By Gina Malone
Art is all in the family at Wendy Kay Designs, featuring artists Wendy Edwards, her mother Kay Bonnell and Wendy’s husband, Joe Edwards. Wendy has always dabbled in art. Previously, in Alabama, she sold locally made furniture and repaired and painted throw-away furniture and accessories. “I truly loved expressing myself in art and began searching for other art dimensions to work in,” she says. “Our new foray into the world of jewelry art began in 2006 when my mother and I decided to take a one-week silversmith class at Arrowmont School of Arts and Crafts in Gatlinburg—just for fun! That one-week class was actually a very serious course in silversmithing, and we were hooked.” In the ensuing years, they have devoted themselves to learning, creating and selling. Eight years ago, Joe added his talents in lapidary and silversmithing, joining the team full-time.
Wendy and Joe recently moved into a home near Waynesville and Cataloochee that they built themselves. “I designed it and Joe engineered the entire structure,” Wendy says. “We’ve worked tirelessly for the past two years, hiring what little help we could find and leaning on the generosity of Joe’s family when they could break away to help with large projects. We had remodeled several homes in the past, but never a home from the ground up. We consider our self-built home to be our greatest work of art to date. Our studio is on the first floor, and we only need to look out the window to find inspiration.”
The jewelry the three artists create is deeply connected to their appreciation of nature. They mine their own stones, particularly turquoise, from mines in Nevada, and Joe turns the raw stones into smooth, beautiful cabochons. “Nature has created some magnificent art forms, and I feel very strongly that we should listen and try our best to let nature tell us when to stop,” says Wendy. “Our silver and gold smithing design style is similar. Our mark is fluid, natural lines that enhance the subject, whether that subject is a stone or an enamel/cloisonné.”
Throughout her life, Wendy says, her mother has been a constant creative force in her life. “She always knew that I was a bit of a free spirit and very determined to succeed in whatever held my eye,” she says. “She never discouraged, but always helped me focus. She and I created Wendy Kay Designs 17 years ago and she has worked tirelessly alongside me to grow our art and our art business. Even to this day, my 81-year-old mom comes to our studio almost every day to create some of her best ‘wearable art’! Nothing makes her happier than a torch with a huge flame manipulating metal.”
The confluence of skills and interests shows in the art they create as a family. “We love mining and lapidary, and many of our art pieces are founded in magnificent natural, semi-precious stones,” says Wendy. “I also love to express my love of nature and animals through cloisonné and enamels. Mom has a long-standing love of fusion and fold forming and silver and copper and these pieces are often used in our designs. And what really has us fired up lately is when we find different ways to combine these techniques and create memorable one-of-a-kind art.”
Lucy Clark, owner of Lucy Clark Gallery & Studio, in Brevard, first met Wendy and Kay while exhibiting at juried fine art shows in Florida. “I immediately fell in love with their work and have watched their progress over the years in hopes of one day representing them in the gallery,” she says. “I am thrilled to have their work, and find their hand-cut stone work exceptional.”
Meeting fellow artists, collectors and others at regional fine art festivals and those farther afield has been a high point for Wendy during these creative years. “The people we have met and interacted with is the end product and one of the most joyous activities of our art,” she says. “The thousands of people that have come to our booth to see our work, try it on and then buy it is always a high for us because it is an affirmation of what we do.”
Wendy Kay Designs’ work is represented regionally at Lucy Clark Gallery & Studio, in Brevard. The artists are members of Southern Highland Craft Guild and Haywood County Arts Council. Learn more at WendyKayDesigns.com, and follow on Facebook and Instagram @wendykaydesigns. Wendy Kay Designs will participate in the Southern Highland Craft Guild Holiday Seconds Sale on Saturday, December 2, at the Folk Art Center.