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!

From Diamond to Design


There truly is no step in this process that I don't love. Each one brings me joy. 

My last post (The Right Light) described finding the right diamond image, one that has a personality or a story to tell. Today I'll describe the fun involved in transforming an image into a potential design for future work. 

Photography by Geoffrey Watt @Mayer and Watt

Photography by Geoffrey Watt @Mayer and Watt

This is the stone that caught my attention -- a beautiful peach Zoisite from the collection of Laurie and Simon Watt. (You can see the rest of their incredible collection of colored gemstones at www.mayerandwatt.com.) After giving it a little make-over by boosting the color, I spun it around to look at it from different angles. 

It was certainly a stunning stone all by itself, but I wondered how a companion stone might enhance the image. Georgia O'Keeffe had a wonderful take on color theory. She said colors adjacent to one another on the color wheel are Friends, while colors opposite one another are Lovers. Marvelous!  Since blue and orange are complementary colors, this is the handsome sapphire I chose for my lovely leading lady. A mysterious charmer, isn't he?

I worked with both images on my PC, but nothing really caught my eye. The designs I was able to produce seemed lifeless, so I decided to change my focus at that point.  My "Bourbon Diamond" series is inspired, not only by amber gems, but Kentucky's iconic spirit and the amazing Kentucky bourbon distilleries that create it. Willett Distillery in Bardstown is one of the most historic distilleries in Kentucky.  Once I spotted the angular lines of the distillery's tin roof and its variegated brick exterior, I knew what might solve my design issue. I went back to the drawing board, threw in a diagonal line, and increased the scale of the facets. The design immediately started to get more interesting. 

Historic Willett Distillery (Bardstown, KY)

Historic Willett Distillery (Bardstown, KY)

Adding a diagonal line and increasing the facet sizes made all the difference...

Adding a diagonal line and increasing the facet sizes made all the difference...

I knew I needed to get my hands on the images, physically moving around the pieces until something sang out to me. I printed out the images, cut them up, and began mashing them back together in new configurations. 

Finally!  

Next time I'll share a bit about the process of taking this little mock-up and turning it into a full-scale work.

Inspiration

January 1 ... a perfect day to start the conversation. So much to talk about, so much to share.

Let's start at the beginning -- the point of inspiration. An alternate definition of inspiration is "the drawing in of breath." Isn't that often how creative inspiration feels? The drawing in of an idea, a divine breath, that fires our creativity? Sometimes our inspiration comes upon us like a steady inhalation. And sometimes it arrives like a gasp. 

In 1991, a flier from the Kentucky Center for the Arts in Louisville (now The Kentucky Center) arrived announcing a performance by Academy of St. Martin in the Fields. The mailer featured an illuminated crystal that caught my attention. Looking at it now, after having viewed thousands of images of diamonds and colored gemstones, it certainly isn't what I'd call a pretty stone. Yet the placement of the highlights and shadows captivated me.

As I sat staring at the image, I had an honest-to-God "gasp" of inspiration: there HAD to be a way to turn this diamond into a quilt. After all, those facets were simply straight lines, right? And, while I'm not a great seamstress, I can at least sew a straight line. (Well, on good days....) I didn't have a clue how to to do it, but I knew I wasn't going to give up until I figured it out. Seven years later, after reading lots of books and attending lots of workshops, I finished my first diamond quilt, "Solitaire", in 1998. 

                  "Solitaire" (5' x 5'), Private Collection. All images copyrighted.

                  "Solitaire" (5' x 5'), Private Collection. All images copyrighted.

Fast forward to today. Here's the source of inspiration for my current diamond. It's a spectacular peach Zoisite from the collection of Mayer & Watt. (Photography by Geoffrey Watt @ Mayer and Watt) Laurie and Simon Watt's mission is to buy and sell beautiful and unique gemstones that inspire the creation of fine jewelry. Their operation is headquartered in Maysville, Kentucky.  You can check out their collection of stunning gemstones at http://mayerandwatt.com/. 

         Photography by Geoffrey Watt @ Mayer and Watt

         Photography by Geoffrey Watt @ Mayer and Watt

In my next post, I'll share a bit about how I selected this particular gem and how I hope to tell its unique story.

Where do you find your inspiration? Tell me about it!