About the Designer + the Brand:
The designer of Clouds + Ladders jewelry, Kate Joseph, is inspired by her love of modern art and design to create contemporary wearable art pieces. Believing that jewelry can empower and facilitate self-expression, her designs invite each customer to personalize one-of-a-kind keepsakes. Gone are the days of "One size fits all" jewelry - being modular and handmade means you choose what suits you best - post or clip-on earrings, necklaces, bracelets, rings, or pins! She carefully solders, fills, sands, and finishes each piece by hand in her bright, colorful, and slightly chaotic solar-powered studio in a redwood forest north of San Francisco.
Despite a background in painting and sculpture, Kate chose a career as an Occupational Therapist and making jewelry as a creative hobby. However, fate had a different plan - an employee of San Francisco Museum of Modern Art spotted her jewelry at a handcrafted goods market in 2018. Three months after SFMOMA’s store started carrying her work, Kate quit her job as an OT and began to concentrate on Clouds + Ladders full time. Currently she works with multiple Museum Stores coast to coast (including Philadelphia Museum of Art, Boston Museum of Art, Huntington Gardens and Museum, Oakland Museum of California, and more), and has recently started creating custom designs to accompany museum exhibitions. Her designs are bold and lightweight - and each is a tiny work of art you can wear. You're invited to follow along as Kate’s story unfolds on Instagram/cloudsandladders
Q: Can you tell us about how your work is made?
A: The making process involves soldering the brass frames or hiring a foundry to cast them in bronze, filling them with high quality polymer clay, and then a multiple step sanding/finishing process to create the smooth, matte finish that makes C+L jewelry so unique.
Jewelry designer Kate Joseph at work in her studio
Process and studio photographs by Nicola Parisi
Q: Where do you find inspiration?
A: My inspiration comes from the world around me: landscapes, the moon, plants, and the work of artists I admire.
Another source of inspiration is that I collect vintage books and magazines about crafts. I feel a kinship with other artisans from various cultures and backgrounds, especially those who make traditionally so-called ‘women’s work.’ This connection is stronger than any particular American cultural tradition that I was raised within. As a result of my interest in those subjects, I have an enormous collection of vintage publications to inspire my jewelry designs.
Q: What makes you passionate about making jewelry?
A: I grew up hearing the stories behind the jewelry worn by my mother and grandmother, and even the men in my family and their watches. These items were usually given to them by loved ones or collected as mementos of places they had been. They would recount the places or occasions the accessories had been worn, or if they wore it everyday they seemed to find comfort in its familiarity. Each item was a small but meaningful connection to their treasured memories. My hope is that C+L jewelry can accomplish that in some way for each person who wears it.
Q: Where did the name Clouds + Ladders come from?
A: Shortly after we got married, my husband and I moved to 5 different states in 5 years for his career. The last move was in 2016 when we settled in Northern California. I planned to begin work immediately as an Occupational Therapist, however the state licensing board lost my application. I was told I couldn't work for the 3 months it took to obtain my license. Feeling the stress of the moves, the loneliness of living in a new location, and not being able to work, I struggled with depression. Determined not to let these circumstances get me down, I decided to take the situation as an opportunity to rekindle a hobby that I always wanted to develop but didn't have time for: jewelry making. Needing a name to post to Instagram so I could share photos with friends and family, I chose two things that represented getting up and out of depression as well as giving a nod to the chimerical and the pragmatic: Clouds + Ladders.