In Balance

Kathy Faulds’ jewelry is so distinctive that rock stars wear it. Literally.

A few years back, musician Chris Aaron heard through the grapevine that Kathy Faulds, the beautiful bartender at the Bayside Tavern, made jewelry. Aaron had a stone that he had been carrying for years.

Kathy remembers, “It was this agate stone that he had carved and smoothed over the years and had been inlaid with an opal-faceted freshwater pearl. It was beautiful.” Aaron wanted her to create him a necklace for the stone.

“I used amethyst, pyrite, and pieces of wood and bone for the piece,” Kathy describes. Aaron loved the necklace. So much so that he wore it night and day, to every show he played, and he even slept in it. Of course after a few years of this kind of wear and tear, the necklace needed some attention and Aaron brought the piece back to Kathy. She altered the piece by adding beads, changing colors and textures, and Aaron’s piece was given new life. Such is the jewelry of Kathy Faulds. It is unique, it is fluid, and in a category of artwork all its own.

It all began for Kathy one afternoon as she was getting ready to attend a wedding. She couldn’t find any jewelry that she wanted to wear, so instead of borrowing or buying something new, she did what an artist does:  she transformed. Kathy took apart random pieces of necklaces, bracelets, and earrings to create a unique piece that fit perfectly. She’s been making jewelry ever since.

“I like to make all my pieces one-of-a-kind,” Kathy says. Her hands move dexterously as she talks, the noticeable movement of an artist creating a picture. “Even if I’m making two similar necklaces, I’ll change one bead or one stone to ensure that it’s unique.”

Even as a young girl growing up on the outskirts of Chicago people recognized the artistic gift in Kathy. “As a kid, I was told I had talent, but I couldn’t paint or draw. The thing about making jewelry is that it’s my own design. Beading is changeable and experimental. I can try something out, and if it doesn’t work, I can try it a different way – there’s nothing lost.”

Kathy made her way to Door County in 1995 after spending a few years in Green Bay and attending school in Stoughton, Wisconsin for silversmithing. “I enjoy living life slow,” Kathy says, “and Door County is good for that. It’s like one huge family up here and we’re so removed. I appreciate living in a place where you can still strike up a friendly conversation with someone in the grocery store.”

Working in the service industry in Door County is a perfect fit for Kathy who enjoys the variety of people that make their way through the area. “I love working in the service industry because I’m a giver. I’d much rather give someone something than take it away,” she says.

Friend Carina Helm, owner of the Blue Horse Bistro in Fish Creek, insists that “Kathy is the definition of fun.” The description is a popular one around the county as people feel drawn to her sunny, buoyant personality. “You cannot help but have a good time when you’re around her. She tends to look at things from all perspectives and find the positive in any situation,” Carina states.

“My motto in life is:  ‘Be kind, be thankful, and keep your life in balance,’” Kathy says. That motto fits her perfectly and there’s a combination of gravity and levity in her eyes as she says it, as though she understands these words intimately and completely. Her personality, like her work, is one of a kind.

When asked to describe her own artwork, Kathy playfully calls it “hippie bling.” “It’s universal and classic. My pieces are multi-functional so that they can be worn with something simple like jeans or can be dressed up.”

Furthermore, the pieces can be described as striking. Anyone who owns a Kathy Faulds original is used to receiving compliments and inquiries regarding its origin. On two occasions Blue Horse Bistro served as a showing venue for Kathy’s work. Each showing had a significant turnout and Carina remembers that almost every person who walked through the shop left with an original piece. “Her work just appeals to everyone,” Carina explains. “She chooses the right colors and materials to go together, and there’s something for everyone.”

The artistic process for Kathy occurs simply and organically. She calls herself a “conduit” for the idea, and the designs just come to her. “I’ll sit in my studio and look at shelves of beads and see a combination that works. I’ll try a couple sample strands with a big idea in mind, and using a lot of mathematics, I’ll make an equation to figure out amounts. I’ll consider what’s pleasing to the eye and then create.”

The result is simply beautiful and original.

“Sometimes I’ll have a night where it’s all ideas and brainstorming, and then the next night or two, it’s all work,” she describes.

Kathy enjoys using beads and materials that have unique and interesting shapes. Stones like labradorite, with its smoky blues and greens, appeal to her earthy tastes. As was the case with Chris Aaron, friends and customers will bring her a stone or a bead and she’ll design a piece around it. She’s had requests of all sorts from all kinds of people, including other musicians like pat mAcdonald and Tony Brown. Kathy’s love of live music and rock goes hand in hand with her creative talents.

Making pieces to suit individuals is a facet of her talent that makes her unique. One piece that she made that’s worn by Meg White of the rock band The White Stripes is particularly extraordinary. With the band’s colors and style in mind, Kathy created a 24-strand choker made of white seed beads, marcasite buttons, and red antique glass. This kind of stylistic ingenuity is what’s making Kathy one of the freshest up and coming artists in Door County.

In the immediate future, Kathy is looking to open her own studio and gallery in Fish Creek called “The Lemon Tree.” Kathy has always been attracted to lemons and has them everywhere. After spending the summer showing her work at local artists’ shows, festivals, and farmers’ markets, she is looking forward to having her own space. “I’d like to have my own place with my own jewelry, and be able to spend time being creative,” she says.

Staying in Door County is also something that’s important to Kathy. With the web-based economy being what it is, she’s attracted to the idea of being able to sell anywhere while having a home base in the county. “I would love to always be here. I want to keep being creative, to keep coming up with new ideas,” she relates.

Kathy has an excellent sense of herself and of joy. Her lightheartedness echoes a deeper sense of her place in the world. It’s refreshing to come face to face with an artist who’s concerned with creating something beautiful and original, and isn’t concerned with the day-to-day snags and setbacks.

“It’s about surviving and being happy,” Kathy says with a smile. And beyond “surviving,” her artistic ambition will take her far. “I always tell my friends, ‘you’ll know I’ve made it when you see me driving through Fish Creek in my 1962 Impala.’” Lemon yellow, of course.