Kentucky Crafted Newcomers

Two Oldham County area artists
admitted to Ky. juried program

Prospect’s Ridge, La Grange's Kinney
selected to join prestigious group

By Helen E. McKinney
Contributing Writer

PROSPECT, Ky. – Cathy Wade Ridge has always been a sewer and designer, making her own clothes since college. Years later, she continues to hone her style into a juried artform that has been accepted into the Kentucky Crafted Program.
Her idea and style are uniquely her own. “I take cashmere sweaters apart and recycle them into wearable art,” said Ridge, 58. She creates women’s fashion and accessories, baby items and home décor.

Cathy Ridge

Photo by Don Ward

Cathy Ridge models one of her scarves made from recycled materials at Mellwood Art Center in Louisville, where she has a working booth. She sells her items at shows.

Ridge and La Grange, Ky., artist Mary Kinney have recently been juried into the prestigious Kentucky Crafted statewide arts program.
Four years ago, Ridge, who lives in Prospect, went full time with her fiber inspirations. She has taught school, been a pharmaceutical representative and worked in sales. But nothing has brought her as much joy and satisfaction as the wearable art she creates for herself and others.
After designing and recycling cashmere items for herself, Ridge decided to create items for other people. The first item she made was a scarf and she received so many compliments, that word of mouth soon spread and she was selling the items as well.
“I’ve always loved cashmere cardigan sweaters,” she said. “I probably had one hundred at one time and wore a different one every day.”
Ridge usually finds sweaters at estate sales or thrift stores. She doesn’t mind “fixing a small hole in a $300 sweater” that she has many times picked up for under $3 and then sold it as a completely different fashion statement.
In order to rework a cashmere sweater, Ridge said it must be “extremely clean. Dry cleaning is not enough.” She first washes it in Borax and then disassembles the sleeves, cuffs, turtleneck, buttons and the label, which she uses to make belts. She saves buttons for other projects.
“There’s not any part I don’t use. I’m most excited to find men’s extra large turtleneck sweaters. I can make so much out of them.”
She has recently begun working with vintage fabrics and takes custom orders. She has a studio at the Mellwood Arts Center in Louisville and attends about 10 art shows a year with her artwork.
Ridge, who is originally from Green County, Ky., is one of two local artists who have been juried into the Kentucky Crafted Program. Being recognized as an artist in this program, “gives my craft credibility,” she said.
Having taken place for more than 30 years, the program is overseen by the Kentucky Arts Council. “The Kentucky Crafted program helps Kentucky visual and craft artists market their work regionally, nationally and internationally,” said Emily B. Moses, Communications Director for the Arts Council.
“The program also promotes Kentucky as a leading producer of high quality art and craft and enhances tourism and economic development,” Moses said. Applicants must be residents of Kentucky who have been full-time Kentucky residents for at least six months prior to the application deadline.
Artists who jury into this program are the only Kentucky artists who can exhibit at Kentucky Crafted: The Market, the Kentucky Arts Council’s annual wholesale and retail showcase now held in Lexington, Ky.

Mary Kinney

Photo by Helen McKinney

Mary Kinney joins her artist-husband
Tom as a juried Ky. Crafted artisan.

“The show attracts about 500 wholesale buyers from across the country in addition to thousands of shoppers on retail days. Last year’s event drew more than 10,000 people. Average sales for artists were about $4,800,” Moses said.
Participants are included in the Arts Council’s online directory of visual and craft artists, and are afforded the opportunity to participate in other Arts Council related events and programs beneficial to their careers. Artists also receive various training and professional development and can receive free consultancies on business related subject matter through the Arts Council’s Kentucky Peer Advisory Network.
There were 66 applicants this session, with 18 artists added to the program roster. “The adjudication process is quite rigorous,” she said.
Kinney is a mixed media artist who crafts hand-made paper and books that contain recycled paper, and paints and decorates the covers. The art of “hand-made paper is fairly new for me,” said Kinney.
“I’ve always loved bookmaking,” she said. “This past year I studied it on my own, learning how to bind the edges. I also have embossed some books with copper words.”
In addition to paper items, she juried into the program with her miniature pen-and-ink watercolor illustrations, which she applies to notecards and pamphlets. Kinney was a member of the Kentucky Crafted Program years ago with her hand felted hats.
She left the program to run a retail store for many years and then retired. Since her husband, Tom, is also a member of the program, Kinney thought that it was time for her to try to join again so “we could do more together.”
The Kentucky Crafted Program has many benefits, she said. It affords her “an opportunity to continue learning how to promote my work and how to mix with other artists.” Kinney and her husband have a working studio in La Grange that is open Tuesday through Saturday.
Getting into the program can be tough for some artists. “When you jury into Kentucky Crafted, you have to send the best work you’ve ever done,” said Kinney. “It’s also different the way it works now.”
Kinney said the individuals in charge of the program are knowledgeable, caring and helpful. “They know what they are looking for.”
KY Crafted: The Market is open to the public from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturday, March 2, and from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday, March 3. It will be held at the Lexington Convention Center, 430 W. Vine St., Lexington.

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