'Designs by J' is on its way

October 07, 2004|BOBBIE CURD

LANCASTER - Joyce Marshall likes to encourage women to play dress-up and her business gives her a reason.

"Designs by J," which she operates out of her Garrard County home, has been taking off lately. Her knit, crocheted and intricately-beaded pieces have been exhibited in several shows.

"I've even been doing private home parties for some women, too. It's a great excuse to get your girlfriends together and spend some time playing dress up. It's just a different way to get together and have some fun. And if they want to buy it, well it's just an added plus."

Marshall was on hand for the Second Annual Harvest and Wine Festival at Chrisman Mill Vineyards and Winery in Nicholasville; the Sixth Annual Vinoklet Wine Festival and Art Fair in Cincinnati.


And this weekend, her work will be on display at the Kentucky Guild of the Artist and Craftsman 2004 Fall Fair in Berea.

Creating her art comes after her other careers.

"I'm a wife and mother first. If I have to stitch at 3 a.m. after the laundry's done, then that's what I have to do," she says.

She has taken several custom orders lately to create a specific design and color scheme of jewelry, watches, wraps, picture frames or anything else within her array of items.

A unique line

Designs by J is a unique line, with each item featuring a different design and color theme. Marshall not only does the threading of brown and tan beads, but also bright pink and "mod" designs that are reminiscent of the 1980s.

"You can wear these things with a white T-shirt and a pair of jeans and really have a dressy, classy outfit. I prefer my pieces to make a statement so that active, everyday women can let the accessories do the work."

"Active, everyday women" and those who have budgets; Marshall's pieces start at a mere $5 and top off around $200-$250 for the larger, crocheted wraps that are made with the more expensive materials.

"I'm not sure how I come up with these colors, to be honest. I usually go to the store for one thing, and end up walking out with something entirely different. I put the fibers (for the shawls) together in a bag for a while, combining different materials and textures with different colors to let them stew, and then when it comes together, I make the shawl."

Marshall referred to the suitcase full of multi-colored wraps, all with unique names such as Vegetable Lasagna, Spanish Moss or, "I call this one Memphis Blues." Around herself, she drapes a dark and light blue shawl with silver threads woven through and poses proudly with her creation.

Proud she should be. Each wrap would take about three days to make. "Three days to make if they leave me alone to work, that is ...," Marshall adds.

Marshall's husband, Tim Alman, is a trucker who normally stays on the road all week. While Alman drives long hauls, he calls home frequently to check in and talk with their 8-year-old son Russell, who sometimes will log on to the Internet to dispatch directions to his father as his mom works on her art.

Does volunteer work

Marshall divides her days between working on new jewelry designs and needlepointing details onto already-developed ones, spending quality time with her son and working with him on school assignments, as well as volunteering at his school one day a week.

"No, I am not paid for it, as a teaching assistant. I feel very fortunate to be able to volunteer and have a part in my son's education. Teachers are doing the best they can with our kids, and I consider it a privilege to be able to help when I can."

Marshall's devotion to things that are important to her seriously comes through in all of her works. "I call this Gracie's Heart - it's a long story, really."

She holds out an unbelievably detailed, beaded heart that is patterned onto another beaded background and framed.

This is piece won a "design challenge." The award is given every year by the Needlepoint Guild.

"They give us the idea of what the theme is, and this one just happened to be in February, so the theme was love. I designed this and dedicated it to my husband because when he's been on the road all week and we talk on the phone, we always sign off with a 'Say Goodnight, Gracie.'"

"Funky" designs

Her one-of-a-kind designs not only are feminine and emotionally-inspired, but some pieces may actually be described as "funky." They are a definite attention-grabber in any crowd.

"I have a friend who bought this bangle set, and she says she gets asked about where she got them every time she wears them." The beads on the bracelets are colorful, and the arrangements are unlike anything normally seen on department store counters.

The beads are combined with some colored pieces to make short, bright earrings, and with softer crystals to make longer, more elegant pairs. Marshall also has a collection of pens that are beaded with 24-carat gold and come in designs ranging from a brightly colored USA flag to a classically designed black and gold pattern.

Among the more uncommon pieces is a vintage style of perfume atomizers beaded in different colors so beautifully that they are able to be hung on a chain and worn as a pendant; individual stone pendants to which she's added beads and crystals; bookmarks with colored fusion glass; and ceiling fan pulls that sparkle.

Marshall attributes her talents to a love for her work.

"The simple fact is that I love what I do. I don't charge sky-high amounts because that's not what I'm in this for. Sure, I'd like to continue developing it, getting invited to the art fairs, and selling it until eventually we can start a Web site. But I mainly want to make sure that I just make enough money to go out and buy more product so that I can continue doing this and creating. "

To schedule a private home party or discuss a custom-designed request: Call (859) 548-3834; or e-mail Joyce Marshall at

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