The Whitney Flame Topaz: A Fiery Find in the Desert


The Whitney Flame Topaz: A Fiery Find in the Desert

A stunning, smoldering beauty.

That’s what Dr. Carolyn Wright Whitney found just a few years ago in a vendor booth at the Tucson Gem & Mineral Show. She was awestruck and knew she’d found an extraordinary gemstone.

Later during her visit to Tucson, she persuaded her friend, the head curator of Mineral and Gem Department of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural History, to visit the same booth and take a look. His response was priceless. (Check out the video below to hear the whole story as told by Dr. Whitney during my conversation earlier in 2021.

This stunning gemstone is the inspiration for my second piece in the Smithsonian Series. I knew the piece needed to reflect the drama of this remarkable gem. For that reason, I’ve created a chart over 10 feet tall and nearly 5 feet wide. This beauty will be depicted in Robert Hoffman’s KONA collection of solids. I’ve sourced all the fabrics from eQuilter.com.

This piece will be a study in using fabric to convey “glow”. The key is “saturation contrast”. I’ve struggled over the past 25 years to create ways to make my work truly glow, but believe I’ve found the key. When you wrap a purely saturated color with less saturated colors (colors that have more gray tones), you can create the illusion of a fiery glow. My new “Color Play” class goes into more depth about this and covers other concepts introduced by the great 20th-Century art expert Josef Albers.

Here are the colors I’m considering using for this piece. My next step is to code the chart with the color codes, purchase the fabric, and start cutting! Stay tuned for more updates as the work progresses. Until then, shine on!

Whitney Flame Topaz narrow and straightened
The Whitney Flame Topaz
Photography credit: Smithsonian Institution
KONA Color Chip Image
KONA Color Chip Image

Leave a Comment