Making The Leap: 2nd of 2 Parts

Here's the second of two posts I'd like to share with you about making the leap from the corporate Rat Race to the creative life, as told to a radio-host and friend of mine...

MJK: A bit of background on this struggle was that my father lost his business when I was about 10 years old. My parents had to declare bankruptcy, we lost our home, my father began to drink, my parents split up, and it all got very bad for a long time. So, to me, losing one’s livelihood and income was the worst thing that could happen. I was absolutely petrified at the prospect of not having a job or revenue stream. And yet, I recognized that as a prison in and of itself.

And I began to wonder what would happen if I left my job, we lived on my husband’s salary alone, and I stayed home to focus on my own fiber art and make quilts for people.

FR: Tell us a little more about this embryonic idea of yours, where it came from and why it appealed to you?

MJK: That was the other part of the puzzle. About 20 years ago, I started developing techniques that allowed me to make quilts that look like faceted diamonds. Working on them brought me the greatest joy. People who saw them loved them and told me I needed to do more. I also had started making memory quilts for people out of their special clothes and t-shirts.

I really enjoyed this work because it brought such joy to my clients. They’d actually cry when I presented their quilts to them. Believe me, no Vice President of HR ever burst into tears when I presented a finished project to her at my old job.

I truly believe that regret is a terrible thing and should be avoided at all costs. I didn’t want to be 80 years old, saying, “You know, I really should have done something with those diamonds…” So the desire to pursue my passion grew and grew. When I realized that our passions are really given to us by Spirit as a means of Self-expression – that we must follow those passions to live a fulfilling life – then the fear started to fall away and was replaced by this feeling of trust.  Trusting that, even if I didn’t have a plan and know how everything was going to turn out, things would be OK.

FR: How did you create some sort of safe harbor for yourself in this highly uncertain, unstable period?  Where did you find support? (Or did you?)  Books?  Friends?  Partner? Other?

MJK: I know that I’m very, very lucky to be in a partnership with someone who supports my dreams and passion. My husband Joe has always supported me. We’re a team. Not everyone has that. And the risk is much greater for someone who doesn’t have the safe haven I do.

However, it was still scary and risky to go from two incomes to one.  And also emotionally risky to go from being someone whose image was bound up in her career advancement to someone who does her own thing without all that external reward.

And difficult to deal with the feelings of being completely selfish, not “pulling my weight” in the partnership, not “accomplishing” anything with my life.

Abstractions 3 in a row.jpg

FR: Tell me how you prepared yourself to take this gigantic leap of faith.

MJK: I paid down some debts and spread the word among my previous clients that I was going to do this…and then I just did it. It was a big leap.

FR: How did it feel the day you quit your job?  Did you shout for joy or did you have mixed feelings?  Regrets?

MJK: Absolutely exhilarated. Feelings of unbelievable freedom and joy. After I left the old job, I had nightmares about being back at work and thinking, “This is wrong. I’m not supposed to be here!” That was validation.

FR: As you embarked on this new path, did things go according to plan?  Were there unexpected twists and turns in the road?

MJK: Well, there really isn’t a plan. I’m saying YES to things that appear before me. Experimenting and exploring. You really can’t have a plan if it’s a true exploration, right? I'm creating lots of new work, writing a book about the diamonds, and preparing to do some teaching. It's been wonderful, too, to have galleries show interest in my work and book exhibits.

FR: Looking back, what were some decisions made, steps taken, advice given that stand out in your mind which significantly affected where you are today?

MJK: Listen to your gut, your intuition. We have that inner voice for a reason, for direction.

Choose joy. That’s why we’re here. We’re not here to suffer and sacrifice. That’s a total con job. We’re here to thrive and to enjoy life.

Only you can change, don’t expect anything or anyone else to change. Learn to live within it or not.

Change won’t kill you. Fear will. You can actually stress, worry, and anger yourself to death. It’s a horrible way to live and to die.

FR: Where do things stand now in your business, and what are your plans for the future?

MJK: I’m building a business. I’m having fun. Meeting great new people. Enjoying the freedom and the ability to be myself and do what I want. To me, that’s a kind of abundance that far exceeds a  lousy job with a big paycheck.

FR: What are some of the lessons you learned along the way, and what would you say to someone out there who feels stuck in a non-fulfilling job?

MJK: The things I mentioned a few minutes ago…listening to your feelings and intuition. Choosing joy. Eradicating fear from your life. Feeling stuck is a self-imposed prison of the mind. The mind is the most powerful tool for change you have. No one has the answers except you. You know what’s right for you. Trust your Higher Self.

(End of Interview)

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!

Diamonds in the "Spotlight"

I just got word from Vivika Hansen DeNegre, editor of Quilting Arts Magazinethat they want to highlight my diamond quilts in the August issue! "In The Spotlight" is a first-person account of an artist's career, inspiration, and body of work.

The article is finished now, and I'll work with my photographer friend to get appropriately sized images to them by the first of April.  

I'm over-the-moon excited!

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!

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.

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.

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!