Interview with artist, entrepreneur, and classic movie fan Kate Gabrielle

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The artist herself Kate Gabrielle courtesy of Instagram @kategabrielle

Last Christmas I made a list of gift ideas for classic movie fans. There was one item on the list that stood out from the rest and it was a enamel pin of The Maltese Falcon. I love enamel pins, actually I’ve become a little obsessive over them. There are so many creative artists out there making great work that my pin game has exploded the last few months. Kate Gabrielle is one of my favorite artists. Her shop has a fun assortment of classic movie-related pins as well as art related to old Hollywood, contemporary film art, and feminist themed prints. Kate Gabrielle also runs a classic movie blog. We met on Twitter bonding over our love of classics. Her shop also include calendars, notecards, and other gifts.

For TCM fans attending TCMFF, Kate is the go-to girl for buttons. The festival is now a month away and this will be my first one. I noticed that many festival goers wear a myriad of buttons with their names or their favorite actors. I decided to reach out to Kate to not only learn more about her, her work and her process but what’s the deal with these buttons.

Check out our interview below:

1. For those who aren’t familiar with your fabulous shop and work, can you give me a short description of what types of art and products you create.

Most of the art I make falls into one of three categories—punny paintings, black and white line drawings of 1920’s flapper characters I created, or pop culture/classic movie inspired art. I sell art prints, but lately I’ve been concentrating more on my accessories like buttons, enamel pins, and patches.

2. When did you become a classic movie fan? Who are some of your favorite classic film stars and why?

It all started when AMC aired How to Steal a Million over the holiday break when I was 13 years old. I became instantly obsessed with classic movies and Audrey Hepburn! My dad took me to Hollywood Video (a Blockbuster-like chain) and I rented every single Audrey movie that they had. And the rest is history 😉

My favorite stars now are Barbara Stanwyck and Alain Delon. I love Stany because I think she was the most talented actress in Hollywood … she has such a natural, effortless way of acting that is so believable. When she’s in comedies she’s hilarious, and when she’s in dramas she can break your heart into a thousand pieces. She is just SO good. And Alain Delon… sigh… I just love looking at him, lol!

I also have to throw a shout out to some of my other favorites because, I’m sure any classic movie fan would agree with me, it’s VERY hard to narrow it down!! I also love Julie Christie, Dirk Bogarde, Ronald Colman, Robert Montgomery, Joan Blondell, Chishū Ryū, Monica Vitti, Anna Karina, Emmanuelle Riva, and Charles Boyer.

3. A lot of people in the classic film community know you because of your awesome button sets for TCMFF. The button sets are so much fun. When did you start creating them?

Thank you 🙂 Last year, Raquel from Out of the Past suggested that I make a social media name-tag button so that people who know each other in the online film community could meet up at the festival, and I decided to expand that into a set of buttons.

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Classic movie bloggers Aurora, Kelle, and Theresa with their pins. Photo by Kelle Pratt via Instagram

4. For those of us who haven’t been to the festival, what’s the deal with pins? Is there a pin trading program or is it more of a grassroots way to meet other people?

I wish there was a pin trading program, that would be awesome! But it’s more of a way to connect with the people that you know online. There’s a group of festival-goers on Facebook who have had me make a special button three years in a row so they can all recognize each other in Hollywood. And then there’s my TCMFF set with the social media button. I personally love including the other buttons (one shows off how many years you’ve attended and the other seven highlight features at the festival) because they’re relevant even if you aren’t on social media. They’re fun souvenirs that are specific to the year you’re wearing them. Like this year’s set includes a 75th anniversary Casablanca button set. It won’t be available again next year, it’s exclusive to the 2017 festival 🙂

5. But these types of pins aren’t the only ones you do! I’m a big fan of your new lapel pin collection and my readers know this because I listed The Maltese Falcon pin as one of the must haves for a classic film fan last Christmas. I’m so happy that you moved into the lapel pin realm. Where do you get your inspiration?

Thank you so much! I get my inspiration from the things I love, so mostly classic movies, haha! My rule is I only design things I would want myself, so I tend to stick with movies, dinosaurs, cats, and feminism. I hired my brother to manage the “business” side of my business last year and he often has to reign in how many classic movie themed pins I produce since they aren’t quite as popular as my other designs. They probably account for 90% of my ideas but only like 10% of my finished pins. But I’m always trying to sneak more classic movie designs into my lapel pin production orders because honestly I just want to wear more of them myself 😉

6. You also have some great artwork and calendars. I really love how you give a modern twist to classic cinema. I’m always surprised to meet so many classic movie fans online, did it surprise you to see such a big response for your work? 

I think I might have a different perspective on the response to my work (I wouldn’t call it big, haha!) but I appreciate each and every person who likes my designs! 🙂 I will say though that I was also very surprised to see how many classic movie fans there are online! I was bullied in middle school for liking “dead actors” and was kind of a loner because of my interest in film. It wasn’t until I was already in my 20’s that I discovered that so many people (including young people!) shared my love of classic movies. It’s so heartwarming to me to know that teenagers getting interested in film history now have this enormous online community to welcome them with open arms.

7. I love your feminist artwork. Seeing these have really helped me cope with the tough times we’re dealing with currently. Are there certain actresses that you gravitate to as feminist heroes or certain films that have given you inspiration with everything that’s happening with the current political climate?

Absolutely! Barbara Stanwyck is someone I always turn to when I need a little feminist pick-me-up, especially her pre-codes. She’s so spunky! And while certain movies have always been political touchstones to me (like Meet John Doe) I’ve found myself revisiting movies that suddenly seem relevant when they hadn’t before… like Born Yesterday and The Great Dictator.

I recently revisited Ever in My Heart, a 1930’s film that takes place during WWI, and there’s a scene where anti-German-immigrant sentiment reaches a boiling point and a family dog gets murdered. I’ve seen the movie countless times and that scene always broke my heart, but suddenly it seemed so timely and poignant.

To quote Meet John Doe, I think movies are “lighthouses in a foggy world.”

8. For those of us who haven’t been to TCMFF what are some things we should pack or know about to prepare in advance?

The main thing I’d recommend is bringing something to keep you warm in the theaters. It can get SO COLD in there! I’ve seen people bring snuggies even! It’s usually warm outside in Hollywood in the spring, so I dress for the warm weather and pack a blanket in my tote bag.

Also, most people don’t eat. I’m only slightly kidding, haha! I personally take time to eat dinner every single day, even though it means missing movies. But most people don’t do that, so if you want to squeeze in as many films as possible make sure you stop at a grocery store and pick up healthy snacks to keep on hand so you can munch during the movies instead of taking a break. You don’t want to survive on popcorn alone, and you don’t want to go home sick, so preparing your food situation ahead of time is really important.

9. And finally for those who want to order a TCMFF pin set, how can we and what’s the cut off date to get them in time for the festival?

The button set is available in my shop here and my cut-off date is March 24th. I’d really advise ordering as soon as possible though (especially if you don’t live in the US) since I make the sets by hand and they need to travel through the mail to get to you. I don’t bring buttons or my button maker with me to the festival, so I won’t have them on me there. They’re only available on my website.

Many thanks to Kate Gabrielle for taking the time to answer my interview questions. Her shop is fabulous and her art will make any classic movie fan’s day.

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