Unique Antiques: Vintage Jewelry by Mary Kay Samouce

Savannah Chastain
Mary Kay Samouce at her booth during Arts Quest in Santa Rosa Beach.

The Mattie Kelly Arts Foundation is hosting the 19th annual Festival of the Arts at the MKAF Cultural Arts Village, October 25-26. The festival will feature 100 visual artists and The Log will be featuring select artists in the weeks leading up to the event.

Local artist, Mary Kay Samouce has a natural eye for turning hidden treasures of the past into beautiful pieces of wearable art relevant for today. Her jewelry line, Adorn by Samouce, showcases one-of-a-kind art pieces in the form of necklaces, earrings and bracelets.

“I create statement pieces with antique and vintage pieces from all different timeframes from the Victorian era to the ‘60s and ‘70s,” she said. “I basically deconstruct pieces and put them back together in unexpected ways.”

 Samouce said that finding the antique items for her pieces is one of her favorite aspects of her artwork.

“I do a lot of antiquing and I go on buying trips,” she said. “When I travel for shows I always do a little antiquing. It’s fun because I never know what I’m going to have to work with.”

Surrounded by antiques for as long as she can remember, Samouce said her love of the past was cultured from a very young age.

“I grew up with my mother as an antique dealer in Houston,” she said. “With my whole life being exposed to the beautiful things of the past, I put it all together five years ago and haven’t looked back since.”

Today, Samouce is known for her jewelry pieces, but she explained that her first artistic venue was her extensive career as a set designer for theater shows.

“I have my masters from NYU in theatrical design,” she said. “I always enjoyed delving into historic research before I get started on setting the play. I spent a lot of time researching what time period the play took place in, because you have to prop the show with furniture and the props the actors use for the play. I always ended up with a whole folder of visual research.”

As a theater designer, Samouce traveled often, giving her the opportunity to visit antique shops across the nation and nurture her passion for unique finds.

“You’re quite a vagabond when you’re a theater designer,” she said. “The theatrical wow and love for the research is what first drew me to that career field but I’ve always dabbled with jewelry on the side.”  

After moving to Santa Rosa Beach seven years ago, Samouce was finally able to focus all of time on her jewelry design business, and told The Log that her work has flourished ever since.

“I just had one of my pieces on the runway with the South Walton Fashion week and Nicole Paloma,” she said. “The Mattie Kelly show is my anniversary show. It will be my five year anniversary in the art festival world.”

As for her favorite antiques to incorporate into her pieces, Samouce said the more unusual the better.

“I really get excited about finding unusual things,” she said. “Really I just look for gorgeous, unusual things.”

From hand-watches to keyholes, Samouce said she uses anything that catches her eye, the bigger the item the better.

“One thing I really like to look for is belt buckles from the Victorian age,” she said. “My use of antique belt buckles as pendants is something I’m known for. The ones I love are the French-cut steel belt buckles with steel cut flowers over velvet. They just have beautiful intricate detail, and I just love the size and volume of them. They make such a big statement. They are pretty over the top.”

For the MKAF Festival of the Arts this weekend, Samouce said she has been hard at work creating new stunning pieces.

“Every show that I do I bring in something that has not been seen before,” she said. “For those who have seen my work, it’s never a repeat of what they saw before. There are a lot of ladies who collect my work but there’s only one, so they’ve got to get it quick.”