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Writer,Quilt maker,Folkartist, from Freestone County, Tx.


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Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Tuesday, September 1, 2015




Sherry A. Byrd, an African American  Folkart/Quiltmaker  from Freestone County, Texas creates quilts of International acclaim. Six generations of quilt makers are in her family. Her works have appeared in many important exhibits.


AMHERST (MA). Fine Arts Center, University of Massachusetts.
Something Else to See: Improvisational Bordering Styles in African American Quilts.
February 1-March 15, 1997.

ATLANTA (GA). High Museum of Art.
No Two Alike: African-American Improvisational Quilts.
September, 1996-February,1997.
27 pp. exhib. cat., color illus. of quilts with their makers. 

AUSTIN (TX). Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.

It Ain't Braggin' if it's True.

April, 2001.
Group exhibition. Included: Sherry Byrd (reversible story quilt HOMEGROWN).

AUSTIN (TX). Bob Bullock Texas State History Museum.

It (Still) Ain't Braggin' if it's True.
Spring 2006 
5 year anniversary exhibition
Group exhibition. Included: Sherry Byrd (reversible story quilt JAZZ WITH A NEEDLE AND THREAD).

CHICAGO (IL). Mayor's Office, City of Chicago.

The Chicago Public Art Guide.

Chicago (IL): Dept. of Public Affairs,.

92 pp., approx. 150 color illus., intro. text by Gregory G. Knight. Contains index of works by region, branch library installations, special projects, map, index of artists with titles of work. Includes color illus. 

RICHMOND (CA). Richmond Art Center.

Amazing Wonders: Quilts by African-Americans of the Northern California Region.
January 26-March 13, 2010.

Group exhibition. Curated by Kim Curry-Evans. Artists include: Elizabeth Browder, Blanche Brown, Sherry Byrd, Loretta Cohen, Marion Coleman, Jamie Gladney-Presley, Marilyn Handis, Benita Jones, Niambi Kee, Marilyn Lacey, Debbie Mason, Patricia Montgomery, Angie Tobias, Ann Seals, Nerlene Taylor, LaQuita Tummings, Julia Vitero, Dolores Vitero Presley, Johnnie Wade, and others.

SAN FRANCISCO (CA). Craft & Folk Art Museum.

Who'd a Thought it: Improvisation in African-American Quiltmaking.
December 31, 1987-February 28, 1988.
88 pp. exhib. cat., 94 illus., including 48 mostly full-page color plates, plus 30 reference illus. including photos of the quilt makers, biogs., notes, bibliog. Texts by Robert Farris Thompson and Eli Leon. A major contribution to the consideration of traditional heritage vs. personal innovation in the African American quiltmakingtradition. Artists include: Irene Bankhead, Cora Lee Hall Brown, Mary Lue Brown,Monin Brown, Sherry Byrd, Charles Cater, Alberta Collins, Odessa Doby, Willia EtteGraham, Emma Hall, Bettie Phillips, Mattie Pickett, Eula Thomas, Angelia Tobias, Rosie Lee Tompkins, Gussie Wells, Arbie Williams, et al. Traveling exhibition. [Review: Ann Barry, NYT, November 16, 1989.] 4to, wraps. First ed.

SAN FRANCISCO (CA). Museum of Craft and Folk Art.
Will the Circle be Unbroken: Four Generations of African-American Quilts.
May 4-July 23, 2006.
Group exhibition. Curated by Eli Leon. Eleven improvisational quilts, made by four generations of a single Texas family, spanning nearly a century in the lives of Gladys Henry, Laverne Brackens, Sherry Byrd, and Bara Byrd. Extensive oral history from each quiltmaker, a photograph and biography of each are included in the exhibition. [Traveled to Brattleboro Museum, Brattleboro, VT, August 11-November 25, 2007.]

WINSTON-SALEM (NC). Diggs Gallery, Winston-Salem State University.
Models in the Mind: African Prototypes in American Patchwork.
42 pp. exhib. cat., illus., biogs. with photos of most of the quiltmakers, bibliog. Text by Eli Leon noting numerous parallels between African fabric motifs and familiar American patchwork designs. Quiltmakers mentioned include: Irene Bankhead, Cora Lee Hall Brown, Mary Lue Brown, Sherry Byrd, Charles Cater, Willie Mae Chatman, Laura Jackson Culp, Aurelia Foster, Willia Ette Graham, Emily Kirby, Ernestine Jordan, Carrie Sue Lewis, Rose R. McDowell, Bessie Moore,Dymon Moreland, Bettie Phillips, Mattie Pickett, Lucy Sims, Anny Bell Simon, Flossie Sullivan, Maple Swift, Mary Thompson, Rosie Lee Tompkins, Sarah Turnage(no photo), Johnnie A. Wade, Maudra Walker, Rosalyn Walker (no photo), Gussie Wells, Arbie Williams. [Traveled to Center for the Arts at Yerba Buena Gardens, San Francisco, CA, 1994.] 4to, wraps.

YELLOW SPRINGS (OH). Shirley-Jones Gallery.
Approximate Measure, Improvisation in African-American Quilts.
January 19-March 10, 2007.
Group exhibition. Included: Rosie Lee Tompkins, Gladys Henry, Laverne Brackens, Sherry Byrd, Bara Byrd, Willia Ette Graham, Irene Bankhead.

Sherry Ann

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Yo-Yos & Half Squares: Contemporary California Quilts

CONTACT: Scott Horton, 510-229-9739, or shorton@museumca.org 
Kelly A. Koski, 510-318-8453, or kkoski@museumca.org


New Exhibition Features Stunning Contemporary Quilts Artfully Handcrafted by Five Bay Area Women 

Vibrant and Boldly Unique Quilts Expand the Notion of Craft in: 

Yo-Yos & Half Squares: Contemporary California Quilts exhibition
—on view Sept 10, 2015 through Feb 21, 2016—


This September, the Oakland Museum of California (OMCA) presents Yo-Yos & Half Squares: Contemporary California Quilts, an exhibition showcasing a dynamic and visually vibrant selection of American quilts made from the mid to late 1980s to the early 2000s by five women living in the Bay Area. —The exhibition coincides with a new installation from OMCA’s extensive craft collection in the Gallery of California ,featuring complex asymmetrical patterns, the selection of quilts on view in the exhibition includes unusual materials and an improvisational creation process that include both quilter and collector.

These quilts are drawn from the collection of Oakland resident Eli Leon, who traveled the country in a van on a Guggenheim Fellowship in the 1980s, collecting the stories of quilters and their quilts.  Yo-Yos & Half Squares features 20 contemporary quilts that defy expectations and expand the notions of craft through their individual artistic expression. “We hope the exhibition alters viewers’ ideas of what a quilt can be,” says Carin Adams, Associate Curator of Art and Material Culture, whose most recent project was the highly successful SuperAwesome: Art and Giant Robot exhibition at OMCA last spring. 

“Looking at these 20 quilts is like entering a different world—one that is asymmetrical and tactile.

 Eli Leon’s collection is unique in the way that he was so deeply involved in the finished process,” Adams says. “His story is interwoven with those of the quilters. 

The show will also feature one quilt Leon made in memory of his father.” And will present stories from each of the other quilt makers listed below:

Angie Tobias
Arbie Williams
Mattie Pickett
Rosie Lee Tompkins
Sherry Byrd

The exhibition illuminates how these quilts came to be, and the collaborations and relationships involved in their creation. Most of the quilters learned the craft early from their mothers and grandmothers, for whom quilting was a necessity or creative outlet. 

The quilts are highly distinct from each other and reflect the makers’ individual interests, skills, and talents, as well as Eli Leon’s vision and unique story as a collector, beginning in the early 1970s and with a large focus on AfricanAmerican quilters. 

These artworks feature a variety of materials from stiff 1970s polyester to velvet and glittery textiles the late Rosie Lee Tompkins (the quilt-making pseudonym of Effie Mae Howard) called “Christmas fabric,” these quilts each tell a unique story. Boldly unique in construction and design, the quilts are unique artworks in and of themselves. 

Yo-Yos & Half Squares: Contemporary California Quilts is on view in the Oakland Museum of California’s Gallery of California Art September 12, 2015, through February 21, 2016. 

The exhibition is made possible in part by  generous support from the Simpson Family. 

You are sincerely invited to set aside time to visit and explore this unique visual delicacy and delightful experience of " M-provisational "artistic creativity.

Sherry Ann


Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Quilts by Laverne Brackens NEA FOLKART AWARD RECIPIENT 2011


... Following an accident in the early 1980's, she retired from her job and was prevented from further work involving physical strain. As it turned out, quilting provided just the right creative outlet for her boundless energy. Nowadays, she spends all of her free time cutting, piecing and sewing several quilts a month." 

Thus she finally developed an interest in making her own  quilts. 

“The whole time I was on crutches … I was piecing quilts because I could use my left foot [for the sewing machine],” she told an interviewer. “Nothing else I can do. So I just set down and quilt.” 

Working with factory scraps supplied by a friend, she found a creative outlet in quilting. “I don’t go by patterns,” she said. “I made it up out of my head. When you pick up the material and start working with it, that’s when you know what [the quilt] will be.”

Brackens’ art represents a tradition of improvisational quilt making that has been recognized as a unique part of the African American heritage, a counterpart of blues and jazz. Her quilts are distinguished by an off-center centerpiece, rotating printed stripes and both vertical and horizontal striping. “If you piece them all where they hit right together, every quilt you piece is going to look just alike, and if you twist it up a little bit, it’ll make the quilt look different,” she said. “I just like to take a simple quilt and give it a different look. That’s what I be trying to do.” 

The unusually prolific artist enjoys placing letters and numbers in her designs. A granddaughter’s eighth birthday inspired her to create a pattern that employed the number 8 in interesting and creative ways. The letters may have a meaning, as when she used “W” and “H” in a quilt for her father, Willie Henry, but in other instances, words and letters are used simply as graphic elements.

In 1996, Brackens’ work was displayed with that of her mother, her daughter Sherry Byrd and her granddaughter Bara Byrd in “Four Generations of African-American Quilters” at the High Museum in Atlanta. This evolved into the 2006 exhibit and catalog “Will the Circle Be Unbroken: Four Generations of African-American Quilters” at the Museum of Craft and Folk Art in San Francisco. The show coincided with a filmed interview with Brackens by the museum’s exhibition manager, Karin Nelson, and was followed by an article, “One Family’s Quilted Legacy,” in the October 2006 issue of Quilters Newsletter magazine.

Brackens’ art has been recognized in Texas as well, in a 1999 Texas Folklife Resources exhibition, “Quilts of Color: Three Generations of Quilters in an Afro-American Family”; in a 2001-2002 exhibit, “Storytelling: One Stitch at a Time,” at the Texas Memorial Museum of Science and History in Austin; and in a documentary, Family Quilts, broadcast by the television show Texas Country Reporter on October 28, 2006 (show No. 1,000). The Texas Memorial Museum owns two of her quilts, and Chicago’s Bessie Coleman Library features her work, along with that of another African American quilter and NEA heritage fellow, Arbie Williams of Oakland, California.

As of September 23, 2011, Mrs. Brackens became the first quilt maker from the state of Texas to be honored to receive a (NEA) National Endowment for the Arts Folk-art Fellowship Award. This proved to be one of her grandest accomplishments in her eighty-four years of living. Another great honor proved to be the fact that pieces of her patchwork compositions were included in a commissioned shawl that First Lady Michelle Obama presented to the first Lady Kim Yoon-ok, of South Korea, in October 2011, when she and her husband visited the White House on an official visit.

Thursday, July 2, 2015

QUILTS BY Katie Mae Durham Tatum and her Special Loved Ones


KATIE MAE DURHAM-TATUM INTERVIEW by Pat Jasper, director of Texas Folk life Gallery/Austin, Texas, 1999.

"….my parents were Willie Anderson Durham and Ellen Anna Titus-Durham. My mother was the mother of 12 children….4 girls and 7 boys. One child died in childbirth, that made the 12th child….it was a girl.

…..I am the ninth child of the group…My sister Gladys…was the fourth child…born about 1906.
My mother (Ellen Anna) taught me to quilt and my grandmother passed away when I was probably 8 years old more or less, so I didn't get to see a lot of her quilting…(but she quilted)....I know that by going through her home….

…Back in those days, after the people laid by their crops…gathered their crops in the fall of the year, that was the main thing that most women did, was go from house to house and help each other quilt. And they quilted for cover because they didn't have enough money to buy blankets. That was out of the question.
….most of them piece string quilts and then they piece what's called stars and things of that sort… my mother, she quilted along the same lines.

I learned right from my mother…right at home. And she taught me how and it wasn't no time that I picked it up. The Lord just blessed me and I loved it…

I can't say the exact age, but {I learned to quilt} probably around 8 years old because my mother began to teach me early. Cooking and keeping house and sewing and quilting.

{The first quilts I made}…were string quilts…I never tied. Gladys did a lot of tying, my sister…but I cut and I pieced and quilted, that's what I did….

…My mother and the mothers in that day in the communities, when the children were at school… they would go to each other's house and help each other quilt just for a whole day while the children were at school. And then they would always make sure they would be home when the children returned home from school….

I never did go from house to house, but this is what my mother did and the rest of the mothers….I would be at school at that time cause fall and winter were the times that they quilted, you know helping each other.

{The first quilts I made } probably was a string quilt or either a nine-patch quilt… I really started quilting on my own when I was 16 years old. That was after I married. I married young, 15 and a half years. And I was completely on my own…so I had to quilt for cover. Piece and quilt for cover.

I didn't piece any while we lived away from here [Freestone County], only in Austin. I pieced a little bit but not too much… since moving back…I pieced 4 or 5 ,more or less strings quilts. And anytime anybody sees them they will buy them before they will any other.

….I quilted with my sister Gladys and sister Clara when I was living in Denver….I had two quilt tops…We came down here on vacation in 1954…I brought my tops with me, thinking that I would get them quilted… this is [when] they helped me quilt that quilt [Lone Star quilt] to take back to Colorado. But it was so hot we only did one.

"After leaving home and relocating to Denver….[Katie Mae Tatum] dropped quilting as one of her regular pastimes. When Mrs. Tatum and her husband (Henry) returned to Texas, (1977), her sister Gladys, was living just down the road. In an effort to relieve her sister of some of the demand on her time, Mrs. Tatum began accepting some of her quilting work. Soon, she was again quilting daily.


Katie Mae Durham Tatum,

Liscensed Evangelist, Dynamic, Eloquent Speaker

By Wilbur Thirkield Titus

July 31, 2007

If there were a system of royalty in the United States of America, our hero, 
Mrs. Katie Mae Durham Tatum would certainty be a member - not because of 
ancestry nor notoriety, nor glamour, rather because of her genteel regal 
demeanor, her quiet dignity, sterling character and her sincere devotion to her
God, family, community and country.

Mrs. Tatum doesn’t have a huge television ministry, a huge entourage to 
accompany her on her travels nor reporters to cover her every move. Her house 
is not an ancient castle but it is comfortable. Her car isn’t a Rolls Royce but
it gets her where she wants to go. She has no humble servants, rather she 
serves the community by ministering to their spiritual needs . Her coffers are
kept full by her own efforts. She is known for her beautiful quilt artistry, 
her kindness and generosity. She is an eloquent speaker. Those who know her 
love her.

She is the youngest daughter of Anderson Durham and Ellen Anna Titus Durham and 
grand daughter of Freestone County trailblazers Walter, Sr. and Patsy. Reddick

Her early life was spent as a farm girl in the Butler Community, Freestone 
County, Texas. There she attended Pine Top Methodist Church and completed the
courses offered by Owens Chapel School. After her mother’s death. She helped
to care for her younger brothers Walter and Alonzo Durham.

After her marriage to Henry Tatum she continued her religious work in the 
Avant Community, moved to Austin, Texas, and from there, she and her husband 
moved to Austin, TX for several years before moving to Denver, Colorado where 
she held the following positions of leadership and responsibility on the local
and state levels: Sunday School Teacher, Sunday School Superintendent, District
Missionary for 12 years, State Treasurer for the Sunday School Department, and
Secretary of the Metropolitan District.

She has returned to her home in the Butler Community and is a member of the 
Fairfield Church of God In Christ, Number One, where she serves faithfully.

Sherry Ann

Reduce, Reuse & Recycle to make the best of all our God Given Resources.

 What makes a great M-provisational quilt? I believe a person has to have a great imagination and a "try this to see what will happen" attitude . Also the employing of miscellaneous materials,left-over scraps, a spontaneity in the piecing and quilting processes, and the love of jazzing and spicing things up. Last of all, sometimes the artist must be brave enough to disregard strict structural rules. 

A lot of my quilt tops have been built as I sat at the sewing machine, or as I am hand sewing. I sew two or more scraps together and, if they strike my fancy ,"just right" I'm soon working feverishly to see what the total outcome will be. Not all my efforts end up as masterpieces. When that happens ,I just cut them up and include them in another project with a different array of tantalizing material. Almost nothing is wasted! 

M-provisational quilts created from leftover clothing and textiles aids me to thrive on Beauty,Creativity,Resourcefulnes and Ingenuity.

 I encourage all,"Don't throw anything out just because it's old". Seek to find an alternative career for the item. If the Universal Sovereign,Jehovah God,programmed the earth and its ecosystems to naturally recycle themselves ,then how much more we humans,whom he gave a higher degree of intellegence ,should apply ourselves to not wasting and squandering Earth's bountiful supplies. "ONE MAN'S TRASH IS ANOTHER MAN'S TREASURES".Remember the art created from Recycled Resources in an m-provisational manner,is a part of our HISTORY& LEGACY . It's a cultural seed that needs watering and cultivating to make it grow in respect in the eyes of the world. 

Our ancestors'motto was ,"Waste Not,Want Not." We of the 21st century do well to adhere to this wise saying and also instill it in future generations.

Sherry Ann


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