About Us - Jane Gray, Designer
A Girl Who Draws Passably Well
Jane Gray makes her entrance -- and it is an entrance -- and suddenly the room is a little brighter, and your mood feels a little lighter.
Her chatty southern charm is seasoned with a disarming straightforwardness. She's full of life, but she's not full of Jane. So much so that you might even miss the fact that she designed every stripe, dot, and frond in the Stray Dog Designs collection, in addition to mixing many of the gorgeous colors. And unless you specifically ask who the designer is, she's not telling. Even if you declare that you love the striking blue Artichoke Lamp, her response is an anonymous, "Oh yes, it's one of my favorites too!"
Jane throws off any compliments about her design skills with, "I'm just a girl who draws passably well."
Maybe so. But in 1994, scouring Mexico for unique merchandise, she found herself craving an artistic outlet of her own. When she scribbled her first lamp onto a scrap of paper, Jane unleashed an imagination that conjures and creates exceptional, often exquisite, frequently witty designs in glass, tin, iron, and papier mache -- generating a dazzling array of lamps, mirrors, tables, and home accessories. Stunning, useful, and just plain fun.
Today a trip to the aquarium or the grocery store might well trigger the start of a new product line. But what moves Jane is apparent in her designs. Family and friends are most important. Junk shopping, a favorite pastime, is a strong influence. The patterns and textures of nature appear in abundance. A passion for reading sparks her imagination and quirky humor, and her steadfast pursuit of variety and quest for change keep the collection fresh and lively.
Jane applies color with a fearless intensity that influences and sets trends -- like drenching a life sized bull trophy head in bright pink, or adding bold dots and stripes to lampshades. And she never hesitates to transform a lamp that's chic and lovely in white into a real showstopper in, say, Bahaman Sea Blue. Such unorthodox turns leave it to the customer to decide if a product is sophisticated or childlike -- perfect for the living room or the nursery.
At home in Tennessee, her favorite designs blend seamlessly with the past in her mountainside Civil War era house, creating eye candy everywhere, like some fabulous museum. Not the velvet rope, look but don't touch kind of museum. Jane's home is as easy going as she is -- a hands-on haven where her active family and their rotating menagerie of pets live comfortably, making use of her latest creations.
But Jane is adamant that her designs stand for more than just fancy furnishings. She makes sure that everyStray Dog Designs product reflects the history and heritage of the artisans who make it in countries where the living wage they earn is as rare as their use of recycled materials. Skilled Haitian artisans bring her drawings to life in papier mache, handmade from recycled cement bags. And in Mexico artisans expertly craft Jane's designs from recycled glass and recyclable tin and iron.
Yet ask Jane for something as fixed and formal as an artist's statement and you'll be waiting a very long time. It could be that she has difficulty pinning down her own fluid style, or maybe it's that she doesn't see the need. After all this time she remains surprisingly unaffected by her own achievement. A full page photo of one of her designs in a stylish magazine elicits a genuinely grateful, slightly amazed response of, "Isn't that nice of them?"
It's precisely this ability to be unfettered by the opinions of critics and fans alike that frees Jane to stretch her limits, embrace her dreams, and experiment. During lulls in the showroom you may find her curled up on the couch drawing. Check her napkin after dinner and you just might see the beginning of a new lamp. You get the distinct impression that she'd be doing this even if no one was buying.
And that's what makes her designs so special. Jane is doing her heart's work. The joy she instills in each of her pieces is palpable and contagious. When customers say about a lamp, "It makes me so happy!" or “I just can't help smiling when I look at it," clearly Jane feels the same way.