A Bourbon Dinner x Billet + Blade

It's Bourbon month. That's right, you read it correctly folks. No, it's not some glorified PR stunt this time, this one actually carries the Governor of Kentucky's signature. We think that Bourbon month is cause for celebration, don't you? So, this past Saturday, that meant a four course meal prepared with Bulleit Bourbon by Leigh Ann from My Diary of Us. Ohhhhhh yeah!

Now, I'm no foodie but when Leigh Ann and I sat down a few weeks ago, we decided it was time for us to work together once again and this seemed like the perfect fit. She is a great cook and well, I like whiskey. Leigh Ann and I worked together for nearly four years on the visual team at Anthropologie in Baton Rouge. Over the years, we've developed a rapport and any project together sort of just falls right back into the groove of the old days and we navigate about without a need to say much. She's just one of those genuinely humble friends who forgets to mention that she also happens to be dynamite in the kitchen... until she comes over and serves you something called honey bourbon butter. And pretty soon you are looking for a spoon and what's left of your dignity has long left out the door.

It was Saturday evening and at the center of the table was a wild bouquet of pale colored thistles and eucalyptus seed in a small oatmeal tinted crock. The faint amber glow of the light above glistened on the warm buttered bread of the paninis as we crunched into its tender center. In the background, Mississippi John Hurt seemed to provide the perfect soundtrack to our exchange. "My heart belongs in the west... in the mountains," I yammered as I took a bite of the spiced Honeycrisp salad. Canean, Leigh Ann's husband, nodded in agreeance. The topic of conversation seemed to remain the same, what does home mean to you? For each of us, it was something different though it would seem none of us had found "it" just yet. "I'm just doing my best to love where I am right now," said Canean which seemed to echo the feelings of the entire group... and we all took another sip of bourbon. For us, right then at the dinner table, that was home. And it felt all right for once. 

I thumbed the smooth cherry wood of the cutting board, carved by Kelly Roley of Billet + Blade, from middle Tennessee who has been a woodworker for 15 years in a fidget as we talked through the night. A few days before our gathering, a package from Billet + Blade arrived on my doorstep. Inside the box,  the aromatic pile of shavings held a cocktail stir spoon, a cherry serving board, and fire blackened scoop. Now days later, piles of bacon and melted brie mingled with the fine cherry marbled lines of the board. The smells of the spices and bourbon filled my nostrils and down my palate.

I managed to catch up with Kelly and ask her a few questions about her work with Billet + Blade.

How did you get into woodworking?

My grandfather was a hobbyist woodworker and would let me follow him around the shop when I was a kid. I loved watching the process of a stack of lumber becoming something beautiful. After college, I went to woodworking school and learned furniture making. Over the last 15 years I have gradually distilled my work to exclusively making small functional pieces with traditional hand tools.

What inspires your work?

I am always absorbing the lines and forms of nature.  I have a hard time making things straight and square.  I prefer the more organic shapes that honor the original form of the wood.  There is something about using the same tools that craftspeople used hundreds (and thousands) of years ago that makes me feel grounded in a world consumed with technology.  I am also inspired by the idea that what I make will become a part of someone's life and make the tasks of everyday a little more enjoyable.    

What are you listening to currently?

I don't stray far from the Americana goddesses like Gillian Welch, Patti Griffin, Neko Case and Emmylou.

Do you like Bourbon? 

Yes!  Favorite Bourbon drink?  I'll drink bourbon with a bit of ginger and lime over ice any day of the week!

What is your most popular item?

My salt bowls and spoons have been well received.  People like the rustic look of the barnwood coupled with the carved walnut spoon.

What makers are you loving right now? Who are your influencers?

There are quite a few traditional woodworkers that are reviving the lost art of making bowls and spoons using ancient techniques.  I would love to collaborate with Robin Wood from England or Jarrod Stone Dahl from Wisconsin.  Both of these guys are playing  huge role in keeping heritage woodworking alive.  

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