This is Joyce Thomas, Designer Volunteer
Updated: Feb 8, 2019
By Jennifer Ersalesi
While walking down Park Avenue, it would be difficult to miss the wonderful window displays outside of the Rutherford Public Library. Each artistic display grabs the attention of spectators with creative decorations, as well as information about upcoming library and town events.
So who is the artist who volunteers her time to design and create these works of art? Meet Joyce Thomas, artist, interior home designer and incredible volunteer. “This is Rutherford” spoke with Joyce about this town where she lives and from where she draws her inspiration.
TIR: Rutherford is the place you call home. When did you move here? What drew you to this town?
JT: I am starting my twelfth year in Rutherford. Initially, I was drawn here because of its close proximity to NYC. But, after getting to know my way around, there is no other place I would rather live in. I love the people, the vibe of the community and everyone I meet is wonderful.
TIR: The Rutherford Public Library window display always looks fantastic. It is great that it keeps residents aware of town events and that it is so beautifully and artistically decorated. Judah Hamer, the Director of the Library, told us, “Joyce Thomas is amazing. She brings an unparalleled level of excellence to the Library window displays and interior decorations for our fundraisers and special events. Joyce gives generously of her time and talent. When the Library partners with other groups in town, Joyce seamlessly merges a shared vision into creative, innovative and eye-catching displays. All of this is done by her with an incredible sense of modesty. Joyce embodies the Rutherfordian who participates in and contributes to town life without fuss or fanfare because she knows her own and others' efforts improve our quality of life and strengthen the fabric of our community.”
TIR: When did you begin volunteering to do the window displays? Why were you interested in taking on this project?
JT: I started doing the Library window in July 2013. So far, I have done almost 60 windows. I became interested one day when I was just walking down Park avenue to do some shopping and I noticed that the window was empty. There was just the faded leftover remnants of what had been there a while ago. On my walk back up Park avenue, I decided that I could offer to “help” them out. I figured that they must have something that they wanted to advertise and say to the community. For two weeks, that thought kept popping up in my head, so I made some phone calls and emails and met with Judah. All I had to do was show him two props and my “BIG” idea.
He gave me a tour of the Library and the last stop was that the entrance into the window area. (It was kinda like having a backstage pass). Judah, didn’t notice, but my jaw dropped when I saw how huge the window really was. In my mind it was much, much smaller. I was still excited for the opportunity but in the back of my head I said to myself, wow, have I got work to do! I think I pulled it off, and it has been going and going ever since that first window.
My love affair with Libraries and books goes back to when I was a young kid, and I loved going to the Library. Growing up as 1 of 14 kids in my family, that was about the only treat I had. I could get there by walking and I had a cherished Library card, which made me feel special. Everything at my Library was new and the ladies were kind and patient with me. I learned that books could take me places. And, when I lived in Colorado, I did volunteer work at the Library for their computer systems.
TIR: The window displays are both informative and creative, from where do you draw your inspiration?
JT: I touch base with Judah to see what programs are coming up and what they want to gain greater community awareness. They are also several organizations that the window is dedicated to throughout the year. They include the Boy Scouts, Kip Senior Center, Civil Rights Commission, and UNICO (Italian Heritage month is in October). Depending on the message, I try to build off of that platform and give them a professionally done window filled with props and other pieces that I acquire from a variety of sources. Judah and his team are the most wonderful team to work with; he gives me autonomy to do whatever on a creative level.
TIR: So many Rutherford residents and other visitors to Rutherford walk by the window displays that you create, what is it you hope they take away from those displays?
JT: I try to design a window that is informative, interesting and fun and that people would recognize and see just a small piece of themselves in. My overall goal is to communicate the message about all of the wonderful programs that the Rutherford Library has to offer to kids, families, teens, adults and seniors.
TIR: As an interior designer, it is obvious that you already have a great deal of artistic talent and the amazing ability to design and decorate? How long have you been doing interior design? What motivated you to pursue a career in interior design?
JT: I have been doing interior design since 9/11. I started in commercial retail work for Bergdorf Goodman in NYC. About 3 years ago I switched over to high-end residential work in New Jersey. Since I was a teen, I fantasized about working in a creative field, but I had to make a living so I chose to work in high-tech for 20 yrs. Then I decided that I had the confidence and mad skills to express myself, so I bailed, so to speak and went back to school and moved to NYC in the 90’s.
TIR: The Rutherford Public Library is such an integral part of our town and community. You have been a vital part of their efforts to keep the town aware of library and community events. How has the Rutherford Public Library been important to you as a resident of Rutherford?
JT: I beam with honor that I have the opportunity and privilege to be part of such a storied organization that does such great and wonderful things for so many in the community.