HOPKINS COUNTY, KY (4/5/13) – Outer beauty is often a reflection of our inner health, and the things we surround ourselves with are frequently an outward expression of the way we look at the world around us.
That being said, it is undeniable that consumer interest in handmade goods has increased over the last few years. People are turning to all-natural products, handcrafted wares, and organically grown produce as opposed to chemical-laden goods, factory-built commodities, and “conventional” foods which are treated with pesticides, grown with synthetic fertilizers, and altered with methods of genetic modification.
While these trending changes in consumer habits could be a result of our changing economy, it seems that people are also becoming more conscious about what they surround themselves with and what they put on and in their bodies.
As the popularity of handmade and all-natural items continues to grow, creative artists such as Princeton, KY resident, Rochalle Gray, have been able to flourish while also stepping up to the demands of this ever-increasing market. Recently, Rochalle opened up a new shop called World of RoCraft in her hometown and she is now being recognized by the Princeton Art Guild, which will be sponsoring an art exhibit of her work on April 7.
“World of RoCraft is my dream child,” explains Rochalle. “We [Rochalle and her fiancé Alonzo Pennington] opened the storefront on the first day of March this year. It is a cool little funky shop at 109 West Main Street. We sell things like hairclips, lamps, candles, paintings, furniture, body products, and jewelry. Everything in the store is handmade.”
Originally, Rochalle had been handcrafting everything in-store herself, but, as business is increasing, she has been training others to help her manage her workload.
“I have one other very talented artist working in my shop. Her name is Pam Buijk,” says Rochalle. “Pam is a floral event planner, jewelry maker, and gourd artist. She has had a very successful career planning events for both Oprah Winfrey and the White House. I have also been receiving help from my amazingly talented fiancé Alonzo Pennington. He has taken quite a creative interest in the store and has been designing some pretty amazing lamps for me.”
Rochalle points out that her most popular items are Tin CANdles, which come in a variety of scents including Cinna-Shine, Va-Va Vanilla, and Aloha Butter.
“These are 100% U.S. soy candles and they are hand poured by me the old fashioned way,” explains Rochalle. “Each candle is served up in a recycled can, and a unique piece of fabric is cut and placed on the top of each can.”
Rochalle was also excited to inform me that World of RoCraft has been very successful in selling their high-quality handmade bath and body products.
“All of these products are handmade and I use only the highest quality ingredients,” says Rochalle. “I believe what sets my store apart from other businesses is that I am trying very hard to provide a greener, more natural option for people, as well as unique custom art. We opened the store believing that candles would be our main products. Indeed, they have been very successful. In May, we are planning on distributing our candles to other boutiques in the surrounding counties. What we didn't plan for was the huge success of our handmade soaps, lotions, and body products. I can barely keep up with the demand. It’s a pretty cool problem to have. I really think people are sick of all these added chemicals and hormones in everything we seem to use. They are really becoming more aware of how harmful the things they use on the outside of their body can be to the inside.”
And while Rochelle’s all natural products and original artwork help to improve the quality of life for others, they also have an effect on the creator herself.
“I actually suffer from ADHD [attention deficit hyperactivity disorder]. I have had it my entire life,” explains Rochelle. “I have always found it hard to focus or stay still for very long. Creating things has always allowed me to let my mind wander freely, and it's that freedom that holds my attention. One of the reasons we opened this shop is because my need to create is so intense that, when I am unable to do so, I find myself feeling grumpy and incomplete.”
“For the last several years, I have worked as a waitress and a single mom,” says Rochalle. “I would get off of work late at night and then need to come home and create. Being a single mom means early mornings, so I was truly burning the candle at both ends. When I was working a lot, I didn’t have time to create and found the stress of it all really overwhelming. One day, my fiancé looked at me and said, ‘We need to open a shop so you can work doing what you love to do. Creating can be your job.’ We had a little money saved from a camper that we had bought, fixed up, and sold last summer, so we found a great building in downtown Princeton right across from the radio station. The rest is history.”
Rochalle Gray has teamed up with the Princeton Art Guild and they will be hosting her first solo art exhibit. The exhibit will take place on April 7th from 2pm until 4:30pm. The Alonzo Pennington Band will be performing at the event as well.
“We have filled the store to the brim with creative pieces. In the last two weeks alone, I have created about 15 new and unseen canvases, as well as five pregnancy belly casts. There will be some new lamps and tables on exhibit as well. I have been working on some of the biggest canvases I have ever dared," explains Rochalle excitedly. "Some of my larger pieces go all the way up to four-foot-by-four-foot in size. I can't give too much away, but I can promise that this is going to be a very unique collage exhibit. I have never been able to draw, though, and that made me feel inadequate as an artist for a very long time. Regardless, I know that creating is my passion and that makes me just as much of an artist as the finest portrait artist.”
Rochalle also wants to utilize World of RoCraft in any way that she can to get involved with the community as far as promoting artistic and musical events in a nearby courtyard beside her shop. In addition, she is looking to expand her candle making operation.
“Eventually, we would love to be able to expand,” explains Rochalle. “Our long term goal is to get a large enough building for a storefront-workshop-warehouse. We hope to have our own art and music complex equipped with a stage and a recording studio, too.”
Rochalle thinks that art is incredibly important to the community and is more than happy to do her part to make sure that others have the opportunity to immerse themselves in it.
“Art breathes fresh ideas into the community,” says Rochalle. “It allows people to explore their different tastes and allows us as artist to express ourselves.”
Sugg Street Post
Written by Jessica Dockrey
Photos by Amy Frances of Amy Frances Photography and Allison Wissink-Coleman