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Fabric as Medium

A sewing machine always figured prominently in Anderson Artists Guild member Evelyn Beck’s life. But the way she uses it has changed.

Growing up in South Florida, she had a unique wardrobe courtesy of her mom, who despite working full time and raising five kids made her daughters’ clothes. Soon enough, Beck was making her own clothes—she remembers getting a “speeding ticket” from her seventh-grade home ec teacher for sewing too fast—and she received her own sewing machine as a high school graduation present.

After completing undergraduate and graduate degrees in English at Florida State University, she went on to a career teaching college English, first at Clemson University and then at Piedmont Technical College in Greenwood. She also works as a freelance writer. And she continued to sew, mainly costumes for her children, but after retiring in 2015, she decided to learn how to make quilts. That led her to discover art quilts, an art form that uses fabric as the medium. “The first art quilt I finished was based on a photo from my son’s wedding,” she said. “I made a lot of mistakes, but the finished product was something I was proud of. I had tried painting and drawing without much success. This was the first format that felt right. And how appropriate since I’ve been drawn to fabric my whole life.”

Her ideal approach is semiabstract though she’s still trying to pinpoint the right amount of detail. She works mostly from her own photos—often flowers, beach scenes, and grandchildren—which she simplifies in Photoshop in order to create a pattern. She cuts out individual pieces of fabric, which are then fused together and ultimately quilted. It’s a slow but satisfying process.

She’s been in several juried shows, had one piece that toured the state, and had her work featured in two calendars. “I consider myself a beginner, but the process of learning and growing is endlessly stimulating,” she said.

Evelyn Beck’s artwork is currently on display at the Anderson YMCA through May 31, part of the “4 Dimensions of Art” exhibit that also features three other AAG members.

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