Reclaim & Exchange: The story behind Kate Koeppel

Hello friends!

I am so pleased to introduce Kate Koeppel to you!  Kate is a designer, crafter, blogger, and one of the founders of the movement, Skill Exchange workshop; A super exciting community event in the San Fransisco area.  She is passionate about returning to a handmade lifestyle, and teaching people to both value handmade items and give people the skills needed to make their own products.  Genius. 

I’ll let her tell us a little about herself:

How did you first become interested in art and design?

I grew up in a creative house, my mother always encouraged us to be playful and creative, and to make messes and try new projects. During college I always considered art a hobby, but not something serious enough to pursue as a career. After college I moved to Italy for a year. It was during that year of play and travel that I realized I wanted a career that was creatively challenging, and I needed to make things with my hands to feel satisfied and productive. I moved to San Francisco, went to design school, and now I run a small visual and graphic design studio, Kate Koeppel Design. I make things with my hands and strive to produce work that is playful with purpose.  In addition to graphic design work, I coordinate free skill sharing workshops and I run the blog Mi Piace Kate, which features original daily content chronicling my projects, and self-reliance experiments.

What led you to the “make it with your hands” concept?

The idea really stems from my own sense of independence and self-reliance that comes from making something from raw materials. Intentionally slowing down, and taking time to make something with my hands feels very empowering. So many of us live in communities where we aren’t sharing our skills and passion with each other. I always liken the idea to a barn raising… neighbors came together to help build barns, and each neighbor had a different tool or skill to help get the job done. No single person or family could quickly do what a community could do together. In turn, neighbors helped each other build barns, by sharing skills and knowledge to support each other. When I talk of self-reliance, I don’t mean to propose that everyone today can, and must be cooking, baking, sewing and building everything by themselves. It is difficult, it is time-intensive, and I don’t believe it can be sustainable to do it all alone. I do believe self-reliance can be sustainable, practicable, and enjoyable if you can build a network of like-minded makers around you, to help share and support your efforts.

You run a workshop series called Skill Exchange.  Can you tell us a bit more about that and where it began?

I went to Design school and during my thesis year developed a methodology to instigate productive chain reactions in self-reliance through communal skill exchange. The work is an exploration of design as a social practice, which investigates the environmental, social and economic impact of  the devaluation of self-reliance. That is a big mouthful… but basically I wanted to research and explore ways to help communities teach, share and learn traditional hand making skills to help encourage self-reliance.

After I graduated, I started collaborating with a small kitchen goods shop in SF called Pot + Pantry, where I host free skill-sharing workshops, taught by local makers, gardeners, chefs, and brewers. We’re enthusiastic about making things by hand, but we know handcrafting skills are often undervalued and under practiced. We hope to change that by inspiring our community to use their hands, and learn new kitchen skills in a fun, social setting. Skill Exchange is a project I am really excited about, and hope to expand in the next few months to more workshops in additional locations around San Francisco.

The community skill exchange is an idea many people can do.  Any tips on where and how to start?

I think learning new skills (for free) is something that anyone can do– but know that it takes time, and it takes the confidence to say “I’m a beginner, but I want to learn something new”. Ask questions! Ask your friends and neighbors to teach you how to do something, but be ready to offer a skill, a recipe, or your time in return. I think starting small is ok, and I think it may be more impactful to learn one or two small things, like sewing on a button, or hemming jeans before you attempt to tackle making a souffle or building a chicken coop or growing a garden full of vegetables. It can be a lot of fun to get a group of friends together to learn something new and useful, that you can go home and repeat and share with your family.

Thanks Kate!   Your life and philosophy are so inspiring!  What great encouragement to live to the fullest and to share freely.

Anyone feeling inspired?  I am!!

Happy Tuesday!


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