Photos by Ryan Kell
Jewelry made out of a skateboard.
Sounds crazy, right?
Well, it definitely doesn’t sound crazy to Katie, owner of Trebird Skateboard Jewelry! I first became aware of Trebird a few years ago at a local artisan show, and from that point on I was completely hooked. Her pieces are so unique and fun and add a little pop of color to any outfit, which is perfect for people like me who pretty much only wear black.
What I love so much about her jewelry is that you can really tell just how much time she spends on each one. No two pieces are the same, and that adds an awesome variety to her brand that makes you want to keep collecting more and more.
I recently asked Katie a few questions about her business and life in Buffalo and found out that what started out as a broken skateboard slowly transformed into her passion.
In this shoot, I’m wearing the Skateboard Necklace, FRED Pendant, and Skateboard Earrings c/o Trebird.
When did you start your business?
Trebird started back in May of 2013. We’re actually coming up on our 5th anniversary!
Have you always known that jewelry design was something that you wanted to pursue?
I took a metalsmithing class back in college and I fell in love with it. After my course, I tried getting into it again but due to lack of resources I started branching out into different mediums. I worked with wire for a while and I hated everything I was making. I tried working with sewing thread, bead-working, recycled paper, you name it. It actually wasn’t until I worked with scrap paper that I realized I really like the idea of transforming something old into something new. Kyle (my boyfriend at the time, now husband) came home from the skate park one day with a broken skateboard. I saw all the colors in the board and I was so excited to tear it apart. Once I started cutting into it, I made my first pair of earrings. After that I started doing some research, got all the equipment I needed and set up my bench in the basement.
To go back to your question, I don’t think it’s something I’ve always known I wanted to do, but as I continue to make jewelry I find myself mildly obsessed with jewelry making of all forms. I’m currently trying to get back into metalsmithing again so there will hopefully be a new line from Trebird in the future.
How did you come up with the name Trebird for your brand?
Trebird came from living on the corner of Tremont and Bird in Buffalo. We were all brainstorming for a name one day and my friend Ryan suggested Trebird. I’ve got a lot of Buffalove in my heart so I thought it was the perfect fit. All of my boards come from skaters that skate the Buffalo streets so I thought it’d be neat to name all of our pieces after Buffalo streets too. (Potomac Pendant, Hoyt Pendant Earrings, Tremont Necklace, etc.)
What’s funny is that combining the street names have kind of turned into an overall branding for most of what I do. Our shop, Fred Handmade Wares, was named pretty much the same way. Franklin + Edward = Fred. Ha.
What do you love about owning your own business?
I can honestly say, my absolutely favorite part is seeing people wear my jewelry. I still get a little goofy every time I see someone wearing a piece of mine. Even if I don’t know who they are, I usually run right up to them and say, “Hey! I made that! You look awesome!”
My customers are awesome and they really are amazing looking people in general. I’m not just saying that. Haha.
What are the challenges that come with owning your own business?
There are so many challenges to owning your own business but I can definitely say it’s worth it. I’m on Etsy so keeping up with updating the shop is a monster of it’s own. It takes hours to get all the photos together, uploaded, tagged, etc.
It’s also difficult to find a lot of jewelry suppliers in the area. I try my hardest to make sure all of my hardware is sourced from local vendors. I’m lucky that Bead Gallery on Sheridan is so close, otherwise I’d have to search throughout Etsy for hours finding the right pieces.
It’s also difficult to stay up to date on style changes. I think my biggest hurdle was getting people to wear Trebird at first because they didn’t really understand the idea behind it. Now I have a solid customer base that loves repping Trebird and I couldn’t be more thankful for that.
Where do you draw your inspiration from?
I draw a lot of my inspiration from my own personal style, which can be good and bad. I’m a very neutral person and don’t have much “pizazz” to my outfits. I make a lot of jewelry based on if I would wear it. But the downfall to that is a lot of people may not like my style or what I would make based on that. Instead I’ll think of events that people could wear my jewelry to and I start to imagine the type of people that would go to those events. Concerts, a night on the town, to the beach, snowboarding, etc.
What do you love most about Buffalo?
There’s so much to love about Buffalo it’s hard to narrow it down. I would have to say the food though. I’m a sucker for a good meal and a good drink. And there’s SO many amazing places around here. Essex St. Pub might be the one place my husband and I go a little too much. Their BBQ game is just so on point!
What’s currently on your playlist?
Oh man, it’s different every day! Lately I’ve been really into Tame Impala, Alabama Shakes, Shakey Graves, Real Estate, Mac Demarco, and a little Bruno Mars sprinkled into a mix on the daily.
What are your plans for the future of your business?
I feel like I’ll always keep making new pieces for Trebird but I’m really going to start getting into metalsmithing. Depending on how that goes, there could be mix of new pieces in the future!