Welcome to Cathy Kononoff, my guest blogger for this week. I met Cathy in the spring of 2019 at a Junior League Sustainer Brunch. We quickly discovered we had two things in common: A love of Newfoundland dogs and a love of reading. I quickly invited Cathy to become a member of my book club. Cathy quickly become an active book club member.
(I’m sometimes asked what Newfoundland dogs look like. Think St. Bernard. Newfoundlands and St. Bernards are genetic first cousins. Several times while at the DVM’s office, clients have told me, “I’ve never seen a black St. Bernard.” )
At any rate, Cathy Kononoff grew up in South Florida, but spent her life dreaming of living and creating art in the Appalachians. After a career as a publications advisor, she and husband Jim left Coral Gables and moved to Johnson City, where, closely surrounded by nature, she is a Studio Jeweler. She holds a BS in Mass Communications, an MS in English Ed, and post Masters work in Reading. She has studied with jewelry greats Sam Patania, Ronda Coryell, and Il Meastro Fabrizio Acquafresca. A graduate of the Miami Jewelry School, she studied under Master Goldsmith Marc Thurn, and she is a certified bench jeweler. Active in her Miami community, she is a now member of the Junior League of Johnson City, the Monday Club, and the Tuesday Night Book Club.
We all have milestones in our lives: moments we take with us wherever we go, moments that shape us. Cathy is a retired journalism educator and there are indeed many moments, but those having impacted her over the longest time relate to her second career; she is a Studio Jeweler.
Studio Jewelers are simply trained jewelers who work independently from a studio rather than from a jewelry store or manufacturing company. Most of their work is limited run or one of a kind. It originates within their own mind and they carry it through to fruition. She loves the creativity, the materials, and the empowerment.
The milestones that led Cathy down this path both took place in her youth. She remembers putting away small amounts of change every week, saving to buy a wonderful Christmas gift for her mother. One day, her grandmother (whom she saw almost daily) arrived in her big, white Buick and drove her to The Miracle Mile in Coral Gables, Florida. They parked and went into Woolworth’s. After a lime-freeze and hours (or so it seemed) spent wondering the aisles, she spied it! A wonderful brooch sparkling with glorious “emeralds” forming a flower. Her Christmas fund now depleted, she could barely contain her joy! Nana later helped her wrap it. On Christmas morning her mother unwrapped it excitedly. To this day, she still sees her mother’s face as she opened the gift, so full of happiness and love.
When she turned 12, Cathy’s other grandmother sent her a bangle bracelet for her birthday. It was simple in line, perfect to wear with anything, and it was hinged! This was her first experience with hinged jewelry and it fascinated her. Were these tiny mechanisms the same as those on doors? The same as those on her mother’s jewelry box? On her diary? She was determined to find out. It seemed the best way to unearth this mystery would be to take apart a hinge and copy it, but not the hinge on the bangle! Cathy went out to her dad’s workshop (his hobby was building actual 2-seater stunt plans in the garage, which he later flew in air shows). Cathy tried in vain to recreate those hinges! It would be years later, in jeweler’s school, that she would unearth their secrets…annealing and soldering! And of course…tiny little jewelers tools! When someone tells you “Knowledge empowers you,” believe them.
Having had a small, select clientele in Miami, being featured in a Trunk Show at Elie Tahari Boutique in the Bal Harbor Shoppes, and shows like The Ramble and Art in the Park, moving to Tennessee has forced Cathy to rethink logistics while providing daily inspiration. Cathy is currently building a website!
Currently, Cathy is working on a collection based on the beauty surrounding her here. In progress is “Acasia,” a neckpiece featuring silver pierced into Acasia leaves, 22K gold Keumboo, and freshwater pearls, an homage to the tree in her former front yard. In the sketchbook, a cuff with pierced leaves. To this day, she firmly believes a woman without a statement bracelet is not fully dressed! Cathy has just finished putting together a collection which will be featured in The Grapevine Clothing in Burnsville, NC. Owner Caty Carlin is mentoring her on Instagram. ZOOM has enabled her to maintain relationships with others active in this art, take classes to stretch her skills, and to continue to serve on the Board of the Florida Society of Goldsmiths. And now, it’s time for Cathy to go back into the studio, play with metal and gemstones, to fire up the torch…talk about empowerment!
Here are a couple of pictures of Cathy’s creations. Wouldn’t they make lovely Christmas gifts? You may contact her at email@example.com.
Cathy, thank you for being a guest blogger!
Copyright October 23, 2020 by Cathy Kononoff and Rebecca Henderson