We had the good fortune of connecting with Kimberly Walters and we’ve shared our conversation below.
Hi Kimberly, why did you pursue a creative career?
The reason I decided to pursue an artistic career was all due to a riding habit and a horse. I became interested in horses after a commission for the riding habit which I would wear for my living history events. I had just started participating in 18th century reenacting, and my thought was if I were to wear a riding habit, I must know how to ride a horse as well – right? Sounds about right. Reenacting and living history led me to adopt a gorgeous gray horse, a Tennessee Walker, named Southern Belle. Now, what does that have to do with eventually creating my business selling reproduction and historically- inspired jewelry? Simple. After adopting Southern Belle, unbeknownst to me, she came with severe osteoarthritis in her neck that meant she needed to be retired and receive special care/medicines. That cost money, and horses have a whole host of needs and requirements. I had just learned and started making earrings for myself to wear at my events as I had been studying portraits and prints trying to copy them. I then decided to try to sell them. I am self taught. My business started entirely for Belle out of respect, love, compassion, dignity, and to keep her out of any pain.
Can you open up a bit about your work and career? We’re big fans and we’d love for our community to learn more about your work.
I am self-taught. I have a passion for anything 18th century as it pertains to material culture – the clothing, jewelry, hair fashions, and accessories. So for me, it was easy to start this business. However, it was and still is a LOT of work. I am the designer, creator, engineer, purchaser, accountant, marketing exec, photographer, packager, etc. to make this business work. I do it all. There are also amazing friends with the same passion that help me at in-person events that I do up to six times a year. I could not do the shows without them. My love of living history also had me do a LOT of research. Since I am also a foodie, I have written two books, A Book of Cookery by a Lady and Tea in 18th Century America. I would love the world to know of my passion to make and sell ready-made and bespoke historical jewelry offered in my Etsy shop – SignoftheGrayHorse. I am set apart from others as I offer a huge variety of unique items that are instrumental for someone to add to or complete their impression in a historically accurate way. Many around the world also just love the style, and also wear their purchases everyday to social functions and work! Jewelry was a fashion statement in the time, and it also had trends and fads during each decade of that century. All sales are applied to off-set the costs of my horses needs – which now total five! This includes a Colonial Williamsburg retired horse named Nelson. I am most proud of being able to care for my horses with this business and continue Southern Belle’s legacy of love.
Let’s say your best friend was visiting the area and you wanted to show them the best time ever. Where would you take them? Give us a little itinerary – say it was a week long trip, where would you eat, drink, visit, hang out, etc.
I live in the Northern Virginia area. My itinerary would include visits to historic sites, museums, and anything to highlight the history of this country. That is what I find fun, interesting, and exciting! Those people who lived in Virginia in the 18th century were crucial to the success of the war for Independence. So, the week would be spent at George Washington’s Mount Vernon, Historic Alexandria (Carlyle House, Gadsby’s Tavern and Museum, The Apothecary and the walk up and down King Street for shopping), within Washington D.C. to see our historic monuments and Smithsonian museums, and on up to Historic Annapolis in Maryland to the Paca House and Gardens. When visiting Mount Vernon, we would eat and drink at the Inn right on site. In Historic Alexandria, O’Connell’s Irish Restaurant and Bar has excellent atmosphere, food, and hard apple cider on tap (and was where my boyfriend and I had our first date). Since I organize a living history volunteer group of living historians with Historic Annapolis at the Paca House and Gardens, I walk right down the street to Gallway Bay Irish Pub for a quick bite to eat for lunch and antique shopping, and then stay to eat at Reynold’s Tavern which is a B&B and restaurant within a historic house.
Who else deserves some credit and recognition?
I have Southern Belle to thank first and foremost. However, a friend of mine, April Thomas of Fashions Revisited, talked me into selling what I had been making and wearing. She purchased the very first pair of earrings from me for encouragement. My boyfriend, Jim McGaughey, encouraged me to sell at larger reenactments and craft shows and helped introduce me to some of the organizers. That combination and my drive to succeed for Belle, as well as provide items to enhance my customer’s living history impressions, set it all in motion.
Other: Etsy – https://www.etsy.com/shop/SignoftheGrayHorse
Ginny Mannshaiya Cody Jefferies Kimberly Walters Robin Matty Krista Jasillo