Elizabeth T. Scott (1916-2011)
Born February 7, 1916, Elizabeth T. Scott grew up in Chester, South Carolina, the sixth of fourteen children. Her family worked as sharecroppers where previously her grandparents had lived as slaves. Elizabeth learned to quilt from her mother and father, beginning her first quilt at nine-years-old. "That was the way of life in those days," she said. "We didn't buy blankets and spreads the way we do today. The churches had 'choirs' that were clubs where people would get together and go to each other's house and do quilting.
"My father worked for the railroad, and he would stop in Charleston, where they had factories that made materials. If there was an oil spot on a piece, they would just whack that off and give it to my father. There was also a button factory, and my father would bring them home.
"At 9 years old, we had to help. We would baste things on and then the mothers would come and sew that on. I learned to strip and other things." She quilted until the age of fourteen, when her family moved to Baltimore.
In the late 1960s/ early 70s, after years of working and raising a family, Elizabeth began to quilt again. She developed a remarkable body of work and began to exhibit her quilts in conjunction with the work of her daughter, Joyce Jane Scott, a mixed media-performance artist, at Gallery 409 in Baltimore and the Art Gallery of the University of Maryland at College Park. Scott worked relentlessly, and as she produced more quilts, she was invited to teach and lecture at colleges, universities, recreation centers, special workshops, and senior citizens' groups throughout the state of Maryland. She was asked to exhibit and lecture at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Studio Museum in Harlem, the Smithsonian Instutition's Folk Life, Festival, as well as at numerous galleries along the east coast from New York City to Washington, DC.
Unlike traditional quilts with regular patterns, Scott's are free-form, often employing materials from her life arranged in odd, irregular shapes. Her surfaces can be densely crowded, her compositions usually asymmetrical and her colors intense. Her quilts are embellished with embroidery and stitchery that form images and symbols of flowers, stars, and animals. Scott never uses strips in regular repetition, nor do her quilts conform to a completely preconceived design. Of her method of working she said, "I put something down and I study it." Her daughter, Joyce, says there have been preliminary drawings at times, but Scott does not feel obliged to follow them.