29 January 2016

Family History as Art : Mary Sheppard Burton

For a little something different, today I'd like to share a find from the American Folklife Center of the Library of Congress.

Hooked rug "When Pa Was Young - Skating the Bay..." by Mary Sheppard Burton
"When Pa Was Young - Skating the Bay
Edward Sampson Phipps"
Tell Me 'Bout Series, 1993-1994
Mary Sheppard Burton
Lib. of Congress / Folklife Center
When doing genealogy, we work mostly with records, either on-line or on paper. Photographs also provide clues and information about our ancestors and their lives. We make trees, write histories, generate reports. But there are other ways to tell our family stories.

Mary Sheppard Burton (b. 1922 - d. 2010) was a textile artist who worked in the medium of hooked rugs. She was a teacher, lecturer and author. But most of all she was a brilliant artist. She created a series of hooked rugs that illustrated stories from her family history, her "Tell Me 'Bout" series. These fabulous works are now housed in the American Folk Life Center, and can also be viewed online. Most of them have written commentary by Mary Burton that fill in the details of the story behind the rug.

My Grandpa (whom everyone called "Pa") would don his ice skates in the early morning hours, pick up his flask of corn whiskey, and step out on the icy Wicomico River at Salisbury, Maryland. Strong as an ox, he'd head downstream for the river's mouth, where he entered the Chesapeake Bay....

As a weaver of tapestry, I'm captivated by the idea of weaving my family's stories. How about you? Do you create visual art or craft that illustrates your genealogy?  Have you found any other examples of family history represented in art?


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