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Jewelry maker turns barn quilt squares into wearable art at Danville festival

By STEPHANIE SCHELL Randi Gish-Smith has lived all over the United States. She came back to Kentucky about 15 years ago and settled down in Fleming County. “I love Kentucky,” she said. “I love the state. It’s a beautiful state. It’s where I chose to sit down my roots and start my family.” As a jewelry maker for the past 20 years, Kentucky has served its fair share of inspiration to Gish-Smith. She started out doing Navajo beading, working her way to crystal and metal beading.
“I would constantly stretch out to learn new things,” she said. And she always told herself, “This is a hobby for me.” Gish-Smith and her husband became pregnant when she was 40 and she decided to stay at home and raise her daughter. That’s when she thought, “Maybe I can turn this into more than a hobby. It’s a fun medium to work with.” Her medium of choice is polymer clay. When she discovered the medium, she used it to create a Kentucky Derby bracelet with re-created jockey silks charms. These were picked up and sold in a boutique in Maysville. She still makes them for Derby each year. “About the same time, I started noticing all the barn quilts,” Smith said. And so a new project was born — one that will be displayed at the Constitution Square Arts Fest this weekend.
“I love quilting anyway,” Smith said. “My grandmother was an avid quilter. I started thinking this medium will probably transfer over pretty easily. I started experimenting. My first effort was the basket pattern on our (Fleming) county extension (office building.)” And she kept experimenting — making these charms in patterns of the many barn quilt squares seen throughout Kentucky. She took them to festivals and people slowly started taking notice...
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