Many moons ago, when I was young and jetted to Manhattan for shows, I saw a fantastic show at The Cutting Room: Kate Taylor. This was back in the time of MySpace, and so, after the show, I messaged Kate on her MySpace to let her know how much I loved her music. She was so kind and replied right away! We struck up a conversation, and low and behold, when I went back to The Cutting Room to see Carly Simon and Ben Taylor play a show, Kate was there (not shockingly, as Ben is her nephew), and she not only said hi to me, but remembered me, my story, my life, and even introduced herself to my mom! Not only is Kate an unbelievably kind soul, but she's a gorgeous song writer; her songs are infused with history, heart, and passion. But, we're not here today to talk about Kate's music, actually! We're here because Kate is also an extremely talented jewelry designer...when I saw her pieces she was posting on Facebook, I became so intrigued about her design choices, and asked if she would be willing to do an interview with us; not surprisingly, she was kind as always, and happily accepted my offer. Today, we have a fantastic interview with Kate, we're also sharing her music....and we have a giveaway, too! Read ahead for more!

For more info on Kate, and to purchase her jewelry, you can check out her Facebook, her website, and her jewelry's Facebook and website.

1. Why did you start making jewelry?
Ever since I was a kid I have had an attraction to shells and also to jewelry and to combine the two was a natural. When my husband Charlie Witham, our friend Joan LeLacheur and I started working with the shell that grows here on Martha's Vineyard, we weren't really thinking about "jewelry" necessarily. Charlie had been a student of Native American art and culture, and we saw beautiful purple and white cylindrical beads (wampum) made from the hard shell clam (quahog), used by the original Americans, on display behind glass in museums. The beads were and are still used ceremoniously by the native people as a means of communication and to record important events. They beads were also used as adornment, but their highest function was as a mnemonic device, woven into belts and message strands to document tribal history; agreements, weddings, etc, and to trigger the telling of these stories through the oral tradition. We were drawn to these wampum beads and really wanted to have some. We didn't know of anyone still making them, and through research into how they had been made and through trial and error, we started the journey to making them for ourselves.

2. Where do you get your materials? 

Charlie realized that the shells these beads were made from were the same shells that we were finding on the shoreline where we live on Martha's Vineyard. Starting in 1971, we spent our first couple of years working with small pieces of the ocean tumbled shell that we found on the beach. We started drilling them and stringing them up as necklaces and bracelets. In January of 1975 we made our first cylindrical wampum beads. Along the way we also started to incorporate other shells such as scallop and abalone, precious and semi precious stones, gold and silver and sea glass into our pieces.

3. What inspires your designs? 

Our intent and hope has always been to make pieces that honor the deep and rich traditional uses of the beads.

4. Do you feel that there is a relationship between music and creating jewelry?

I suppose there is a relationship between all types of art. Our natural world inspires a lot of what I do. I find it fascinating and fabulous that people can take the same materials, the same notes, the same canvas and paint and make completely different and uniquely individual things from them.

5. Have you always been creative with your hands, besides playing music?

My mom and her mother were both very creative. They made things with their hands that were both beautiful and functional; braided and hooked rugs, knit and sewn garments, woven materials. And they were both singers! They taught me to knit and crochet and to feel free to follow any creative path that might lay before me

6. Do you do custom work?

You might say that all of the work I do now is custom. There are many styles of beads, bracelets, pendants and necklaces that I have made that someone will see and want replicated, so I can do that for them, and I also can meet with a client, talk about what they might like and design something especially for them. Because of the nature of the shell and the other materials, each piece is unique.
Each shell piece is quite labor intensive and some of the materials I use are rare and/or expensive and the prices can reflect that. To make some of the designs more affordable, I have started a line of necklaces that are made from photocopies of original pieces and with some gold leaf and resin they are set into pendant trays.

1. Diamond Sunrise with Gold Leaf, 2. Tipi Fire with Gold Leaf, 3. Big Tree and Night Sky with Gold Leaf, 4. Big Tree and Night Sky with Purple Foil and Gold Leaf, 5. Circle Four Directions with Gold Leaf, 6. Wampum Beads, 7. Wampum 45’s Insert, 8. Circle Full Moon on the Water with Gold Leaf, 9. Diamond Full Moon on the Water with Gold Leaf, 10. Circle Tortoise with Gold Leaf, 11. Big Tree and Night Sky with Red foil and Gold Leaf, 12. Tipi Fire with Red Foil and Gold Leaf

Kate not only creates this jewelry, but she has many songs about these natural resources, the shells, the wampum, the waters which inspire her art...she collects her materials at Menemsha Pond, a salt water, tidal pond that is 3 miles across and is 1/2 in Chilmark, Mass and 1/2 in Aquinnah, Massachusetts. To hear some of the songs inspired by the pond and its natural resources, check out, Beautiful Road (one of my favorite songs), Shores of Paradise, Shanty Song, and King of the Pond.

Wait, wait...there's more! Kate has generously offered to give away one of her pendants to a Lovely reader! Just in time for Mother's Day...! How can you enter to win one of Kate's amazing hand made pieces? Just check out the widget below and entering is so easy! Better yet: YOU get to pick the one you want to win! 

a Rafflecopter giveaway


  1. Great interview, Kate. I love the breadth of your creativity.

    1. Thank you Heather! I am a fortunate gal as I am surrounded by wonderful things to work with and inspirational artists.

  2. Love your work, love you. Thank you, Pam

  3. #8 is just my style, but they are all gorgeous

  4. #8 is my favorite. I grew up on Martha's Vineyard and my Mum still lives on Chappy. This pendant reminds me so much of the many times I have seen the moon on the water. While I live in Northern Minnesota now, we do live on a lake and I will often sit and stare at the moon on the water and be reminded of my childhood.

  5. Beautiful work, Kate! Hard to choose but I think #5 is my favorite.

  6. # 8 was a Christmas present for my 23 yr old daughter who also loves Kate's music, too! Want to get all of them for fam. & friends who are fam., too! <3