PHOTOS COURTESY COTTAGE BY THE SEA
Nearly fatal illness inspires thoughtful career
Heather Kraty's near-death experience after being diagnosed with a brain tumor a few years ago proved to be an inspiration for her jewelry pieces that now bear inspirational messages.
"I actually died and they brought me back," she said.
She decided to spread a positive message of hope, caring and love. Each of her creations holds special meaning for its wearers, who find strength in Kraty's inspirational words, poetic etchings or thoughtful messages. One particular line, dedicated to breast cancer survivors, features hearts and pink tourmaline stones. A portion of the proceeds on sales of the special bracelets benefits the Susan B. Komen Foundation.
"About eight years ago my mom developed breast cancer. She went through chemo and is currently in remission. I am very lucky to still have her. Not everyone is so lucky," Kraty said. Her "Hope grows here" bracelet is dedicated to her mother.
The designer will be in Hawaii this weekend for a trunk show at Cottage by the Sea in Ward Warehouse. Her trunk show will offer many of her one-of-a-kind pieces, with opportunities for special orders and personalization of items.
"For example, some people just can't find bracelets to fit," she said. Others might want to substitute or add stones with significance, like a birthstone.
Kraty took a circuitous route to jewelry design.
"I've always loved poetry. As a little girl, I would always read and never watched TV. I had all sorts of notebooks with sayings and words," she said.
Although she studied design, graduating from New York City's Fashion Institute of Technology, at the fast-track age of 18, she found herself owning several nightclubs after school, including one with actor Sean Penn, while traveling with her husband to cities like Miami and Los Angeles, setting up sound and lighting systems in nightclubs.
They eventually divorced, and she longed to settle down and "do something quiet."
Kraty began creating "rustic and romantic" jewelry pieces, many with an island or ocean theme. Her love for the ocean and horses evolved into a wholesale business Island Cowgirl.
She studied silver making during a six-month stay in Mexico.
"I learned from old guys in little shacks. It was pretty cool," she said.
"Jewelry used to mean something, since the Byzantine times," she said. "People liked wearing something that was meaningful, like family crests. We've lost a lot of that.
"We are a buy-me, bring-me, take-me society. Through consumerism we've lost a bit of what life is supposed to mean."
She said she hopes that her designs bring back that sense of meaning, and response seems to indicate people are ready for her message. At her last trunk show in the islands, she said, "People came in and gave me flowers. One lady even baked me cookies. As a wholesaler, I don't generally get feedback form the public."
Kraty, does however, get notes of appreciation from customers and chemotherapy patients that wore her hope bracelets during their treatments. And for Kraty that kind of response from people experiencing tough times makes her work worthwhile.