Emmy's Shimmies shines
By Stephanie Wolf

Emily greets the Richardson’s dog. She calls the Richardsons her “second family,” and their home is the meeting spot to carpool to the concert.

“Em, how do you want to design this bracelet?” asks Teresa Lush, 55, who stands at the head of the kitchen table at her home in Leitchfield. She holds a spool of fine steel wire and pliers.

“I think two, three, two, three,” Emily “Emmy” Lush, Teresa’s youngest daughter and middle child of three, says. “I like patterns.”

It’s decided: two cube-like beads will be followed by a spacer, then three and a spacer, and so on until Emily runs out of wire. The bracelets are one of the offerings from their mother-daughter business, Emmy’s Shimmies. The flagship items are hand-crafted, wind-chime-like pieces with colorful beads and small bells. Emily and Teresa call them “shimmies.”

“It came about because Emmy's very social,” Teresa says. “She has lots of wonderful activities she's part of and events she's part of. But when the whole world shut down in 2020, she couldn't go anywhere. We couldn't do anything.”

Typically Emily’s schedule is packed with piano lessons, school, concerts, time with friends and helping out at institutions in town like the St. Paul Catholic School. She recently ended her run as manager for Grayson County High School’s volleyball team and was the school’s basketball homecoming queen in spring 2019. The 20-year-old, who has Down syndrome, thrives when she’s busy and interacting with people.

When the COVID-19 pandemic wiped Emily’s calendar clean, her mother searched online for a simple and artful outlet for her daughter’s creativity. She saw patterns for wind chimes and felt they could adapt those to create something that speaks to Emily.

“Wind chimes can be very detailed and very elaborate,” Teresa says. “Or they can be kind of simple and rustic, which is what we are. We're simple and rustic.”

When Emily was little, she liked to color and draw. Her father used to be a photographer, and he taught her a bit about photography. She still likes to take pictures of friends, her teachers and family. But one of her biggest loves is music.

“It’s fun,” Emily says. “I love listening to music on my phone.”

Doo-wop group The Drifters, K-pop band BTS and a cappella ensemble Pentatonix are among her favorites. She and her mom take every opportunity they can to see shows. Because Emily’s love for music is so well-known in the community, “if someone goes to a concert that Emily doesn't go to, they will often get her a T-shirt,” Teresa says.

Teresa says the family has tried to expose Emily to a lot of different things, and they’ve had great support from the community.

“It's your life experiences that make you what you are,” Teresa says.
Emily says Down syndrome means “sweet and awesome.”

As COVID-19 restrictions lifted and life got busy again, Teresa and Emily kept Emmy’s Shimmies going, and business was good. They went from selling shimmies to family and friends to exhibiting the work at art fairs and getting bulk commissions. They also have an Emmy’s Shimmies display at Watson & Co. on Leitchfield’s Public Square.

Gigi Meredith, who works at the store, has known Emily since she was little. She sees Emily’s spirit in the artwork.

“I think when you look at the way she uses color and the way she thinks about things, you see this happiness and joy come out of it. That's Emmy,” Meredith says. “You need beauty in life. Even when things are rough during the middle of a pandemic, you need to find those small things that make you go, ‘Hey, that's pretty awesome'.”

Teresa wants Emmy’s Shimmies to continue to be fun for Emily and not feel like work. “We probably don’t want it to get too big,” she says.

“I want it to get too big,” Emily adds, contradicting her mother.

Emily and Teresa had business cards made for Emmy’s Shimmies and have several placed on their display at Watson & Co.

Emily helps serve lunch at St. Paul Catholic School. She makes sure the students get the dessert and flavor of milk, regular or chocolate, they want.

Emily browses The Loft, a boutique on the public square, after getting her favorite coffee drink, an iced caramel latte, at the coffee shop next door. This is a morning ritual on the days she works at Watson & Co.

Emily fist bumps her piano teacher, Laura Kiper, 41, after playing “My Heart Will Go On” during her lesson. Later in the lesson, Laura tells Emily, “You’re way better at this famous thing than I am,” acknowledging the camera in the room. “I know,” Emily says. “I knew you would be,” Laura replies back.

Emily checks her phone in between BTS music videos she’s been watching in her bedroom.

Teresa straightens her daughter’s headband while Emily threads beads onto thin wiring to make a bracelet. “We believe she was given to us to share with others and educate people on Down syndrome,” Teresa says.

Teresa and Emily catch up with Shalee Watson, the owner of Watson & Co., during one of their shifts at the store. The two work there once a month, and Emily uses the opportunity to make more Emmy’s Shimmies inventory. They tell Shalee about the Carrie Underwood concert they went to earlier in the week.

The Lush family celebrates Rodney’s birthday over breakfast at Farmer’s Feed Mill Restaurant in Leitchfield. Rodney is Emily’s father, and the family gathering includes her brother, Layton, and Teresa.

Brandy Weedman, a special education teacher at Grayson County High School, embraces Emily. They’re excited to hit the road for Lexington, where they’re seeing Carrie Underwood in concert.