Katelyn Johnson creates stylish jewelry using broken porcelain pieces and carefully crafted sterling silver bezel settings. Making jewelry helps Katelyn accept her ADHD, and she hopes her handcrafted designs also help others who are struggling with brokenness in their lives. She is a 2022 Halstead Grant Semi-Finalist and a 2022 Interweave Top 20 honoree.
Above image: Blue Rose Ring by Katelyn Elyse Jewelry. All photos courtesy of the artist.
Growing a Business
Q: Tell us your story, where you are in your career, and has jewelry making become your full-time job?
I started Katelyn Elyse Jewelry almost five years ago and it has slowly grown each year. My goal one day is to be able to create jewelry and run my business as my full-time job. In the meantime, I work a regular 8-5 job and use that income to support myself and my business while my business continues to grow.
Q: Did you study jewelry making in college? Serve an internship? Self-taught?
I learned most of what I know through earning my BFA in Jewelry and Metalsmithing at Grand Valley State University. While finishing up my degree I worked for an independent jeweler in Grand Haven, Michigan, Lisa Lehmann, who showed me that it was possible to create jewelry as my full-time career. Through earning my degree and working with Lisa I was able to learn so much about jewelry making and how I could use my skills to support myself financially and live my dream life.
Made With Love
Q: What is the single most important jewelry making skill you’ve learned and why?
Soldering. Every single piece of jewelry I make requires careful soldering and experience to fuse the silver pieces together without melting them. It’s the skill that took me the longest to master and the one that I love using the most.
Related: 4 Tips for Making Pottery and Sea Glass Jewelry with Soft Soldering
Q: You speak about putting your heart in your work, please explain to us how you move your emotions through you into your process and materials.
My entire Renewed line came from the feeling of being broken and thinking there was something wrong with me due to my ADHD. Every time I make a piece of jewelry using broken porcelain, I’m able to heal my negative thoughts and come to peace with how my own mind works. Taking a broken piece of porcelain, smoothing out the rough edges and then carefully creating a silver encasement in which to hold the porcelain is incredibly therapeutic. I love that in the span of a couple hours I can bring beauty and joy into something that was once broken.
Q: Tell us what sets your work apart from others? What makes your work unique?
I’m not the only one to create jewelry out of broken plates but I am unique in my style. Setting the porcelain pieces requires time and care. Rather than drilling a hole through the plate and attaching a chain or earring hooks, I treat the porcelain pieces as if they were a precious stone. I create a silver bezel specifically for each unique shape. Then, I place the prongs carefully to gently hold the piece of plate in place while showing off the floral design. It’s a tedious and time-consuming process but it creates high quality pieces that are unlike other jewelry of their kind.
Q: Have you made any mistakes that you can to share?
My biggest mistake has been assuming that I need to handle everything on my own and that asking for help is a sign of weakness. It was only when I asked for outside support that my business was able to flourish. I’ve learned more about what I’m capable of. Owning and running a small business is a huge job and is often very isolating. But asking for help is not a sign of weakness, it’s a sign of strength.
Discover Katelyn Elyse Jewelry
Katelyn says, “Jewelry design and the ability to work with my hands is a life passion that brings me incredible joy. I live in the countryside and love the peace and fresh air it brings. I enjoy spending time gardening, playing with my dog, remodeling my house, or hanging out with my family.” Follow @katelynelysejewelry on Facebook and Instagram.