Kay Bryant Designs

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Here's an article that was published in Montco Home Garden and Lifestyle Magazine

Distinctively Found and Made

I grew up in Ambler, one of six children,” said Kay Bryant. “Our parents were very frugal. So, we learned to save and make a lot of the things we wanted. For instance, I was using a sewing machine when I was very young. If I wanted something in the latest fashion, I designed and made it myself.”

In the 1980s, her interest and talent led to her starting a small business creating wedding dresses. After a few years, she was designing and making wearable art. Using fabrics mostly found at local markets and money-making events such as 4-H sales, she was creating vests, jackets, scarves and so on from a variety of material, most very colorful and using vintage fabric when she could find it. This led to her producing a line of handbags and jewelry. 

Her work area is about 300 square feet, with much of the space taken up by a large worktable and sewing equipment, along with racks holding her wearable art. Surrounded by this colorful maze, there’s a smaller work table that is well lit. It has lots of containers stacked on it and near by. These are color coordinated and full of items that will be incorporated into the jewelry for which she’s known. As Kay said, “Every woman can use an extra handbag or necklace to go with a special outfit.” Her handbags are made from a variety of fabrics. Since many of her wearables have an Asian flair, some of the handbags have chopsticks for handles. 

All of her jewelry is very creative, each piece distinctive. Along with found items, she crafts many of the components she uses to decorate her necklaces and earrings. For instance, she takes polymer clay in thin layers of different colors and then presses three or four thin sheets together. She next cuts out interesting shapes from these “piles” of clay. Once she has crafted some forms and designs she likes, she bakes them in a 265-degree oven, doing several items at one time.

She likes to point out, “I have no rules when it comes to designs. I decide on the color of my mood and set out those colors. I don’t know what else I’m going to add when I start. I might use a found key, a sea shell, a pretty stone or beads.” She sees beauty in most things, saying, “I’m a very visual person.”

Kay makes her own molding clay from a two-part epoxy material. Once the clay is ready, she uses it to cast interesting designs she likes, saying, “I find lots of things to cast,” as she showed a small elephant she had cast from a toy. It now is a pendant for one of her necklaces. “I used the bottom of a vase to make this,” she said, pointing to another pendant.

Each of her necklaces is a one-of-a-kind. They may have only one element like shells or just beads.  Or, they could consist of beads of many sizes, cloth, origami and a pendant of clay. All of this is dependant upon how she feels and what she thinks go together at the moment. Each is a unique, artistic creation.

In each of the clear containers on and around her worktable, Kay has a great assortment of necklace and earring parts, all of it very brightly colored. Although she makes most of the components for her jewelry, she also buys some, including coral and several different sizes, shapes, and colors of pre-made beads of glass and other materials. “I use no precious stones or metals. I like to keep things simple,” she said.

Another material she uses is origami paper. She rolls a sheet into a tight log and then cuts it into small sections. She may use these pieces in a necklace, sometimes with other items or only by themselves as a strand of the origami. These go well with her wearable garments or a summer dress. She strings her necklaces on beading wire with crimped ends.

When she crafts earrings, they have some of the same components as in her necklaces. When she’s set up at shows, she displays her necklaces and earrings on the same board. Each board is made to hold a single necklace and one pair of earrings that she feels go well together. However, her items may be mixed and matched since they work together easily.

Kay Bryant Design items are on permanent display at the Pearl Buck House in Bucks County. This summer she’s set up at the Antietam Valley Farmers and Artists market at historic Carsonia Park in Reading. She also shows her wares at some local farmers markets, crafts fairs, art shows and festivals.

Being in the retail business seems to be in her blood. When she was young, her mother and sister had a shop in Ambler called Creative Things. She said, “I used to hang out there all of the time.” She explained that her entire family is creative with sewing, woodworking and so on. She’s had her present business since 2005. She likes what she’s doing, saying, “I don’t do this because I have to. I do it because I love to.”

To see some of her “wearable art” and jewelry, go to her website, www.kaybryant design.webs.com. Also, you can email her at [email protected] or call her at 610-275-4745 to find out where she will be showing her creations next.

Lew Larason is a freelance writer who specializes in antiques and furniture.

ARTICLE: From 2013 for Peter Becker Flower Show

STATE OF THE ART: Crafting with Kay

By Adam Crugnale

Among the most celebrated local art shows in the area is the Peter Becker Flower, Craft and Vendor Show. It’s an event the Peter Becker Community has proudly hosted since 1984 and March welcomes the show’s 30th anniversary. The show is an impressive display of creative ingenuity and talent, and all the work is done by residents and community volunteers. Exhibiting her work for the second time is Kay Bryant, a local artist with a flair for fabrics.

Peter Becker, a Continuing Care Retirement Community, will usher in the spring season for us with the Flower Show from March 14 through 16. Aside from an enchanting display of floral arrangements, the Flower Show also offers an antique show, bistros and cafés, bake sales, prizes, giveaways and more. Bryant specializes in the craft vendor branch of the show.

“Making things out of fabric is my biggest passion,” said Bryant. “I’ve pretty much done it my whole life.” Bryant’s pieces consist primarily of handmade clay, glass and bead jewelry, handbags of various fabrics, and jackets and wraps.

Bryant cites growing up in a creative home as the reason she went into the arts. “My brothers are on the technological side of things,” said Bryant. One of her brothers runs a print shop, designs and builds miniature trains. Both of her sisters went to art school.

“Growing up, we were always allowed to get our hands dirty,” added Bryant, laughing.

Bryant’s handbags and clothing are fashioned from upwards of 15 to 20 different materials. Cotton, nylon, linen, polyester — Bryant doesn’t shy from any of these. She often incorporates various styles into her works as well, and lately has been finding inspiration from oriental designs.

One of her pieces, a handbag, features a photo of the Eiffel Tower emblazed directly onto the cloth, with a block underneath it decorated with Chinese characters. Immediately adjacent to this, Bryant wove what could have once been a tablecloth or a drape of some sort: it features roses ringed with gold arches. Another of her handbags features a floral print alongside an Egyptian scarab beetle, for a truly striking craft that attests to Bryant’s eye for design. Others include Oriental figures, like samurai, in them. Yet another features work that calls to mind Japanese sumi-e, or ink wash, painting. To view some examples of Bryant’s craftwork, visit kaybryantdesign.webs.com.

“I like using vintage fabrics in my designs,” said Bryant. “I like making things that remind people of who they are. It might make them think of a curtain from an old home, or their grandmother’s tablecloth.”

Bryant has an affinity for color (and coordinating said colors) and manages to get her work done by arranging it like an assembly line. Rather than designing and starting with a single piece, Bryant will decide she’s feeling purple, and arrange various “collections” of that color, be it in beads, fabrics, or any other type of material she fancies working with that day. Her works are born of those collections she builds up, ensuring she always has her building blocks ready to go.

These works will be for sale at the show, and all of them are one-of-a-kind works of art.

Typically only a few fabrics are used for any given item. “One for the couch, maybe two for the pillows,” said Bryant. “I tend not to follow these rules and people say, why or how would you think to do that? I say, why or how would you not?”

If you go:
Peter Becker Flower Show
takes place
at 800 Maple Ave.,
Harleysville, PA 19438,
Thursday & Friday,
March 14 & 15,
10 a.m. – 6 p.m.,
& Saturday, March 16,
8 a.m. – 4. p.m.
Info: 215-256-9501 or