Art imitating Kay Kammer

Published 11:26 pm Saturday, February 9, 2008

In my line of work I get to meet lots of people, but none quite as dynamic and energetic as Kay Kammer.

Kammer is a Poplarville wife, mother, physical fitness instructor, and artist. “I love my job, I love my life and I love my husband,” said Kammer – and it is this love for all things Kay that is reflected in her body of work.

Kammer and her husband Bruce were college sweethearts that eventually married after a series of coincidences and “divine intervention.” “I kept in touch with Bruce after college, but we both married other people,” said Kammer. At some point later in life, Bruce called her out of the blue, and one year later, the couple tied the knot.

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It was this union that moved Kammer from Massachusetts to Mississippi – a simpler life, or so she thought. She moved to a house without central air and heat, and within the first two weeks the newlyweds battled a six foot rattle snake. Her life suddenly had all the makings of a great Chevy Chase movie.

Since then her perception of Mississippi has changed. “I always tell everyone Mississippi is the best kept secret in the whole United States. No one knows what it’s like to live here. It’s wonderful,” said a radiant Kammer.

Kammer did not always know about her inner artist. In fact, before giving birth to the Kammers’ only son, Michael, she spent 20 years being a hygienist. “I loved it, but doors kept closing before the windows started to open,” Kammer said. She struggled as a new mommy finding day care for Michael while working in Hattiesburg, and commuting from Poplarville. So when Bruce offered to let her stay home with the baby, she jumped at the chance.

About 8 months into being a stay-at-home mom, Kammer started doing appliqué’ on baby clothes for her son. “There were cute things for girls, but I couldn’t find anything for my son.” So the ambitious mom took matters into her own hands and started creating designs on the baby’s little clothes.

“Bruce made the mistake of saying, ‘Those are so cute, you could sell those’,” Kammer said. That’s when the couple started doing craft fairs.

In addition to the craft shows and fairs, Kammer had her designs for sale in four stores, and at the Peabody Hotel in Memphis. She went from appliqué, to painting on clothes, and then she added “friendly plastic” to the mix, creating bracelets and earrings to match the outfits.

“At one point, I looked around, and had paint drying, and glitter everywhere, and I realized I wasn’t enjoying staying home with the baby,” said Kammer. The couple quit the craft fair scene, but Kammer knew at that point that she wanted to paint. She started taking classes and experimenting with styles and mediums.

Her body of work is unique and diverse. Always trying new things, Kammer never does the same thing twice. She has dabbled in water colors, sketching and pastels, oil painting, a rice paper technique, and pottery. In the last two months, Kammer has also starting to make jewelry.

Kammer has a studio, a rented artist co-op space in Bay St. Louis, and she tries to get there as often as possible to work on her pottery. She does all of her pottery by hand, so it may take her just a bit longer to finish a piece then someone who uses a wheel.

Kammer’s favorite subject is her son, but she is also partial to frogs and other critters. Her pieces are featured in a couple of local stores, and she is currently preparing for an art show in New Orleans.

Kammer’s biggest contribution to the world of art is an annual show she has been placed in charge of and organizes. The St. Joseph Art and Sale Show, in Poplarville, is the biggest one of its kind in the county.

The show was started 10 years ago by one of the members of Kammer’s church. It began as a fundraiser of sorts for a new church building when the old building started to experience growing pains with a booming population.

In its origins the show was about students at the local schools who submitted art and essays that were displayed and judged.

When the show’s originator resigned from her duties, Kammer graciously stepped into the role.

The once modest little show for students has now, in large part due to Kammer’s efforts, become a show that artists love to participate in because it draws a big audience.

“We have a patron party on Friday, and the show opens for the public on Saturday. It sells great for a one day show,” said Kammer.

Last year’s show featured 82 artists, showing 656 pieces, and earned a total of $12,819.45. Kammer claims that more than $9,000 of that went to the artists. In the last five years, the show has sold 645 pieces of art.

In addition to her art, Kammer teaches physical fitness at Pearl River Community College. She is trained in Body Recall for seniors, and does a modified version with a little more intensity for her class. Just like her art, Kammer’s classes are different for every session. No two classes are ever the same.

They say art is an imitation of life, and Kammer’s work is no exception. Joyous and exuberant creations mark the work of the joyous and exuberant Kay Kammer.