Janet Gream is quick to point out her downtown Elizabethtown business is called Kentucky Art Lady, not “the” Kentucky Art Lady.
Gream didn’t want the name of her gallery to focus on her or have her name in it. The name of her shop doesn’t refer to anyone in specific.
“My daughter came up with it,” she said of the name.
The work of local and regional artists fills the business. Baskets, paintings, drawings, pottery, soaps and even socks are some of the handmade arts and craft items in her store.
“I’m really trying to keep it kind of local, high-end,” Gream said.
Among the work is some of Gream’s own artwork — paintings and ink drawings — which hang on some of the walls in the open area of her business.
“I love oil and pastel,” she said, citing them as her favorite media.
Some of her work includes historic area buildings, elephants and a certain president.
“I live in Hodgenville, so I’ve got to have the Lincoln pictures,” she said.
Much of the front room of her shop, however, is devoted to her main art form.
“The focus of the shop is really the jewelry,” she said.
The business owner differentiated her jewelry from what she called beader jewelry, which are typically beads on a string.
Gream uses sterling silver wire and a variety of stones to create her pieces. She crafts them with everyday tools: pliers and wire-cutters and her own two hands.
“I like to think of it more as a piece of sculpture,” Gream said of her creations.
Finding the right stones is a major part of what she does because she has a long-time love of rocks, she said.
“I look for stones,” Gream said. “I don’t just order from catalogs.”
Stores, rock shops, mineral shops and even beaches yield her supply.
“I just pick up things wherever I can,” she said.
The right stone might be pawa shells from New Zealand or the South Pacific, which she has used.
“I’ve got so many browns,” she said.
When she creates her jewelry, she bends the wire to secure the stones, working them in curves and twists, cutting here or there when necessary. Sometimes that cut might be a bit short, but that’s not a worry for the artist.
“I’m a retired art teacher,” Gream said. “I used to tell my student, ‘Everybody makes mistakes. It’s learning how to fix them that makes a difference.’”
Gream taught at LaRue County Middle School and LaRue County High School for 21 years.
After retiring, she taught herself. To make her jewelry, that is.
“I took one class with a lady in Louisville,” she said.
After that she read books and magazines to learn the craft of sculpting her jewelry.
It was just last November that she opened her downtown shop at 110 N. Main Street.
“I’m still trying to find good local artists, craftsmen,” she said.
Being a retailer is new to her, so Kentucky Art Lady is a “work in progress,” Gream said.
“Things are changing on a daily basis,” she said.
Visitors to the shop are just as likely to find French wooden rolling pins and quilts as they are framed photographs and silk scarves.
While she wants quality high-end local and regional art, she also wants quality items in a wide price range.
“I’m trying to get in a variety of things that are affordable,” Gream said.
Because she is still working out details of her shop, business hours are evolving. But so far, that’s a good thing as far as Gream is concerned.
“I’m pleased,” she said. “I’m pleased with the progress of this shop.”