Everyday Icons: The Creative

Kate Miss has risen above it all - day jobs, creative struggles, and a close-to-home cancer diagnosis. Read her inspired story at Clementine Daily.

kate miss interview

Meet Kate Miss - a jewelry designer/graphic designer/ photographer/ everything-er. If ever there were a creative, design-oriented project she couldn't tackle, we'd be surprised. But what lies beneath her beautiful exterior and incredible work ethic is a kind, gentle soul with a story rooted deeply in love, trial and triumph - precisely the reason we're happy to call Kate a modern role model for women everywhere:

OK, you are a total creative powerhouse - a jewelry designer, graphic designer, photographer, everything-er. Which title do you use when you introduce yourself to someone new? Which are you most proud of?

I get a little anxious when people ask me what I do, because I realize it comes off like I'm some sort of Portlandia skit (cue: "She's Making Jewelry Now") and I honestly drop the photographer part most of the time as it's not something I actually have much of a career of (aka I don't get paid for it much, though I wish I did!). All those slashes in my "job title" may be obnoxious, but I couldn't have it any other way as I get bored very easily. I have to be kept busy, and if I'm knee-deep in a boring project (otherwise known as how I pay the bills sometimes) I'm searching for creative outlets on the side or the moment that project is done. Right now I'm not really focusing much on my jewelry as the design business is booming, but sometimes it's the opposite. What I'm proud of and what I'm most excited about changes all the time and is fairly balanced. Maybe because I'm a classic Libra?

Ha, we know the feeling. So how did you tap into your creative energy, and what has your path since then looked like, with all its detours and forks along the way?

I was just thinking deeply about this because I was at this amazing event in June - Unique Camp - and we had to write about our creative history. I realized mine is a pretty standard slow and steady rise - no big shifts or life altering moments (well, at least not in my career). I knew I wanted to do something creative my entire life, I taught myself how to use Photoshop and build websites in high school, went to college for graphic design, graduated and got an internship and then just slowly moved up from there. Two years ago I had built my freelance career up enough that I could quit my in-house design job and go full-time freelance. A year later, I got a studio. And then a year later still, here I am, wondering what the heck the next goal is besides just becoming more financially stable. 

We can't wait to see what's ahead! Looking back, you've had a rough few years as your boyfriend Will battled testicular cancer, and I've often read that the caretaker role can sometimes be just as painful as the patient's. How did you stay strong during this time, and how did this journey shape your current perspective and life philosophy?

Oh, it just all feels like a terrible nightmare that never actually happened. Like I went to another planet and had that experience, and came back to normal life, even though it had lasting consequences we still don't even know for sure. I'm really talented in the art of denial, which was strangely a great tool for coping with all of it. My mindset from the moment the word cancer came from Will's doctor's mouth was that everything was going to be OK. One huge distraction from wondering how he would be health-wise was that the financial burden of him not having health insurance destroyed us so hugely that most of my falling apart moments came from thinking we were financially ruined for life, or that he couldn't get treatment just because we had cleared our savings account. But then after an insane battle that involved more phone calls than could ever be made, Will got on MediCal, and wonderful people - family and old coworkers and complete strangers - stepped up and helped us with our existing bills in a way that I still can't even fully comprehend. I made a fundraiser of prints we sold and the response knocked me off my feet. I had to shut it down because we met our goal and I wasn't capable of keeping up with orders while taking care of Will at the same time. I felt uncomfortable with taking money from strangers outright and wanted to be able to give them something to remember how they helped us, so even though it was a lot of work, it was obviously so worth it. I can't tell you how many times I broke down sobbing just over how kind people I'd never even laid eyes on could be to us. So the biggest thing I took away from all of it was: (1) Send care packages! They really brightened some gloomy days, and (2) You may think that people need space when terrible things happen to them, but check in on them, send things, let them know you're there and you care. We really learned who our true friends were. And (3) Will and I are an unstoppable team and I'm really dang happy he asked me to marry him after all of that was behind us. Cue sappy string music, please.

Cheers to the newlyweds! Now that you're back from your honeymoon, you're juggling quite a few responsibilities in your multidisciplinary creative career - how do you stay organized and top of everything? And how do you separate personal Kate from professional Kate? Are the two symbiotic?

What an excellent question, ha! I could definitely be more organized (though I guess we all feel that way?) but I'm an obsessive list maker, and whenever I get lazy and stop physical lists and rely on my brain, I screw up. I recently painted a chalkboard wall by my desk for my client list and it's almost hilarious how simple it was but made such a big difference to stare at that list. But keeping personal and professional separate is something I'm still figuring out. I used to leave my desk job and the day was basically over and I'd get to work on creative projects I was doing for myself, but now it's just one blur of a day. It's also tricky when you're a person who has their hands in many different things because you start a new creative project and wonder, "can I make money off of this?" because you're constantly wondering if a freelance project will be your last. But! I've learned this year how incredibly important it is to have hobbies that don't make you a dime - that you do just for the enjoyment, even if they are creative. You can't lose the joy of making to the worry of monetization.

We couldn't agree more! In fact, Clementine Daily is a space for women who believe in embracing simple pleasures, setting realistic expectations and bettering their lives to better the lives around them. In your eyes, how do you fit in with that mission?

It's something I'm still working at, but I suppose the thing I'm good at online is being honest about myself and my business. I don't try to portray a glossy, sunshine-y perfect life and business and open up to people about my struggles. Basically I keep it real, and I strive to make things and take part in things that are true to myself and my business values. I do think that I have to loosen up a little on that because sometimes I turn down opportunities that feel too much like "selling out" to me and perhaps I'm a little harsher than I should be with those. But I hope that I can show other people, especially women, that quitting your day job and making stuff happen is totally possible. And sometimes it will suck, it will be hard, and you will doubt yourself - but that's totally normal and life goes on. You won't fall apart.

Amen. A few quick questions - you have the best taste in music. What album are you currently listening to on repeat?

Right now I'm in a major lady phase (more than usual) and Jenny O and the newest Camera Obscura are on constant repeat.

And what is your personal motto or mantra?

"Make it happen."

Finally, what are five everyday items you can't bear to live without?

Ole Henriksen's African Red Tea facial cleanse


J Brand 811 jeans

, my

Chemex coffee maker

, my iPhone (gotta be real here), and sunglasses (LA necessity!).

Oh, Kate. Thank you for joining us to share your story and your work and your heart. We can't wait to see what's around the bend for you and Will!

p.s. Know an Everyday Icon that deserves the spotlight? Tweet us your suggestions!