Wednesday, March 09, 2011

Interview: Kate Richbourg...

Kate Richbourg, a California-based jewelry artist (with over 19 years of beading experience), former bead shop owner, and educator, puts her talents to use as the Educational Director of Beaducation. Beaducation, started by Lisa Niven Kelly, is an online resource for affordable, virtual jewelry-making classes and supplies. CLICK HERE to visit the website. CLICK HERE to check out Kate's blog, "We Can Make That at Home".

Andrew Thornton: You're currently the educational director of Beaducation, what does that entail? How did you first get involved with beads?

Kate Richbourg: The Director of Education post involves all things, well, educational at Beaducation. I am in charge of the online video class program. That means finding instructors and choosing classes that will be of interest to our customers. I direct the actual class shoot and make sure that the class translates to video. Obviously with video classes the students and instructor are not in the room at the same time, so we have to anticipate what questions the students are going to have and at what point in the class they might have them. That's a big part of filming those does it translate for the student at home. There are a lot more steps involved in getting that class from our studio to video, so thankfully we have a super team that supports that process.

In addition, I support our customer service team and inventory team on product knowledge. I cover the "how-to", "what's this for" and "what should I use" questions that we get from customers. If someone gets stuck with a class or has a question about tool use, I'm your gal.

I am also (usually) the fingers behind the keyboard for our social media outlets. I FB,
Twitter and blog. I try and keep up on what's happening in beading cyberspace.

And I can't forget tradeshows...I am usually the "Demo Girl" at the shows that we do during the year (not too many, thank goodness!) I love to connect with customers during demos. It really shows what people are into and what the hot topics in jewelry-making are.

How I got started in this industry was really by chance. After I graduated from college (as a Theater Arts Major) I had a slight panic that I wasn't going off to an office job. After a brief stint in a traditional office job I realized that corporate lifestyle wasn't for me. So I did what many people do when they are at a crossroads...I decided to go back to school. I figured that I would become a teacher. I loved to teach. I taught theater programs for kids during my college years and I loved the teaching dynamic. LOVED IT! I just figured that's what I would while looking through the want ads (remember those? This was the early '90's) I saw an ad that said "Bead Store Asistant Manager Wanted." Whoa. A BEAD store? A store that just sells beads. I'm gonna call them, NOW! I figured that would be a good part-time job while going back to school. So I called, interviewed and got the job. I never went back to school, but I found my calling.

That store was The
Bead Shop in Palo Alto CA. After taking every class that was offered (we had about 4 or 5, all stringing) I was hooked on beads. Our Class director left not long after I started and I was offered the position. I never looked back. We had an amazing class program and I am proud to say that we gave many beaders their start.

AT: You were once the owner of a bead store called, Beadissimo in San Francisco that was open for almost six years. It has since closed. What was it like to own a bead store? What happened to prompt its closing? Do you wish you could change anything?

KR: Well, every bird must leave the nest, I suppose. After ten years at The Bead Shop, I was ready to strike out on my own. I really had a clear vision of what I wanted a store to be. From the very start my focus was the customer. I wanted to create a space that people would feel comfortable in and offer interesting beads, great staff and fantastic classes in a beautiful classroom. I loved it. We really thrived and became a creative linchpin in the beading community.

In the middle of year six, that's when the economy really took a downturn. We went from being a really busy store to a ghost town. The
creative arts really took a dive. Maintaining a small business in a struggling economy became very difficult. I made the very, very tough decision to close the doors before things became really dire.

Now that it is all over, I am not sure that I would change anything. I think is just ran it's natural course. I do miss it. Not all of it, but the customer interaction part of it...the classroom part, the employing people and creative community part, that's what I miss. But let me tell you. I was SUPER LUCKY to have landed here at Beaducation. Lisa Niven Kelly is one smart cookie and I am proud to be a part of her team.

AT: Beadissimo was known for its classes and bringing in talented artists from all over the globe to teach. As the educational director of an online jewelry-making educational site, do you see similarities between your positions? What are the major differences?

KR: Well, now classes can reach the student wherever they are. No one has to jump on a plane or hop in a car to get to class. They just have to click their mouse. Students still want the same thing, great classes, knowledgeable instructors interesting projects. Now the challenge really is to translate that class experience for the computer screen. We get better all the time. With each class we learn a lesson on how to make this online experience better.

AT: Do you still have time for your own work?

KR: It's a struggle, for sure. There were a lot of years that I really didn't make jewelry much at all. Only a quick class sample or pieces for the store. I finally feel like I have come out of the fog, you know. Worry and pressure take away a lot of your creative spirit. But it is coming back. It's knocking on the door and I am throwing that door wide open.

AT: What are your biggest influences in your personal work? What do you like best about the beading community?

KR:There are so many people that I admire. What I think is really great is that even though this business has really grown and evolved in the 19 years that I have been doing this, it still seems relatively small. I really admire the tenacity of the people in the business, from students to other business owners. There is a feeling of "we are all in this together"...that's what really inspires me. It feels old-fashioned. And that's a good thing in my book.

AT: What's next? Are there any interesting things on the horizon or projects that you're looking forward to?

KR: I am really looking forward to the new classes that we have coming up on Beaducation. Great classes, great instructors. We have great things brewing this year.
On a personal level I am really excited and honored to be writing my first book. It is coming out in the Fall of 2012. Let me just say that I hope to bring metalsmithing to all...if you can string a bead, you can wield a torch.


Holly said...

This was a great read! Really well written. I'm new to your blog, but I'm sure I'll be back! :)

Alice said...

What a great interview! I don't know how Kate gets it all done. I'm fairly new to the Beaducation website but so for I love what I see!

Charlene said...

I enjoyed reading this interview. I love Beaducation and have several of their metal stamps and a couple of hammers in my collection. It's interesting to read about the transitions in her life. She seems to have handled them beautifully.

KayzKreationz said...

I loved this interview. And I've thoroughly enjoyed the 2 classes I've taken at Beaducation so far. Looking forward to more. Thanks for the interview. She does a great job with the classes. So it's nice to know a little more about her.

N Valentine Studio said...

Beaducation has some great tools and wonderful stamps! Looking forward to seeing the book!