June 30, 2009
I’ve always been drawn to glass. From my ridiculous collection of wine goblets and barware to blown glass home accessories and sculptures bursting with vivid pops of color. So what better way to nourish my glass obsession than wearing it?
Kathleen Plate may not be a household name, but her work, Smart Glass, is. This remarkable jewelry line was way ahead of its eco time. She’s cutting edge, creative, and yes, very, very smart.
danapop (dp) I see Smart Glass everywhere and it’s so recognizable – did you set out to have your pieces so distinguishable?
Smart Glass Not really, but because I actually make my own raw materials (cut the bottles and fire them) rather than buy gems and stones, my jewelry does have a unique, signature look.
dp What was the first piece you sold?
Smart Glass The first piece I sold was a pair of earrings about 15 or 16 years ago.
dp I really do love the idea of taking something that would likely be discarded as trash and turning it into something beautiful and wearable. How did the concept for the jewelry come about?
Smart Glass I remember looking at a bottle and thinking how gorgeous the color was…I already was working in glass so I started to incorporate glass from recycled bottles.
dp In Atlanta, Coca-Cola is a pretty big deal since the HQ is located here. How did that come into play with your pieces, as I know you work a lot with recycled Coke bottles.
Smart Glass My partnership with Coke is such a great story: they called me completely unsolicited out of the blue! I was in the studio working and the phone rang, it was the director of new product development at Coca-Cola and she said they had seen my work, they loved it, and wanted me to make jewelry out of their bottles! Coke sends me the bottles now, and they have been wonderful to work with.
dp What do you hope the woman that wears your pieces gets from them?
Smart Glass I want my jewelry to be her favorite piece to wear, and for it to be a great conversation piece where people comment on it and she gets to talk about the environment and things she feels passionate about.
dp Aside from the jewelry you make, how else do you try to incorporate the notion of reusing into everyday life?
Smart Glass I was raised in a solar home with composting, recycling, etc. We used to wash out our zip lock bags and reuse them! So, I’ve always been an environmentalist, even before I knew it was something to be. I do all the obvious things, recycle, turn off the lights, etc. but more than that I try to be mindful about the things I use and the choices I make, to always make the best choice, with the highest consciousness, for the greatest overall good.
dp I know quite a few celebrities are fans of your work. Is there someone that you saw wearing a Smart Glass piece that you were like, “OMG – so and so is wearing my stuff?”
Smart Glass I love to see my work on celebrities, but honestly I love it just as much when I see a random person in a random place wearing my jewelry. One of my favorite stories was meeting someone in a airport wearing a Smart Glass necklace, and when I started talking to her and told her I made it she gave me the biggest hug and told me all about how it was her favorite, good luck necklace given to her while she was battling breast cancer…now, that makes me happy!
dp What’s next for you?
Smart Glass I’m working on a bunch of larger, sculpture and custom lighting pieces that incorporate the recycled glass! Sort of like the jewelry but larger in scale. And I want to focus more on helping other businesses, inspiring people to work a job they love!
dp As a business owner, I can only imagine how many hats you wear in a day. How do you balance the creative process with the business side of your work?
Smart Glass Just like life it’s a constant balancing act. I solder, then run, check emails, then solder, then talk to a client… sometimes it is almost comical. The great thing is I love all aspect of what I do, and growing a business in a lot of ways is as creative an endeavor as designing a sculpture. I think the key is to keep myself in balance so I can always be the best steward of all the opportunities. I really value my personal time, I travel a lot and try to always be “growing” my own life as much as I try to grow the business.
dp What are key things that influence the creative process of your collection?
Smart Glass I just love to make things, and I want them to be beautiful and simple. The glass doesn’t need a lot added to it so I try not to intrude with the design.
dp A lot of stores sell Smart Glass, how did those partnerships come about?
Smart Glass We get calls and emails from new stores all the time that have just discovered us, and we also work with some of the same stores I started with over 15 years ago!