Every nerve in my body blasted off as I entered the Kentuck Festival of the Arts, pen and notebook in hand. I wasn’t quite ready for my first interview, so I let my friends Jay and Chamberlyn do their interviews first and I observed their techniques. The thought of simply letting my subconscious list off pre-written questions didn’t satiate my fear. With my weak speaking skills and lack of authority, I felt my interview was destined to be a disaster. I had come to meet Kate Rothra Fleming, a jewelry maker canny with natural textures and patterns, even though I didn’t know until seeing Kate’s statuesque sign by her booth that she had won Best in Show at Kentuck two years in a row!
After bypassing Kate’s booth a couple times and finding excuses not to interview her yet, I finally approached the white linen-covered table adorned with Kate’s merchandise and introduced myself to her. I asked if she would like to do an interview and she said yes, giggling at the thought of my goofy Gmail handle when I tried to email her with an interview request beforehand. I waited about a minute as Kate entertained some fascinated festival-goers and then the interview began.
“So, what was it like growing up in South Carolina?”
She said she actually grew up in Miami, Florida. She started working with glass in Charleston, South Carolina about sixteen years ago. She used to have a studio in downtown Charleston, but when she got her wildlife preserve in Costa Rica she moved her studio into her house, substituting her studio rent for the preserve.
“You’ve got a 50/50 chance of taking out the neighborhood,” Kate joked, recalling the fear she had of turning on her torch for the first time inside her house. After a year, however, she began and “just kept doing it and doing it, and never looked back.”