Kaja Gjedebo, the name behind the jewellery label KGD, studied both jewellery and furniture design at Edinburgh College of art. This divergence of skill is apparent in the wide range of designs of KGD.
Kaja is not led by trends, but rather by Kaja’s personal interests. The result is elegant and timeless jewellery, combining natural forms with delicate construction. Gjedebo’s talent lies in her skill to manipulate and arrange the very small.
Here, she talks to us more about the plans for the future and more…
Can you tell us a bit about KGD Jewellery and your journey to getting where you are today?
It has been a long journey which actually started by me making a huge bed out of scrap wood from a container, my friends thought I should become a furniture designer, and from lack of another plan for the future I did a year in a cabinetmaking school before moving to Edinburgh to study Furniture design. Luckily I had to choose a second subject, and jewellery design became my second passion. I studied under the magnificent jewelry artist Dorothy Hogg, and with a workshop with a view over Castle Rock I was totally in love. The ideas which did not work in furniture could be scaled down into jewelry, and after a long day in the wood workshop it was great to go up to the jewelry department and fiddle with some silver. In my final year I won the Royal Society of Art´s Student design Competition in the jewelry category and that sort of made me realize i probably was´t going to become a furniture designer after all. This prize sent me to Liverpool for a workplacement designing for the exclusive Boodle and Dunthorne, but more importantly there was a travel award. I sold my flat and went to Sydney where I lived for 6 months, working in a great place for jewelry designers called Object studios and building up my first collection of jewelry. I had never really had a plan, but the business grew steadily from there.
You are we’ll travelled and almost landed a job in NY working for a pretty impressive brand but things didn’t quite go to plan. Can you tell us what happened?
Oh yes..after Sydney some of my furniture and jewelry was in an exhibition of young Nordic designers in New York. Before traveling over, my teacher from Edinburgh hooked me up with a former student who now lived in NY working for an architectural company. I did´t do much research on this since I assumed she was a fairly young designer and looked forward to a nice chat exchanging news from the college. I did wonder about the address since it was on Wallstreet, but again, thought Wall street probably was a very long street. Wall street is very short. And the building I was entering was a huge skyscraper, and the company turned out to be SOM, the second largest architectural company in the world, and the former alumni was the boss over a certain division. But again, I was only there to show my portfolio and get some advice on what to do, – then at the end of our conversation she actually offers me a job! I was totally in shock, especially since i had never even considered working such a place, after all i was going to do jewelry, but you do not turn down an offer on a designer jo in New York when you´re fresh out of college. You just don´t, and hey, how cool was that, moving to New York?
So I went back home, and had packed my bags and was moving out of my flat when 9/11 hit Wallstreet and the world propelled into a recession. During my goodbye-party i got the phone-call where I was told I had no position there any longer. Neither had the woman who had hired me.
But for me this was a wonderful turning point, I started living and working out of an atelier in a converted factory building with a jazz club as the closest neighbor. For two years I could only sleep after 04 in the morning. I worked at the theatre at night and in the workshop during the day, and slowly but surely I started getting noticed by designer shops and the more exclusive jewelry shops.
What has been your highlight since launching the brand?
There has been so many! But last year one of the best stores for jewelry in New York, MAD store by Central Park, took in a wide range and they are selling really well. It was also a great honor to design the jewelry for Haddy N´Jie who was the TV-hostess for the Eurovision Song contest in Oslo some years ago.
Describe the brand in 3 words?
Nordic, light, interesting
Who is involved in the brand?
I am a proper on-woman-band, I design and make all the prototypes and some of the larger and more intricate designs. These are then sent to my factory in Thailand which is run by a Norwegian lady, who takes care of the production. I have an agent who travels Norway, but I am looking for an agent in Europe and the US.
Tell us what a typical day in your life looks like?
Me and my husband bought a row house in an artist housing cooperative right by the forest some years ago. It is a housing cooperative of 32 row houses purpose built for artists with in-house studios, so I actually do not have to leave the house for work. There fore, each morning after sending the kids off to school, i team up with some of my fellow neighbours and we walk for 40 minutes in the forest before retuning to our studios and atelier. Then I am ready for anything. I normally just check for important mails and orders before i start working in the workshop. In my experience inspiration is not something you get, you work for it, and only by working you start seing new possibilities.
At noon I eat lunch with some neighbors again, and the I work until the kids come home. Since my workshop is at home i was easily get things done during the evening as well. In between I make sure to do a bit of work with Instagram or Facebook
Before KGD, what did you do on the work front?
I have never really done anything else than designing jewellery, apart from the odd job at the bookstore or theatre to make ends meet in the beginning.
Who/what inspires you?
Architecture, nature ; especially Japan.
What are your plans for the brand in 2016?
I am attending Oslo Design Fair this autumn which i am looking forward to, and my goal is to find time to investigate into other stores in the US where my designs fit the concept.
Did you always know that one day you would be a #Girlboss?
I have always been my own boss, so I guess yes.. Today I am also the head of our housing cooperative managing huge rehabilitation projects, where I really feel like the boss.
When we interview women in business we always ask, if they could do anything differently what would it be. Usually, everybody says they would never change anything because then they wouldn’t be where they are today. What are your views on this?
Back then I was so eager to get life started, and get my business started. I should have gotten myself a degree as a goldsmith, and I hope to do this in the future some day. To invest into education and learning a craft properly before having kids will always be a good investment. And I should probably have written a business plan!
If there’s one #Girlboss activity you could get better at, what would it be?
Outsource. Today I tend to do everything myself from designing my brochures, webpage and building my own workshop, then this has helped me keeping my costs down.
For women aspiring to run their own company, what advice would you give?
If you can get funding that´s great, but very often you spend the money wrong to start with since you´re new in business. So I would try and start up without too much funding, and rather try to get it when you have uncovered what you really need it for,
Having a part time job in the evening really helped in the beginning when sales were scarce, since I could use all my energy in the workshop during the day. Use your money carefully, invest some time into learning Illustrator and photoshop so you can make your own brochures.Use Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook instead of advertising. Make your own website on Weebly or one of the other engines who has ready templates. These can look pretty professional with some work, and you can update them yourself. Write a blog.