Midway gets another retail outlet: Dancing Dog Design

By Ana Clegg
Community Journalism class, University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications

Dwayne Cobb has turned his hobby of jewelry making into a fulltime job.

Cobb, 47, who’s the new owner of Dancing Dog Design at 101-B Main Street in Midway, started producing pottery, sculptures and jewelry when he attended the University of Kentucky. He gave the store its name because of a beagle named Ginger he owned when he was a teenager.

After undergraduate school, Cobb went on to seek a master’s degree in sculpting, but decided to go out into the working world before he finished. After 18 years of working for Hunter Manufacturing in Lexington as a manager of research and development, the company downsized and he was left looking for another job. (Photo by Ana Clegg)

“All of my family is in the funeral business, but me. I’m the odd sheep,” Cobb said. “I’ve always had a need to make.”

So with some financial help from family members, Cobb opened up for business at the end of July.

Although one might think from the outside that the store is like any other gift shop, through his door is a spacious studio full of artwork by other artisans from around Kentucky that fill up his walls with color. Cobb sells on consignment.

“ An artist agrees to bring me their work and I put it in the store and they are paid a percentage for their work when it is sold,” he said. The artist retains ownership and Cobb carries insurance on the piece while it’s in his store.

When he first started sculpting, Cobb’s art form was glass-blowing beads he turned into jewelry. He still sells necklaces, earrings and beads made from glass.

Cobb has taken his artistry to another level, incorporating stone into his pieces. He built his own workbench of diamond wheels, called an arbor, for cutting, grinding and polishing the stones himself, another hobby he picked up. He and his father go out hunting for stones and come back with slabs of rock such as Kentucky agate, the state rock. “I try to educate people to let them know that I’m making the stones also,” he said.

After Cobb produces a well-polished stone, he sets it into sterling silver wire, contorting it to make a more organic-looking piece of jewelry. “Being able to control the rough rock to the finish . . . allows me to just control my own destiny with it,” he said.

Dancing Dog Design also allows the customers to design their own jewelry.

“People will find a stone [in the store] they like and I’ll design a piece of jewelry around it for them, do a few quick drawings or some sketches, and sell them on the concept and tell them to come back in a week,” Cobb said. The customers pay 50 percent up front and the rest when they come back.

Cobb gets his inspiration from his sketchbooks, where he draws constantly, but he doesn’t work from his drawings. “If you work from your sketches you lose something,” he said. “There’s a little bit of spontaneity involved and it gets stale.”

The jewelry has some sophistication in the way it sits on the neck. “I really like movement a lot these pieces have a lot of hinges that way when you wear it, it lies on you it doesn’t stick out so it’s got a little bit of feel a little bit of softness,” Cobb said.

The Midway shops beside the railroad tracks are mindful of the other storeowners and what their store contains inside.

“All of us, I think are totally respectful of everybody else’s merchandise, said Eruc Thoreson, owner of Damselfly, two doors down from Dancing Dog Design, which has jewelry, sculptures, and other types of gifts.

“Any quality retail has a positive effect on downtown Midway,” Thoreson said. “ Every business that ever comes to Midway, I wish them nothing but success because their success is the town’s success.”

Leslie Penn, co-owner of the Historic Midway Museum Store, has a specialized line of gifts, including a bookstore on the second level.

“We’ve been here 15 years,” she said. “We’ve been here the longest of any of the stores and I just see them come and go, but I hope the best for him, I really do … ’cause we need the work.” Leslie said she has seen Cobb’s creations, and “He’s coming from a different angle.”

Dancing Dog Design is open Tuesday through Saturday 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. A grand opening is planned sometime in October.

Having the store today, Cobb says, “is rewarding, not financially, but physically and spiritually it’s a lot more rewarding. . . . I’m working harder now than I’ve ever worked, and yet it’s not work, and that makes a difference.”