Interview: Jean Cate of Martha Mae

Martha_Mae_©_Jean_Cate Martha Mae © Jean Cate

Jean Cate is an artist and curatorial entrepreneur in Chicago. You can find out more about her store Martha Mae at her website.

EL: Let’s start with you – tell us about your background.

JC: I moved to Chicago from Southern California to attend The School of the Art Institute of Chicago. While at the school I studied printmaking, scientific illustration and ceramics as well as bookbinding, papermaking and plein air painting.

Martha_Mae_©_Jean_Cate
Martha Mae © Jean Cate

EL: In addition to being an entrepreneur you’re an artist. How does the creative process apply to each of these parts of your life?

JC: The creative process is always present. I am always thinking about form, composition, color, material whether I am curating products, designing the shop or making work.

The creative process is always present. I am always thinking about form, composition, color, material

EL: You also provide a venue for other artists to display their work. What’s your curatorial vision?

JC: I curate based on my personal taste and what makes sense in the universe/ dialogue of the shop. At the moment I show a good deal of my work (paintings, drawings and etchings) and ceramic work by Andrew Jessup.

Martha_Mae_©_Jean_Cate
Martha Mae © Jean Cate

EL: Tell us about your market – what kind of people are patronizing Martha Mae?

JC: I think my store attracts people that value thoughtful/ well designed/ quality products.

Martha_Mae_©_Jean_Cate
Martha Mae © Jean Cate

EL: This is your first store – were there other stores that inspired you to open Martha Mae?

JC: I am attracted to the shop as a medium because there are so many elements, systems and details that need to be considered, opportunities to manifest my aesthetic, logic and philosophies. I made the decision to create the shop before experiencing many shops that truly resonated with me and my vision, but since opening I have found the following shops to be truly wonderful and unique: Present & Correct, The Good Liver Store, Stilleben, Labour and Wait, Itoya.

Martha_Mae_©_Jean_Cate
Martha Mae © Jean Cate

EL: You’re located in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood. How important is that to your success?

JC: I live and work in Andersonville. It has a wonderful community of independent shops, restaurants, businesses and people. I am deeply appreciative of the support and acceptance I have received from this community, it has been absolutely vital to my success.

Martha_Mae_©_Jean_Cate
Martha Mae © Jean Cate

EL: Has being an entrepreneur impacted your artwork?

JC: Certainly. In terms of time mostly. The amount of time I have to dedicate to making is limited. This limitation creates a concentration and potency, narrowing what is vital for me to communicate through my work at that particular moment.

Martha_Mae_©_Jean_Cate
Martha Mae © Jean Cate

EL: If you could open another store, what would it offer?

JC: I enjoy curating and creating environments. If I stay in retail, I would enjoy creating a department store.

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