Fiery Personality

Bourbon isn't bourbon without fire.

Original photography by Geoffrey Watt @MayerandWatt (color boost by MJ Kinman)

Original photography by Geoffrey Watt @MayerandWatt (color boost by MJ Kinman)

Unless the interior of a new oak barrel is allowed to burn, there can be no blackening and crackling of the wood. Those tiny cracks invite the whiskey to penetrate the oak during hot, lazy Kentucky summers. When the cold winter air causes the wood to contract, the whiskey molecules -- now infused with the sugars and color of the wood char -- are expelled back into the barrel, providing its delicious flavor and amber color.

The charring process used by Brown-Forman to create barrels for its own bourbon brands, plus the spectacular Zoisite gemstone above, combined to create the inspiration for "Char #4". Old Forester (a Brown-Forman brand) is proud to age its bourbon in barrels made specifically for them. This gem portrait honors Old Forester's heritage.

"Char #4" in pieces

"Char #4" in pieces

I painted the fabric with glowing red-orange, magenta, peach, and copper color. So much fun to see it peeking out from behind the templates as I worked.

It's coming together! Fingers crossed that this lovely will be ready for her close-up at the Makers' Crucible Bourbon Tasting & Derby Party on April 20th!

Stitching It Together

Old Fashioned New Quilting resized cropped.jpg

Free-motion machine quilting = meditation. 

Or at least that's how I see it. This part of the process allows me to literally touch every square inch of the new work, placing color where it belongs.

I change the thread color to match the fabric color. The random, non-directional quilting pattern allows the viewer's eye to see "through" the quilting to the diamond below.

I've decided to call this piece "Old Fashioned New". I experimented with different quilting patterns to see which I might like best. I'm still sold on the non-directional flame pattern that I use in most of my work. It doesn't detract from the faceting pattern as the more directional quilting does. What do you think?

Next Step: Star Charting

Doesn't it feel GREAT once the design has emerged right before your eyes?

The next step for me is to work on my "Star Charts". My handsome husband named the process when he once commented that the final product looked to him like a constellation map. I love the way his mind works!

Note: This finished work will be displayed in portrait format with the blue section at the top. However, my studio walls don't accommodate 7 feet templates, so I'll lay this one on its side to chart.

Note: This finished work will be displayed in portrait format with the blue section at the top. However, my studio walls don't accommodate 7 feet templates, so I'll lay this one on its side to chart.

Star-charting is the process of creating a life-size pattern of the design. Major sections of the diamond are identified, facets are drawn, and each receives its own set of codes for location, color, and position to one another.

Nothing complicated about the tools: rolls of freezer paper (found in any grocery store), double-sided tape, pencil, heavy duty eraser, ruler, and square (if you think you need some additional help keeping your lines straight), and markers.

I suppose I could plunk down a couple hundred dollars and buy myself a projector that would allow me to draw my designs directly onto the freezer paper template, but I prefer to go old school. Drawing a grid onto the mock-up at a 1": 12" ratio gives me the chance to study the design more closely. Once the major grid lines are down, I dive deeper into the design, finding the major sections of the faceting and the shards of light within each.

Freezer paper sections are taped together, 12" grid lines are drawn, and the naked template is up on the wall. Time to start charting!

Once the facets are drawn, the template comes off the wall and onto a flat surface for coding. A simple numbering method helps me keep track of every single piece. Coding for color variations is the second step. I put together a color key that ascribes a combination of letters for each hue, tint and shade. Assigning every piece a color really allows me to get deep into the design and understand the flow of color across the facets. The last step is to add hatch marks (adjacency marks) on every line delineating the facets. This is crucial to accurate piecing.

As tempted as it is to just start cutting the template apart so that I can get to the next step, I have one last critical step: making a copy of the final freezer paper design. The copy will serve as your key to construction. And if you're like me and sometimes lose a tiny piece or two during the process, the copy will allow you to replicate any piece that has mysteriously "walked away" during the cutting process. I use the large format printer at my local Fed Ex Store. The cost isn't prohibitive and the machine is easy to use.

Next: Painting fabric!

Divine Inspiration: A tour of Angel's Envy Distillery

I treated myself to an "Inspiration Field Trip" last month: a visit to Angel's Envy Distillery, Louisville's brand new bourbon distillery. Located across the street from Louisville Slugger Field, Angel's Envy's home base used to be an elevator factory before it was abandoned years ago. But no more. Last November the stunning brick complex opened for business. Founded by Master Distiller Lincoln Henderson, Angel's Envy is owned by Louisville Distilling Company, a subsidiary of Bacardi Limited.

 

Image courtesy of Angel's Envy Distillery in Louisville, KY @ www.angelsenvy.com. Click the image to go to their website.

Image courtesy of Angel's Envy Distillery in Louisville, KY @ www.angelsenvy.com. Click the image to go to their website.

If you're lucky enough to get Tom Gamble as your host, you know you're going to have fun. I really lucked out with a triple whammy....the other two guests on our tour were representatives from a nearby distillery who wanted a peek (like me) into the inner workings of this amazing facility. What fun to listen to the three of them swap stories about making, tasting, and sharing information about bourbon. 

In the Still Room @ Angel's Envy with host Tom Gamble. He's preparing to let us taste "low wine' from the Spirit Safe, the shiny container at left.

In the Still Room @ Angel's Envy with host Tom Gamble. He's preparing to let us taste "low wine' from the Spirit Safe, the shiny container at left.

I won't attempt to describe the details of making bourbon here. Too complicated and not the purpose of this chat with you today. The best way to learn is to plunk down $15 and take the tour. (And don't forget to bring some cash to tip your host!) Yet I do want to share with you the images that have inspired me to start designing new work.

When you head to the mezzanine level where the fermentation vats live, the sweet scent of baking bread smacks you in the face. It's not bread that's baking; it's the yeast-filled mash bubbling away in giant mash tubs. Tom will let you taste the mash and even let you look inside one of the tubs....just please don't drop your cell phone inside. It's been done. 

The mash tubs at Angel's Envy Distillery (www.angelsenvy.com). Click the image to go to their website.

The mash tubs at Angel's Envy Distillery (www.angelsenvy.com). Click the image to go to their website.

The Column Still sits at the far end of the mezzanine like a Queen on her throne. In my opinion, the glowing copper column is an honest-to-goodness "Thing Of Beauty". Standing next to the Column Still is a container called the Spirit Safe. Back in the day, its purpose was to keep a lock on the bourbon -- and away from thirsty distillery workers -- before the spirit could be put into barrels. It has to do with the history of bourbon taxation. Today, however, the Spirit Safe serves the purpose of honoring tradition and it gives metal workers and copper smiths an opportunity to create a cool piece of sculpture. The "bottle" on top of the Spirit Safe at Angel's Envy is modeled after their own bottle design. The stopper on the bottle is actually a piece of a Louisville Slugger bat provided by Louisville Slugger Field. A nice neighborly thing to do!

Isn't she a beauty? The Column Still at Angel's Envy Distillery (Louisville, KY)

Isn't she a beauty? The Column Still at Angel's Envy Distillery (Louisville, KY)

Look at the color!  The Column Still @ Angel's Envy Distillery, created by Louisville's own Vendome Copper & Brass Works.

Look at the color!  The Column Still @ Angel's Envy Distillery, created by Louisville's own Vendome Copper & Brass Works.

The polished metal of the Spirit Safe reflecting the Still Room windows. @ Angel's Envy Distillery

The polished metal of the Spirit Safe reflecting the Still Room windows. @ Angel's Envy Distillery

Still Room windows reflected in the shiny copper "bottle" atop the Spirit Safe. @ Angel's Envy Distillery

Still Room windows reflected in the shiny copper "bottle" atop the Spirit Safe. @ Angel's Envy Distillery

All of these images are working their way into new designs. I'm excited about piecing curved lines using the same single-foundation template process that I use with my diamonds. I'm excited, too, about painting fabric to convey that mesmerizing glow of the copper still. Can you imagine playing with all those paint colors? Copper, Golden Yellow, Ocher, Salmon, Burnt Umber, Magenta, Fuchsia all blending together...

The last stop on the tour is the Tasting Room. Yes, it was 11:00 AM on Monday morning. And, yes, we sampled the goods: the signature Bourbon finished in Port barrels. They also have a Rye finished in Rum casks. That's one of the defining characteristics of Angel's Envy, the time the bourbon is finished in the port or rum casks. Amazing!  

When you're looking for a wonderful place to spend an hour on a chilly Winter day, make your online reservation and head down to Angel's Envy Distillery (500 E. Main Street, Louisville, KY 40202). Lift a glass for me!

Tasting Room @ Angel's Envy Distillery. Image courtesy of Angel's Envy (www.angelsenvy.com) Click the image to visit their website.

Tasting Room @ Angel's Envy Distillery. Image courtesy of Angel's Envy (www.angelsenvy.com) Click the image to visit their website.