SPOTLIGHT ON : KATERINA ROZA
My first encounter with Katerina came on 25 February 2017, shortly after I announced I was leaving the world of jewellery. She sent me the most lovely and heartfelt message via Facebook that went on to change everything that Akong was about for me from that point on.
That simple act, which she says was "immediate", was the start of a conversation that really opened up my eyes to the fact that, although I was ready to get out of the jewellery industry, I was sitting on a wealth of knowledge and experience that could be used to help other designers who wanted to get in. Inspired by my conversations with Katerina, I hosted a live Q&A session on Facebook, where I invited designers to ask me any questions and get any advice that they wanted with regard to starting up a jewellery line. It was a great success and soon after this, I created the Akong All-Stars Facebook group so I could continue to support Katerina, and budding designers like her, with all the guidance and information they need to get to where they want to go.
I interviewed Katerina to dive in to her story a bit deeper, and was struck by how similar our experiences of getting "the call" to make jewellery came about. I highly recommend that you listen to the entire interview. Hers is a beautiful story of love, serendipity and salvation.
Katerina grew up in Australia, the daughter of Greek parents. Her father was a chef and her mother, Roza, was a dressmaker. During busy periods when her mother had "a major production happening", she would sit Katerina and her brother next to her and put them to work turning loops inside out and helping with her work.
As Katerina grew up, fashion became an all-consuming passion. As a teenager, going out with her friends was the highlight of her week, and she would spend hours losing herself in fashion magazines looking for inspiration for the next outfit she was going to wear. She would buy the fabric she wanted from the fabric store and have her mother make the outfit that she had in mind - something that was totally 'her'.
She went on to study Economics in university and began a career in the financial industry, but her love of fashion still remained. Following a strong urge to get deeper into fashion, she enrolled in the School of Fashion Design part-time. She began to notice that her style was gravitating more towards jewellery and accessories rather than clothing, and so years later, when she began turning her hand to designing and making, jewellery was instinctively her first stop.
Her calling towards jewellery-making she pins down to two key moments. One, when she was 22 and went travelling abroad for the first time by herself. She visited her godparents in Toronto, and while they were at work during the day, she would venture out and explore the city. She happened across a bead shop that had little tables and chairs, where you could pick your beads, string them and take them to the counter to be finished off into a wearable piece of jewellery that you would pay for and take away, and for the rest of that trip, she spent hours upon hours, every day in that store making "silly little necklaces" and wondering why this kind of store didn't exist where she lived in Australia. The Second came about 15 years ago, years after she had moved from Australia to Greece, when she went on a 4-day break to Mykonos. She walked into a shop that had a necklace that she instantly fell in love with. It was way beyond her price range at the time and she remembers walking past the store every day, looking through the window and drooling over the necklace. When she returned to Athens after her holiday, one day, by complete chance, she ventured down a random side street and discovered a part of the city that she had no idea even existed. There were loads of little bead shops and supply stores, including the one that sold all the components of the necklace she saw in Mykonos. She would start frequenting these stores, buying beads and being shown by the girls who worked in the stores how to use various tools to attach clasps and other findings.
This experience came during a generally unhappy time in Katerina's life. Her life was consumed by an extremely demanding and unrewarding job, with a difficult boss, and she would come home every day feeling flat and depressed. She needed to find an avenue where she could just unwind, and jewellery-making became that avenue. She would spend every weekend, on her coffee table, making "hundreds and hundreds" of necklaces and bracelets.
Her first "oh-my-god moment" came when her friend's mom, who had a holiday home on one of the Greek islands, came over for coffee and saw all these necklaces and bracelets that she had made. She was so impressed that she offered to take all the jewellery and sell it for her. A few weekends later, when Katerina went for a visit to the holiday home, her friend's mom came running out to meet her with an envelope full of money from the sales she had made. She sold every. single. piece.
After about 6 years of jewellery-making, Katerina found herself in a rut, making pieces commissioned by her friends that were effectively just copies of the trendy pieces they saw in magazines. She took to the internet for inspiration, to see what else was out there and what other designers were doing in jewellery that was more fashion-forward. That's when she came across my jewellery and another South American designer's, which she says "hit her in the face" and ultimately led her to create her own unique technique of crocheting jewellery components together. She says my designs were "such an inspiration" to her that when she saw my video where I announced I was leaving the world of jewellery, she felt such a sense of loss that she immediately contacted me. And the rest, as they say, is history!
She says her big dream for Katerina Roza is for more people to find out about her jewellery, learn about them, fall in love with them, wear them and enjoy them as much as she loves making them. My big dream for Katerina is for all her dreams to come true. Whatever you think of the jewellery, whether it is your style or not, you just can't deny the pure energy and spirit that she puts into every single piece that she makes. In the time I have gotten to know her, I can say one thing for sure: This woman truly does everything from the heart and for this, and many other reasons, I salute her.