Designer finds lasting beauty in new career

Designer finds lasting beauty in new career

Joyce Kutty poses with the 70-foot paper flower installation that propelled her forward into a new career.
Kutty’s floral creations gain worldwide acclaim

NORTH PROVIDENCE – Joyce Kutty says she’ll never forget the “random international phone call” that changed her life three years ago. Someone in Thailand had seen the work she was doing part-time as a floral origami artist, and liked it so much that they asked her to complete a 70-foot installation.

The 2014 Rhode Island College graduate, 25, had studied metal-smithing and jewelry, scoring a great job with Tiffany’s out of college. But six months in, she got that call. The installation in the luxury mall atrium in Bangkok would take three weeks, and Kutty didn’t have vacation time accrued at Tiffany’s, so she decided to quit her job and go.

“It was the craziest thing I’ve ever done,” she said.

That one job commissioned from the other side of the world has turned into a lifelong pursuit for the 2008 North Providence High School graduate. Her paper floral creations have become so popular around the world that she’s ready to quit her full-time job to devote all of herself to creating the masterpieces.

Kutty’s work has been highlighted at New York Fashion Week and featured in Harper’s Bazaar, among others.

Not long after her trip to Thailand, she was getting calls for custom orders and showing her work at bridal expos.

Making the decision easier to leave the jewelry field, Kutty says she had begun losing much of her vision. She said she realized as she came home from Thailand that looking through a microscope every day probably wasn’t going to work.

“Going home, it was something I knew I couldn’t do for the rest of my life,” she said.

During her years at Rhode Island College, Kutty had befriended students in the medical field, and it was was through a discussion with them about art and healing that she became aware of neutropenia. The condition, which is connected to an abnormally low count of white blood cells, is especially common among patients going through chemotherapy.

Kutty quickly realized that these patients can’t have real flowers because of the potentially harmful bacteria on them.

“A heartbreaking issue stemmed a simple idea,” she says on her website.

Always interested in Eastern aesthetic, Kutty explored the traditional Japanese art-form of origami, or the art of folding. She started creating origami floral arrangements, referencing real flowers as inspiration but incorporating her own style and design.

Kutty would end up partnering with Rhode Island Hospital and donating hand-made origami bouquets to patients on the oncology floor. By creating and donating her bouquets, she developed her own style.

With every order of $100, Joyce Kutty Designs donates a bouquet to a patient at Rhode Island Hospital. The bouquets are meant to bring joy to patients and families, giving them a healthy alternative that they can keep.

Kutty lives with her parents, Christian missionaries Oommen George Kutty and Kamala Kutty. She said her parents have always encouraged her and her brothers to pursue their passions, whatever they were. These two really went against the “conventional” Asian stereotype in doing so, she said.

Kamala and Oommen George Kutty, who went to see Kutty’s installation in Thailand, said they’re so happy for their daughter.

“The best is yet to come,” said Kamala.

Kutty said she thinks her designs are gaining traction because they’re so unique. This is a product that one would see at a wedding, she said, but it’s also fine art that can go home with the customer after the event.

Depending on the florist, her creations can be slightly more expensive than one would find with a real flower shop, said Kutty, but these “are going to last forever.”

Every arrangement, whether sold for a wedding or given to the hospital, has a lot of meaning behind it, said Kutty. She said she’s always trying to promote her message of kindness and awareness for others.

No matter where she goes in life, Kutty said her heart will always be in North Providence, where she’s lived her entire life.

Kutty said she can see her floral design business going many directions in the future. She said she could see herself coming out with other paper products, cards, and gifts.

“I don’t like to limit myself,” she said.

For more on Kutty and her floral creations, visit www.joycekutty.com .

Joyce Kutty, center, with her parents, Oommen George Kutty, left, and Kamala Kutty in their North Providence home. Her parents say they’re so proud of the success she’s finding with her floral design business. (Breeze photo by Ethan Shorey)