no two are the same.
2. Gold. I work predominantly with 14k yellow and rose gold.
3. Tools. My rotary tool might as well be glued to my hand!
4. Spotify. Great music keeps me in the creative zone, and I love the generated playlists based on my current mood.
5. Chocolate. Always within an arm’s reach.
What is your favorite thing about your studio?
My large, glossy-white table which serves as a blank canvas to layout gemstones and begin to turn my conceptualizations into stunning reality. The colors, shapes, and textures of the gems pop against the stark contrast of the table, creating a desire to play and design (my favorite part in the process).
Where can we find your work?
My website just launched, and now I’m working to get into local and national boutiques. Since my fine jewelry features precious metals, gemstones, and diamonds, I’m looking for discerning stockists that offer similarly unique pieces and emerging designers.