“ I think that Hurricane Katrina brought out a desire to create something with my hands—or simply a desire to create beauty out of chaos,” says jewelry designer, Kathy Gray, who lived through that natural disaster in Long Beach, Mississippi.
“I uncovered some rusty old keys in a pile of hurricane debris which became earrings and necklaces, and thus began my journey into jewelry making. “
This was truly the beginning of Kathy’s seeing the possibilities all around her–objects that others might consider signs of destruction but what Kathy saw as signs of hope and renewed life.
Always an Artist
Growing up poor in a small community in the cotton fields of northeast Louisiana, Kathy Gray has always found ways stop be creative. She designed award winning book covers for her school’s National Library Week, and would have majored in art instead of business in college had she not had to support herself after her parents’ death when she was 18.
Moving to the Mississippi Gulf Coast Kathy began a 34-year career as a legal assistant. But she always managed to keep a hand in art. “Working all day with legal world stresses,” she says, “you have to do something creative.”
Initially it was photography. Kathy was one of the award-winning founders of the Coast Photography Club. A major show of her work focused on photographs of the colorful doors of San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. “The Doors enjoyed a very successful show at the Ohr-O’Keefe Museum of Art in Biloxi,” she says, “as well sharing an exhibit after Hurricane Katrina at Glave’ Kocen Gallery in Richmond, Virginia.”
For years Kathy was known as the “artist who does the doors.”
In a sense she was looking East and West for creative direction (as personified by these clever earrings made from compass converter parts) and in 2009 she retired from her law firm and began making her highly original jewelry full time.
Finding the Parts for her Jewelry
“I am always searching for unique and unusual items to create my primarily one of a kind, recycled, found-object, artisan jewelry,” she explains. “I am a lover of all things old, rusty, used, found, played with and loved. I’m especially attracted to old transit tokens because I believe they serve as a tangible reminder of the history of travel in our country.”
“I enjoy the thrill of the hunt,” Kathy explains– yard and estate sales, junk stores, antique stores and, of course, the “World’s Largest Yard Sale—eBay”
Items That Reflect Humor and Whimsy
“I also tend to use a lot of whimsical items or things which remind one of their childhoods or simpler times. For example, a recent special order resulted in a “charm necklace” created from a friend’s various school pins and bits and pieces of her old jewelry.”
Creating Special Orders
In 2014 Kathy was commissioned through Etsy to create a special necklace for costume designer Linda Cho to commemorate the Broadway play, “A Gentlemen’s Guide to Love & Murder” for which she (and the play) won Tony Awards.
“For this necklace,” Kathy says, “ I read the script to get the theme of the play. I called it the “Love and Murder” necklace. Linda Cho wore the necklace on opening night. “
Where you can find Kathy’s Jewelry
Kathy discovered the wonderful world of Etsy in its infancy in 2006 and found it to be an ideal forum for her jewelry. She can sell her jewelry and arrange commissions around the United States and the world from the comfort of her home! Her shop is called “NoobooDesigns.” The site is www.nooboo.etsy.com.
Kathy’s earrings, bracelets, and necklaces are located on the Mississippi Gulf Coast at The Art House in Ocean Springs and Thou Art Gallery & Gifts in Pass Christian. In Richmond, Virginia where she recently moved with her husband, Kathy sells at The Glass Boat in the Carytown neighborhood and the RVA Nest.
Never Lose Touch with Your True Self
The personification of a creative person who never loses sight of her innate originality and the needs of both soul and spirit, at age 62 Kathy Gray is in the midst of a successful career. Her work delights all who own her one-of-a-kind jewelry and allows her to do what she loves. While she deeply misses South Mississippi she is making her mark in her new historic city! Kathy is a remarkable example of a woman who has made practical decisions throughout her life, while nurturing the creative ones—proof that we can do both.