I’ve never really been a super sparkly jewels kinda girl.

My taste runs more simple, refined, understated (with a teensy hint of glam + edge).
I’m always on the look out for great clothing + accessories, but jewelry has never been a “go-to”. It’s great when it’s gifted, but not usually something I’ll purchase for myself.

But honestly, after this post, I think that’s about to change!
A few months ago I was exploring Oakland’s Popuphood, which has been garnering quite a bit of buzz lately. I turned the corner into a beautiful brick alleyway and stumbled on a true gem, Kate Ellen + Crown Nine.

Crown Nine is designer Kate Ellen’s flagship store, an expertly curated jewelry gallery, that feels like a perfect mix of art studio + boutique. Everything in the store feels ultra-refined. From the hand-picked designer collections, to the quirky art and elegant accessories. Each and every item in the store feels purposely chosen.

My senses were in full overdrive mode once I stepped inside. The white walls are the perfect backdrop for the beautiful art that adorns the walls. The jewelry is flat out stunning. And the accessories are to die for.

Kate is self-taught. She’s a jewelry designer + metalsmith, who was appropriately named Best of San Francisco in 2010 by 7×7 Magazine.

Everything she makes is 100% handcrafted in her humble studio in Oakland’s Jack London Square. She focuses on marrying the industrial with the natural and uses a mixture of ancient techniques to craft her work. Her design philosophy centers around simplicity, timelessness, and “things I want to wear myself”.

I’m a fan-girl for all things curated. So, you can imagine how excited I was to meet the lovely designer in person and get a generous invite to her work space + studio. I watched her create some gorgeous pieces while we chatted about life + passion + teaching + art. The girl is so down-to-earth, mega-talented and incredibly generous (she gives back to several charitable org’s thru her business). In fact, she was a social worker and educator before she found her creative calling.

“I always daydreamed about being a painter, a singer, a dancer– but none of these things came very naturally to me. When I found metal work, I was instantly in a groove. My hands just seemed to know what to do. And I enjoy the thrill and excitement of wielding dangerous tools and getting dirty at work everyday. The process very much appeals to the tomboy in me, and the end product adorns the girl in me.”

I put together the video above so you could get a behind-the-scenes peek at designer Kate Ellen and her store, Crown Nine. Watch + read on for an in-depth Q+A, plus 2 crazy sweet surprises at the end (oh yeah)!

Tell me about the origins of the name Crown Nine (which I LOVE).

When I was trying to name the space, I tried a lot of names and sent out a survey to family and friends–which was a great way to eliminate ones that did not work. An artist buddy and I were talking about some possibilities, and he suggested combining words from two of my favorites into Crown Nine, and I immediately loved it. Now it means a lot–it’s about adornment, it’s about our location on 9th st, but more importantly it’s about civic pride. We created the logo to give the viewer a sense of confidence and connection to the city of Oakland with it’s oak leaves.

How do you define beauty?

Beautiful is what stirs up your heart and your guts, things that move you from within. For me, beauty is about the poignancy of realness and truth.

How do you stay inspired and motivated as a business owner?
I chose to be a jewelry designer because I like projects. I need discrete objectives over short periods of time, and then I want to move on and do something new. Custom work is also invigorating for the same reason, I love being able to combine my style with someone else’s vision. I am also highly motivated because I am constantly rewarded for what I put into my work. The more thoughtful energy I put in, the more surprising the rewards have been.

I personally believe that body adornment (jewelry) is a way to express aspects of who you are. What’s your philosophy behind your designs? How do you want someone to feel when wearing your pieces?
I think jewelry is a really special and sacred art. Each person has within them a form or shape that they are drawn to, whether they create it themselves or simply recognize it in the world. When I create something, it is my shape or form coming out and being manifested as an object and when another person sees that and connects with it, it’s almost like finding someone else who shares your form, who shares your aesthetic view of the world.

My uncle calls it finding other members of your aesthetic tribe. Adornment is then very personal, and you add another layer of significance when jewelry acts as talisman for intimate experiences and relationships. When someone wears my work, I want them to feel a shade truer to themselves and very confident. I also want them to feel very comfortable and to interact with the jewelry– I design a lot of things that are kinetic and fun to play with while wearing.

What does your creative process look like?

Usually it is very spontaneous and very driven by the material. I don’t do much sketching or pre-planning, I just get an idea and go. Some of my best and most popular pieces were accidents that I edited and refined over time. While I am working I have to listen to something, either music or one of my favorite radio programs like This American Life or RadioLab.

What is a quote that you love (that guides your life)?

“Ring the bells that still can ring Forget your perfect offering There is a crack in everything That’s how the light gets in.”
~Leonard Cohen

What are your Top 3 fave spots in your ‘hood (Oakland)?
This question is SO hard, I have so many favorites and a long list of places I want to try!
So here is a list of what I did this week: Cafe 817 Lake Merritt Dogwood Luka’s Taproom Cosecha Farmer Joe’s

What music are you listening to right now?
I’ve been sort of obsessed with George Harrison and I always have Broken Social Scene on rotation.

WHY do you do what you do?
Because I love living creatively, I like things to be challenging and always changing, and I really value freedom. There are certainly trade offs when working for yourself, but my work really suits my personality. I like being able to make a decision and make it happen, to put things in motion right away. I was always terrorized by the slow pace of things in school and while working in the professions. Maybe I am impatient. But I like things to be interesting and new all the time. I also hope one day to have kids so I have intentionally built my business in a way that I will be able to be a mom and a designer if I am ever lucky enough to have my own family.

How do you balance the creative part of your job with the business part?

This can be a struggle, mostly because I always feel short on time and in order to be creative I really need to have free space and time. I would say that 10% of my business is the highly creative part where I am developing brand new ideas.

The other 90% is the hustle–which I love and find rewarding and challenging in other ways. The hustle includes everything from marketing, branding, event planning, social media, and all the way down to the smallest tedium involved in running a store, a studio, and an online business. I am just now really beginning to know what my key competencies are, and I am going to hire folks to take care of the parts I am not good at which I know will free me up to put more energy into the things that I rock at.

What do you absolutely KNOW for sure?
Who I love. (Turns out I love a lot of people).


Did I tell you Kate is amazing?! I’m totally smitten with her + her work.

I hope you loved getting to know a little bit about this talented designer + incredible entrepreneur! Kate is a big fan of The Girl Who Knows community and decided to offer a rare, limited time 25% discount on ANY Kate Ellen Metals pieces from today thru November 24, 2012! Don’t wait. Get over to Kate Ellen Metals online shoppe and select one of her many pieces (or a few).

The holiday’s aren’t that far off + personally I think these unique pieces make the PERFECT gift + you support an amazing independent business owner! Total win-win.

Enter this unique coupon code at checkout: THEGIRLKNOWS.

P.S. Because you’re awesome (and so is Miss Kate), I’ll be giving away a pair of her best-selling Birch earrings (an $85 value)!
All you have to do to be entered to win is the following ::
1. Get signed up on The Girl Who Knows mailing list (if you aren’t already) by filling out the form at the bottom of this post OR clicking HERE.
2. TWEET and/or FACEBOOK the following message to your friends + family ~ “I’m in it to win it! @Steph_Watanabe is giving away $85 worth of jewels on her blog! Hurry! Contest ends Friday 9/28. http://bit.ly/RdCZFH”
(note :: be sure to tag The Girl Who Knows on Facebook in order to be entered to win)
Easy peasy! Good luck + the winner will be announced in next week’s blog post.
Until next time . . .




Video Edited + Creative Direction by fistfull of cake films Music by Arcade Fire, “Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)” ~ buy here.

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  1. Beautiful photos & Video! I love the behind-the-scenes look into the jewelry making & the store. Kate Ellen Metals are fabulous, as is Crown Nine, and your cinematography. You definitely are a girl who knows! 😉

    1. I agree, Stephanie has a great eye and took some really nice footage that really reflects who I am–quite a remarkable feat that is a result of real talent.

  2. Your images of Kate and her studio are beautiful Stephanie. Kate’s designs are creative and stunning. Not hard to see why she’s done so well for herself. The bay area and East Bay is not the easiest environment to set up shop. So nice to see a courageous, talented artist doing well.

    I don’t have pierced ears but I have a niece who would go ga-ga over these earrings!

    Thanks for sharing Kate with us Stephanie ; )

    1. Thanks for stopping by + glad you liked Kate’s pieces ~ happy to share her talent with you! I agree, it’s very courageous to setup shop and go your own way. I have so much respect for anyone who does. 🙂

    2. Thanks for the encouraging words Darris! The Bay is steeped with talent and getting things going here is tricky–so nice to have the support of people who value art and entrepreneurship! Thanks xo

  3. I love Kate’s pieces and that they are fun to play with while wearing. I also ♥ her special quote, think I’ll have to write that one down!

  4. Gracious this is beautiful work! Did you to the photography Stephanie? The layout of this page, the words + images is stunning….NOT SURPRISING! 🙂 I’ve just added a note in my maps to visit the studio next time in that neck of the woods. Thanks for sharing <3

  5. Girl…your posts are SO ABSOLUTELY BEAUTIFUL! And I love them. And everything about your site. And you. So happy for you. Just gorgeous. Keep on showing us the beauty around.

    Love you (and I want those freakin earrings!!)

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