VSSL x Kay Foye Collaboration
Kay Foye is no ordinary Knife Maker.
Her story has quite a few beginnings;
long days riding horses, warm evenings in her mother’s kitchen, and an in-depth knife making apprenticeship in rural Georgia.
We’re thrilled to team up with Kay to create a limited VSSL x Kay Foye Collection for the holidays. After seeing her work, we figured with knives this special there had to be a story. So we chatted with Kay to get the scoop. We hope you enjoy our conversation with Kay Foye.
What does a day in the life of Kay look like?
I wake up pretty early but spend the first hour in bed reading and watching knife-making videos… yeah I’m a nerd. Then I take my sweet whinny pup out for a stroll, make a fire so my partner, Holt stays warm when he gets out of bed and then I head to work! My shop is about 20 minutes from my house and I take the same route every day just so I can stop at the CO-OP and get my free coffee and cherry pie. Yes, every morning. When I arrive at the shop I start by cleaning up my space - I know that seems a little backwards, but I’m usually too impatient to do it at night. Then, I immediately make another mess. I usually start by stabilizing materials for future projects and then work on blades and handles for current projects.
The forging and grinding and handle making goes on and on until I get hangry. I stop for lunch and then repeat. It depends on the day, but most nights I’m there pretty late. I’m lucky enough that I always come home to a roaring fire, dinner, my pup and the love of my life. After a long cold day in the shop, it’s the most glorious experience in the whole world. I imagine once the holidays are over my life will look very similar except I’ll be getting some skiing in a few days here and there and once it warms up again, I’ll sub skiing with horses.
How do you split up your time? Are there any challenges with making time for crafting knives?
Apparently there’s this thing called “time management”, who knew? These days, it’s mostly just knives from morning until night. It’s definitely difficult to know how to prioritize your time when you first start running a business, but I’m only 8 months into this and feeling insanely lucky for all of the opportunities and learning experiences I’ve had in such a short period of time.
Is Knife making your full time gig?
It is now! Which is a very recent, exciting and scary change. I’m a part-time Wrangler in the Summer and was a full-time Waitress this Summer/Fall so I could save up enough money to buy my own equipment. I may still Wrangle part-time in the summers, regardless of how this knife gig turns out. I’m a happy gal when I’m in the middle of nowhere on a horse.
What inspired you to start crafting knives?
I used to buy a lot of knives (because I used to lose a lot of knives) and there was a beautiful but really expensive knife that I wanted to buy at a store that I used to work at in town. I met the knife maker and his wife when they came to CO for a trunk show; they could see how drawn I was to his work and said I should come to GA to make a knife. I was heading to Alaska for the summer so we made a loose plan that I’d come down that fall. We stayed in touch throughout the summer; they offered me an apprenticeship that October and I made my way down to GA in November of last year.
Did you have a background that helped you pick up knife making?
Nope not at all. I guess in a way working with horses makes you certain if you’re comfortable working long hours, getting hurt and spending most of the day dirty. I had never used a belt grinder, or forge, it was kind of shocking how easily I got the hang of it.
Your knives are so unique. There’s got to be a story….
During my apprenticeship my mentor was constantly telling me I needed to find my voice in my design. I would watch him cut off all of these beautiful live edges to square off material and one day it hit me. I dug through the garbage and pulled out all of the edges he had cut off. I decided to use crushed stone as inlay instead of liners to separate the material that I gathered from the garbage and one night I stayed in the shop late and put together a knife handle celebrating the natural edges and imperfections of the material. I found my voice.
What inspires your work?
I’ve started making custom knives for clients with specific materials that hold meaning to them. Connection is what feeds the soul in my opinion. I get to learn the stories behind the materials that my clients want to use. It connects me to my clients, it connects my clients to the history of their life. When all is said and done, they’ll have a tool they can use and carry with them that they’ll make a million memories with. Together we use memories to make memories - i’m inspired by connection.
What was the inspiration behind the VSSL collaboration?
The collection that I made for VSSL was pretty magical. This was my first big project and I wanted every single knife to have a piece of my heart. All of the materials in the knives came from salvaged material. The steal - leaf spring from old jeeps, vintage disston saws, old files/rasps and scraps of D2 from a steel yard. The material on the handles came from scraps of things that family members and friends gave me to help me get my business started. Whenever I was out on a horseback ride I always came home with my saddle bags full of treasures I found along the trails. You’ll find lots of drift-wood, stone and cattails that I collected from the days I spent watching my dog learn how to swim in the rivers here in colorado. Really old SC Live Oak that my partner brought when he moved from SC to CO. Todd, the owner of VSSL gave me some of the barnwood he used to build his office - you’ll find some of that in there too!
How much time to you spend on a single piece?
Anywhere between 25 - 40 hours depending on the piece and the materials the client and I decide to use.
If you could put anything into the handle of a knife what would it be?
My friends joke that if I could put a cheeseburger into the handle of one, I would, because I love them so much. I mean… could be cool? But I would love to figure out a way to put something really delicate into a handle, like a butterfly wing.
What are you looking forward to most for 2019?
Growth. I’m looking forward to the opportunity to grow creatively, to grow as a woman, as a business owner, as a friend, as a lover. Every year is an opportunity to evolve. 2018 was a huge year, i learned a new craft, started a new business, i fell in love with the most wonderful man. I’m literally standing on the horizon of one of the best years of my life and I’m grateful for that.
Who inspires you?
I know it sounds so cheesy but my partner is one of my greatest inspirations. He’s been a professional creative for much longer than me and has been a rock when it comes to helping me navigate through the ups and downs of this wild and crazy journey. There are also a number of knife makers all over the world that I’ve become friends with through social media. I love their passion and how encouraging they are, their willingness to share their knowledge and ideas. It’s a really special little community I’ve found myself in.
What's your all time favorite knife that you've created?
The knife that I mentioned above. It was made with material that I had pulled out of the garbage - scraps of wooly mammoth ivory/tooth and banksia pod! The blade was forged by my mentors son from the cable of a chairlift in Snowmass Colorado. It was purchased by a very dear friend - so happy it found the right home.
Flash forward 20 years, what’s Kay doing?
Oh man, Kay is going to be 55 going on 25 and teaching a handful of brave women to forge knives someplace beautiful and warm. However, If you need me in the mornings you will find me riding horses and drinking coffee on the porch with my partner and our kiddos.
Any advice for people who are inspired to make something but don’t know where to start?
The amount of information we have access to is powerful but it can also be incredibly overwhelming. It turns out that feeling of being inspired yet paralyzed is pretty common in the creative world. So know, you’re not alone. For me the key has been community - it’s so important to surround yourself with other like minded entrepreneurs and artists. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Don’t be afraid to say you don’t know how. Don’t be afraid to be still in this chaotic world and listen to what’s making your heart beat fast.
Any last words for the VSSL community?
Never stop exploring this big beautiful world we live in. There’s so much to touch and see and taste and smell - There are so many unexpected treasures around us to be inspired by, you just have to stop thinking so much and simply start looking at what’s right in front of you. You never know, you may see something you want to put in a knife handle!