My great-grandfather moved to the United States from a small town in Scotland, and his side of the family was made up of businessmen and industrialists. They were the beneficiaries of the mercantile society of the Industrial Revolution, taking advantage of the United Kingdom’s need for thread.
The Coats and Clarke brand was successful to the point that they asked a young cousin, Robert Kerr to set up a new company in Fall River, Massachusetts.
What does this have to do with art, you ask?
The answer lies with the gene pool of his wife, Janet Empsall Kerr.
The Empsall family was both artistic and musical, and that gene was passed along to a daughter and a son.
Their son was my grandfather, Robert Empsall Kerr, and he was an amazingly talented watercolorist, portraitist, woodworker and painter.
He made furniture for several years after the Kerr Thread Company was sold, and practiced his painting as more of a hobby than a business. We were fortunate to be left with many examples of his work, and my sisters and I hang them proudly in our homes.
The art gene seemed to skip a generation since my father was neither artistic nor handy (but what an amazing sining voice). In fact, we just about had the fire department on speed dial any time he either picked up a hammer or pulled out the ladder.
I never had the chance to see Grandad paint, nor talk to him about art. The truth is, we were too young to appreciate his gifts. Nevertheless, his work has been inspirational for me, and I have always wanted to think that he would be proud of my ability to be a creative, and to make a living at it.