FeaturesLife StyleThe Creatives


By Debbie AndersonAugust 25, 2020November 25th, 2020No Comments

The Creatives

They’re the dreamers and the doers. Meet three individuals and one fun-loving team who are navigating their way through tough times and moving forward rather than standing still.

The Martin House Brewing Company Crew takes beer seriously, but also is happy to play mad scientist with unusual flavors and cool cans.

By June Naylor
Photos by Ralph Lauer

Sam “Shugg” Cole describes his job in five easy words: “Best job on the planet.” As brand manager at Fort Worth’s Martin House Brewing Company, marketing — and helping conceive — some downright zany beers couldn’t be anything other than a really good time.

He’s one of five mad geniuses on a team coming up with the taproom specials and microseasonal beers. Witness just a few of this summer’s flavorful creations: Salsa Verde, a spiced-herbed ale infused with Hatch chiles and tomatillos, which drinks super smooth with lime for tartness and a nice little fiery kick in the back; and Melted, a collaboration with Melt Ice Creams for the Rocky Roads and Waffle Cones Ice Cream Ale. And then there was Sharks With Frickin Laser Beams Attached To Their Heads, a surprisingly delicious imperial stout laced with sea salt, coconut and chocolate — serendipitously released during Discovery channel’s Shark Week and brimming with tropical, dessert-y goodness.

You might roll your eyes when you hear them talking about Kookie Monster, Dunkaroos and Dairy Queen Steak Fingers, but don’t put anything past this crew.

Credit brewery founder Cody Martin, who came out of the gate pushing envelopes upon founding Martin House in 2013. “He set the tone that no idea was too crazy or off-limits, so that gave us the freedom to create whatever we can think of,” Cole says, referring to himself, along with head brewer Nate Swan and lab manager Chris Cain, but he notes that ideas and inspiration come from everywhere.

“Our fans are fantastic with suggestions, so they’ve pushed us to create some wild beers. Some ideas happen when we’re walking around the grocery store. Other times, somebody will reminisce on a certain childhood candy or favorite snack and wonder if we can make that into a beer. Movies and ’90s nostalgia tend to be a recurring theme lately.” A prime example is Fiery Crunchy Cheesie Bois, a taproom-only sour beer brewed with the flavor of Cheetos spicy snacks that surprisingly sold out in hours last month.

The launch of a new beer takes about four weeks from inception to release, as the team breaks down the flavor profile, executes trial tests and brews the beer, adjusting flavors as needed. “We’ve made so many beers and experimented with so many ingredients and flavors over the past seven years that we have a good handle on how to replicate specific flavors. There’s been some hits and misses for sure, but with every brew we learn a little more. From flavor and mouthfeel to appearance and aroma, our team is having a lot of fun making these beers come to life,” Cole says.

That these brewery daredevils could pull off such shenanigans with aplomb shouldn’t surprise anybody; after all, this outfit masterminded last year’s wildly popular Best Maid Sour Pickle Beer, a sour gose created with Fort Worth’s landmark pickle company, Best Maid. The summer 2019 release was such a monster hit that it lives on in the Martin House year-round lineup of nine “forever” beers, alongside True Love Raspberry Sour Ale, Bockslider Toadies Texas Bock and the signature brew, Day Break 4 Grain Breakfast Beer.

The most adventurous brews are destined to stay in the taproom, but Martin House will bring back some flavors as microseasonals if they do really well with customers.

Aside from the wild and wonderful flavor themes and flavors, the cans’ custom labels are entertaining, too. Credit goes to artist Donny Stevens,

That these brewery daredevils could pull off such shenanigans with aplomb shouldn’t surprise anybody; after all, this outfit masterminded last year’s wildly popular Best Maid Sour Pickle Beer, a sour gose created with Fort Worth’s landmark pickle company, Best Maid. The summer 2019 release was such a monster hit that it lives on in the Martin House year-round lineup of nine “forever” beers, alongside True Love Raspberry Sour Ale, Bockslider Toadies Texas Bock and the signature brew, Day Break 4 Grain Breakfast Beer.

The most adventurous brews are destined to stay in the taproom, but Martin House will bring back some flavors as microseasonals if they do really well with customers.

Aside from the wild and wonderful flavor themes and flavors, the cans’ custom labels are entertaining, too. Credit goes to artist Donny Stevens, the brewery’s creative director. His Salsa Verde illustration conjures up ideas of Wild West gunfighters, while the design for Sharks With Frickin Laser Beams Attached To Their Heads is straight out of a sunburned sci-fi fantasy.

Stevens is the quiet one among the bunch, and his appearance at the brewery for the photo shoot is a welcome one to staffers. Cole lights up when talking about the artist’s contributions to the process: “It’s pretty rad to see the evolution of his art over time. You can really see the difference every year in the little details and nuances of his art. We are very lucky to have him as our artist and friend.”

Despite the pandemic, the brewery, located just east of downtown Fort Worth on the banks of the Trinity River, remains busy, even though the air-conditioned taproom is open for takeout only. Posters of cask-aged beers — large versions of the artwork that shows up on the labels — brighten the taproom walls. The cavernous tank rooms hum with activity. “We are now canning those [taproom-only] beers instead of kegging them up, so frequency has slightly increased. We’re really just serving the beer in a different format, cans to-go versus draft,” Cole says.

“Beer is supposed to be fun. If we can put a smile on people’s faces, then that’s the best we could hope for. Our fans are amazing and fuel us to keep going every day.”


Martin House Brewing Company The taproom is open for to-go sales from noon-7 p.m. daily. Find the year-round and seasonal beers in stores throughout Texas. Watch their social media pages for new releases and updates: facebook.com/martinhousebrewing and Instagram @martinhousebrewing. 220 S. Sylvania Ave., Fort Worth, 817-222-0177, martinhousebrewing.com

This Fort Worth entrepreneur has been one of the biggest cheerleaders for small businesses. Jonathan Morris is ready to make his TV debut and build a bigger stage to help others tell their stories.

By Meda Kessler
Photo by Ralph Lauer

Jonathan Morris and Winnie

In early August press release from Magnolia Network made fans of Chip and Joanna Gaines very happy, with the announcement of the return of Fixer Upper, the Waco couple’s wildly popular home renovation show. But the big news locally was about Fort Worth’s Jonathan Morris.

We first met Morris, then working at an ad agency in Dallas but living in Cowtown, when he opened Fort Worth Barber Shop in 2014. Morris had revamped a cinder block building that was previously home to a BMW garage into a place offering his idea of a proper shave and a haircut — along with conversation and a sense of community. He opened a second shop, The Lathery, in 2017 in Fort Worth’s Foundry District.

Morris also is a partner in Hotel Dryce, a boutique inn now taking shape in a former dry ice warehouse in the Cultural District, not too far from where he lives. One of the hurdles was overcoming some neighborhood opposition to the project. Morris’ impassioned plea to the City Council last spring focused on the dreams of entrepreneurs and small-business owners like himself. (Wife Katherine, long involved in local nonprofits, is director of human resources for Craftwork Coffee Co., a Fort Worth-based roaster with multiple cafes.)

But back to that Magnolia Network thing. It’s the project of the reality TV superstars in collaboration with Discovery network. And along with the Gaineses’ Fixer Upper, new original series include one called Self Employed, hosted by Morris, who managed to keep the news under wraps for nearly a year. While a TV novice, Morris isn’t too far out of his wheelhouse, as he’ll travel around the county to introduce the audience to small-business owners and share what they’ve done to make their dreams come true. Sound familiar?

Morris has been busy since the news dropped but made time for a porch visit — along with Winnie, the family dog. He is quick to credit fellow entrepreneurs for helping make the Magnolia project happen. “Warren Cook of Make Something Beautiful made a series of promotional videos for Visit Fort Worth. Mine was called The Entrepreneur and focused on the barbershop. Red Sanders, owner of Fort Worth-based Red Productions, pitched the idea of a show based around the barbershop to Magnolia executives.” And from there, Self Employed was born.

“It’s never been my goal to be on television,” says Morris. “But this all happened organically with friends. That’s one of the things I love about Fort Worth, these little ecosystems of creativity and collaboration. Having a bigger audience and being in front of a camera will hopefully amplify what I try to do to inspire others to bring their ideas to life.”

While he can’t provide too many details, Morris says so far, it’s been a positive experience. He was amazed at all the messages and pitches he received the day after the announcement. And he hasn’t met the Gaineses in person yet but did participate in a Zoom meeting with them in July. “They were amazing and super chill. We talked about everything from race relations to current events around the country.”

Morris says that adding diversity to the new network is important. “I do want to inspire other Black entrepreneurs on what they can do for their own communities. There’s definitely a vulnerability when it comes to being a creator and, with the show, I hope I can help advocate and support. In my own life, that’s what has propelled me forward.”

Morris also hopes to learn from others and bring ideas back to Fort Worth. “Before COVID hit, there were so many good things happening. Hopefully we can get back to that place one day.”

For now, Morris’ calendar is full. He reopened his businesses, although he says the vibe is definitely watered down. Hotel Dryce is aiming for a mid-January opening, and he’s excited that it will showcase Fort Worth in a different way.

“I have nothing but gratitude for this thing that has fallen in my lap. The show involves a lot of people to make it happen, but I promise that what you’ll see is an authentic version of myself.”


Self Employed Look for this new show, along with other original productions, on the Magnolia Network, the joint media venture between Chip and Joanna Gaines and Discovery channel. The network hopes to launch in 2021. Learn more at magnolia.com/network.

This successful novelist lets her visions guide her, even if they sometimes take her to dark and scary places. That’s where she finds all the good stuff.

By June Naylor
Photo by Jill Johnson

Julia Heaberlin credits the prolific Stephen King for kick-starting her book-writing career. “I thought I couldn’t write a novel because I had to outline the book, and I don’t work like that,” says Heaberlin, a Grapevine resident who spent a long career as a newspaper editor before turning to fiction writing. “Then I read Stephen King’s book On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft, and that freed me to write everything since then.”

King’s advice is to let characters drive the plot. Heaberlin has done just that, and her five suspenseful thrillers have built an admirable international following since Playing Dead debuted in 2012. Black-Eyed Susans, her 2015 blockbuster novel, is now published in 20 languages.

“It began simply with my vision of a girl lying in a field surrounded by black-eyed Susans,” says Heaberlin. “In Paper Ghosts, I just knew I wanted a creepy road trip with a possible serial killer alongside a woman who suspects he killed her sister. I put a big map on the wall and constantly changed the direction the two were traveling as they directed the story.”

Her newest, We Are All the Same in the Dark (Ballantine Books, $27), is already under option for television. The fascinating story of a small-town North Texas cop doggedly working a cold case while dealing with inner demons proves her most irresistible page turner yet; even Heaberlin admits it might be her best work to date.

She began by imagining a young girl lying in a field of dandelions. Though unable to see her face, Heaberlin knew the mystery girl had just one eye. Meanwhile, the book’s heroine had lost part of a leg. The two characters would connect over these unusual physical traits, but Heaberlin needed help making them dimensional.

Her experience as a journalist compelled her to research that ocular angle, which led to a specialist in Dallas who introduced her to several young women who’d each lost an eye. In delving into the world of prosthetics, she met people who became her real-life heroes and whose courage shaped the characters. They also deeply affected Heaberlin.

“It completely changed my ideas of physical beauty and strength. I used to think I should feel sympathy for someone who’s lost a limb. But, really, we’re all broken in some way, and though we already know we shouldn’t stereotype anyone, getting to know the people I did was transformative,” she says, noting that this pandemic is changing our perceptions, too. “We are all listening and learning now in ways we hadn’t before. That’s definitely been a very good thing for me.”

She admits to missing the stimulation of newsroom life but debunks the thought that working at home — though very quiet, by comparison — is in any way lonely.

“I don’t feel solitary when I’m writing because these characters keep me company,” says the author, who embraces the introverted tendencies that serve her chosen craft. But she acknowledges that a personal tragedy during work on We Are All the Same colored its development. The traumatic death of a close friend who passed away in Heaberlin’s home affected the creative process. “Every word felt so heavy as I wrote. More than ever, I really want you to know my victims and to love them.”

Readers who don’t already know the territory become immersed also in the Texas landscape, which becomes another kind of character in Heaberlin’s books. Dusty back roads, sunbaked pastures and tree-lined lakes perfect for hiding crimes all figure prominently in her storytelling. Just as Black-Eyed Susans showcases those wildflowers in a sinister way, We Are All the Same in the Dark puts dandelions in a new light.

“There is something about nature and its beauty and decay and mythology that fascinates me. My mother had this beautiful, wild garden, and all those plants were like her family — they felt alive with personality. I think that is just something that’s been with me since I was very young,” she says. “Now, friends send me random photos of black-eyed Susans from everywhere. And one friend said, ‘Oh, no — don’t ruin dandelions for me!’“

The pandemic’s effect on how the novelist moves forward remains to be seen. Her habit of immersing herself in the places her books take her and researching people who influence character development are vital. Now that everything’s virtual — like all promotions for this new novel — the learning curve looms large.

“Everything has changed; I almost don’t want to think about how much. There’s nothing like talking face-to-face with people, so I worry how much this will hurt research.”

She starts work on a new novel soon, but for now, Heaberlin is busy with publicity on the current release and discussions with Sister Pictures; the London-based company (producers of the award-winning Chernobyl) has claimed the book for TV development. Movie productions of past novels are still possibilities — Sony Pictures bought the rights to Black-Eyed Susans, and another company, to be announced, is considering Paper Ghosts.

Still, Heaberlin won’t rest on any laurels: “It’s hard to define what success is — but having worked so hard on this book, I really hope people read it. It was so hard to birth. And it’s like I tell others who are working on a book, to never give up. You just have to keep putting one foot in front of the other.”

As the set decorator for the hit show Yellowstone, Carla Curry brings years of film and real-life ranch experience to the job. Just don’t ask her to spill the beans on who lives … and who dies.

By Meda Kessler
Photos Courtesy of Carla Curry

Carla Curry with Jefferson White, who plays Jimmy on Yellowstone, and Mimi the Movie Dog, who now has her own Instagram account, @mimithemoviedog. Photos courtesy of Carla Curry

With 14-hour days the norm, the best time to catch Carla Curry is late at night, when she’s able to take a breather. Hopefully, she’ll be somewhere that has decent internet or cell service, which can be a challenge in wide-open spaces.

As the set decorator for Yellowstone, Curry makes sure everything looks authentic and believable on the hit cowboy drama, which stars Kevin Costner and is shot in picturesque Montana and Utah. That might mean sourcing sweat-stained hats (her husband is a solid source) to hang in the bunkhouse or china for a family dinner scene. When we talked mid-August, Curry was preparing to start principal photography on season four of the TV series, the week before the third-season finale had aired. A native of New Mexico, Curry makes her home with her husband on a working ranch outside of San Marcos. But she’s no stranger to Fort Worth, having spent time here helping the Micallef family “dress up” their Reata restaurants in Fort Worth and Alpine with authentic artifacts and memorabilia. She also gave the Backstage Club a makeover when Reata took it over for the 2008 Fort Worth Stock Show & Rodeo.

As a set decorator for more than 35 years, she knows what works. “I thank Al Micallef for teaching me a lot — including how to be fearless — when we went to Western auctions. I love that man and owe him a lot.”

While Curry has worked on several big-name projects — Friday Night Lights, Crazy Heart — Yellowstone is the hot project of the moment and shows no signs of cooling off. (Another Fort Worth connection is Taylor Sheridan, the co-creator and a writer-director of the show, who’s a Paschal High School graduate and now makes his home in Weatherford.)

Curry admits she and everyone else involved in the show are lucky to be working right now.

“We are the ‘canaries in the coal mine,’ as we are fortunate enough to be one of the first productions back working. Viacom, CBS and Paramount support every move we make,” says Curry. “For most of us, this is our fourth year together, so we are very much a family. That makes all of us even more careful and cognizant of the challenges in keeping everyone safe.”

Since most of her work happens before an episode airs, Curry is already deep into preparations for the new season, but she does have help. Age and experience have their privileges.

Carla commissioned a Montana craftsman to create the Yellowstone ranch brand in stained glass for a set piece.

And those cowboy hats you see hanging on the wall? They’re authentically broken in and sweat-stained thanks to her rancher husband back home in Texas

“Minimally, we have a crew of 15; sometimes that swells to 30-plus. This will be one of those seasons. As we are currently moving the show to Montana from Utah, we have a full crew in Utah packing, loading and shipping all of our sets and huge warehouse up to Montana. On the other end, here in Montana we are furiously unpacking and rebuilding. We are always one step ahead of the shooting crew.”

Despite the hectic pace, Curry still indulges in two of her favorite things: quilting and hanging out with Mimi, a little dog plucked six years ago from a Walmart parking lot in Albuquerque, who is now in charge of morale on the set.

“My addiction to quilting took a turn when the pandemic hit. My 89-year-old mother sheltered in place with us. And for three months we made almost 400 masks together; it was a wonderful purpose-driven project. I am still making masks every weekend on my days off.”

Curry is hard-pressed to name her favorite moments on the Yellowstone set. “Every day is a thrill on this show. My husband and I are ranchers, and this is a dream job come true for me. Taylor Sheridan and I have developed a shorthand. He can tell me he wants an arena to be decked out like the Fort Worth Stock Show, and I know exactly what he’s talking about.”

While major Hollywood wattage is provided by Costner and veteran actors such as Cole Hauser, Curry has her own star-struck moments. One of her favorite days on set was when singer-songwriter Ryan Bingham started work (he plays Walker). “He and I are both from the same town. It was fun to look at each other and say, ‘Who would have ever thought growing up in Hobbs [New Mexico] that we would both wind up here on the same set?’ ”

With basically an all-access pass to Yellowstone, is Curry nudged by her friends for inside information on what’s going to happen? “Ha! Yes, they do. And I tell them that if I told them, I’d have to take them to the ‘train station.’ If you watch the show, you’ll know what I mean.”

Carla says it’s been fun catching up with industry friends. “I’ve been doing this for a minute, and it’s always thrilling to see some of my old pals: Buck Taylor, Wally Welch, Forrie Smith. I’ve known most of them since my first days on a set.”


Yellowstone Originally pitched as a film, this modern Western proved too long — and too rich — to be contained in a few hours. The fictitious story is about the Dutton family (headed by Kevin Costner), owner of the largest cattle ranch in the U.S. They battle — internal and otherwise — to protect their legacy. This modern Western returns for a fourth season next summer. Learn more at paramountnetwork.com.