Since I have been so busy lately and unable to stitch; I thought I would share someone that has brought
me great inspiration: Her name is Rosie Lee Tompkins.
I never met her, nor did I know her, but I attended a showing of her beautiful work at the Shelburne
Museum many years ago. I had an artist friend who insisted that I must come and see this woman's
work. So, off she and I went and I remember being in awe of the beautiful simplicity and yet complexity
of her work.
|Rosie Lee Tompkins~ original photos by Eli Leon|
Rosie Lee Tompkins was not her real name. She had fourteen younger half-siblings and grew
up picking cotton and helping her mother piece quilts in rural southeast Arkansas, where poverty
"encouraged" the family to use every available scrap of fabric. Deeply religious, Tompkins felt
that she was God's instrument. She never completed High School but went on to enroll in adult
education classes and passed a test for admission into the Oakland City College, and took courses
in nursing and worked as a practical nurse in convalescent homes. She married twice and raised
As with all people, she faced a difficult time in her life. In the late 1970's she was hospitalized
for a nervous breakdown.
After her release from the hospital, she longed for peace of mind. Hearing voices, though and
believing that her phone was tapped, she never arrived at the tranquility she sought. In the later
years , she covered her walls with patchwork appliqued with sacred crosses, hoping this would
fend off the intruding voices, but it failed to do so.
None the less, Rosie found solace in her special blend of prayer and needlework.
Rosie did not measure her pieces, but relied on images she would hold in her mind.
This is a picture of a dress Rosie made from ties. She embroidered her name "Effie" and
Scripture (John 3:16) on it.
Rosie wore brightly colored clothes. A bright yellow, orange and purple outfit would not be
uncommon and those same bright colors might appear in her quilts.
If you ever get an opportunity to see her work "in person" I highly recommend it.
If you are interested in her work, I recommend searching the net for more information
and images. My pictures of the brochure are not very clear.
I am really fond of "Outsider Art" and I thought you might enjoy this: