I get an idea, and I try it.
It was 1971 when Joyce Kraekel Dewsbury '61 fell in love with fabric. “When I took a batik class, I realized that's what I wanted to do,” Dewsbury says. “Sometimes you bond with things; I bonded with fabric. It's the feel of it, the look of it — it's the way it drapes. It's just so nice to work with.”
Now an accomplished fiber artist, Dewsbury's trajectory from her Bucknell days was a traditional one for the times. She followed her husband's career, eventually landing in Gainesville, Fla., where she resides. Along the way, she took occasional art classes, raised a family and spent 22 years as a coordinator in the University of Florida's Department of Special and Area Studies Collections. All the while, she honed her fabric painting, quilting and piecing techniques in her home studio — and produced wearable art.
Her subjects vary, as the title of her recent show in Gainesville, “From the Sublime to the Bizarre,” suggests.
“I sometimes have an idea about what I want to do. I often use floral or organic imagery,” she says. “Sometimes it's just pure color and shapes, though. I get an idea, and I try it. I'm largely self-taught. I learned by doing and experimenting.”
She admits her sociology degree doesn't lend itself to fiber art. But she's still singing, as she did so joyfully with Bucknell's Chapel Choir. Now she sings first soprano with an intergenerational chorus founded by her partner, Ruth. She also enjoys folk dancing. To those who “can never find the time,” she reveals her secret.
“You have to be a little selfish,” Dewsbury says, crediting Betty Friedan's book The Feminine Mystique for helping her set priorities. “I realized I had to make time for me or I'd go stir crazy. I had to be careful about how I organized my time to make sure I made good choices that enriched my life ... I found meaningful things to do and one of them was art.”
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