An Early Artistic Influencer

Carrie E. Clute

Carrie E. Clute was a professional artist, specializing in painting. She also was Inez’s paternal aunt. For Inez, art was around her from childhood, and you can see the influence of Carrie’s work in some of Inez’s latter work. In a subsequent blog post I will share comparisons of a couple of their works, but in this post I will provide a bit about this amazing artist and her work.

Carrie was born in 1891 and lived until 1968. She never married and supported herself with sales of her paintings, as well as, working as a high school art teacher in NYC. Carrie spent a great deal of time living on the coast of Maine and in Florida; and, she traveled extensively across the US, as well as on a steamship across the Atlantic to Europe in 1929.

The subjects of her painting were primarily landscapes, seascapes and the natural world. Her work was strongly influenced by the post impressionism movement.

Even while living in New York City Carrie was looking for and painting nature. As an example, while living in Brooklyn, she painted the East River with Manhattan in the background.

Greeting Card Business

In the late 1940’s, Inez moved back to Manhattan. She worked in an advertising firm, as well as started her own greeting card business. At the time, she was known as Inez Parker, and her company was “Parker Studios”. Her entrepreneurial spirit would be tapped again later in her career, with both a mail order business and when she opened her own art and consignment shop, Imagination Plus, in the late 1970’s.

Late 1940’s Office Holiday Luncheon. Inez is standing on the far left

Passion for Personal History

Why am I so passionate about people preserving their life stories for the future?

Since the mid 1990’s I’ve been fascinated by genealogy. As a librarian, I love the thrill of the hunt and finding one more detail or clue about an ancestor. More than that, I love identifying with my past, considering what it was like when my ancestors lived, and how I am connected to those people.

With genealogy, we trace names, dates of birth, marriage, and death, as well as names of spouses and children. If we are lucky, we can also find out bits about their life, such as occupation, cause of death, whether they had run-ins with the law, whether they served in the military — life events that might be found in church records, vital statistics, court documents, census records or family bibles. Every little thing we uncover is a great aHa!

While all of this is wonderful and exciting, it still leaves these people from the past as feeling distant from us today. We are left without knowing who these people really were and what they believed. What was their life like? How did they become the people who they were? What gifts and abilities did they have that have come down through the line of generations to me?

About 20 years ago I was looking at some of the old books I inherited from my family home. One book in particular affected me greatly and changed my perspective on genealogy and, more importantly, personal history. It is a small, leatherbound book, just 3″ x 4 1/2″, It is the New Testament from 1864, published by the American Bible Association. It’s a lovely little book with gilt edging.

On the inside cover the owner of the book wrote her name and location: C.E. Mitchell Jonesville, Saratoga Co, N.Y. This book belonged to my great grandmother before she was married, as she used her maiden name.

Carrie Elizabeth Mitchell was born in Clifton Park, N.Y. in 1855 and lived her entire life between Saratoga and Schenectady counties of upstate N.Y. Carrie would have been 11 years old when this little book was published. Having died in 1930, she was long dead by the time I was born.

Upon examining the book further, I discovered in the very back a wonderful sentence also hand written by Carrie: “I wish you a pleasant journey through this life and an eternity of bliss in the Life to come”. This touched me deeply. This was the first time in any of my genealogy research where an ancestor of mine spoke directly to me, an unknown but loved descendant of hers. She was thinking about me when she was alive. Wow! This blew my mind and quite honestly, this little book with her words to her descendants is one of the dearest possessions I have.

THIS is why I am so passionate about personal history. How I wish my ancestors could tell me more! I would love to know anything and everything about them, but their time and opportunity to tell me has come and gone.

I cannot know much more about my ancestors, but we are here now — we have the opportunity now to provide insights for the future generations. The time to do it is now. We can capture and share about our lives and our hopes & dreams for future the generations. We have the opportunity to provide them the joy of knowing a bit more than names and dates about us. Don’t miss your chance to give your descendants the amazing gift of you.

College Years: 1942 – 1945

Inez attended the Pratt Institute of Art in Manhattan, NYC and earned her degree in Advertising Art. This was during World War II. She lived in an apartment in Manhattan with her friend, Barbara Adams, and they celebrated the end of the war at the ticker tape parade.

Her degree set her up for a wonderful career working in commercial art. She briefly worked in New York City, but shortly after graduation, her mother asked her to come home, so Inez moved back to Schenectady, NY for a few years.

Creating a Tribute Blog

One way to capture a personal history is to create a tribute blog. A tribute blog may be used for a whole life story or to capture a segment of one’s life. You can create a free blog with a product such as WordPress and as a digital medium, it can be saved for perpetuity. You can write stories, embed documents and photographs, and even insert audio or video clips.

Uniquely YourStory has created a sample tribute blog as an example for you: Inez C. Sewell – Artist Inspired by Nature. This tribute blog captures the artistic aspect of a 20th century woman’s life. Throughout her life, Inez was involved in the arts in many different ways, and each blog post captures a different aspect of her life and work as an artist. Throughout the upcoming year new posts will be added to share the story of this woman’s life through her art.

Inez C. Sewell

To see how the blog captures her art life story, follow the blog category “Inez C. Sewell – Artist Inspired by Nature” on this website.

Painting in Nature

Born in 1924, Inez grew up during the late 1920’s and through the Great Depression of the 1930’s. Her past times as a child were simple: reading, playing paper dolls and art.

This short movie clip from 1939 is the first we see of her with her artwork – an expedition in nature with her teenage friends. A happy outing for the girls and a joyful day for Inez.

Who was Inez?

Inez was born in Schenectady, N.Y. in 1924, and grew up inspired by art. Two of her aunts were professional artists: Carrie Clute (1891-1968) and Inez “Ethel” Reade (1880 – 1973). After high school, Inez studied art earned her degree at Pratt Institute in Manhattan, N.Y. in the 1940’s. Her earliest works are drawings and paintings. After college she briefly had a small business designing greeting cards. As she developed her talent over the years, she explored ceramics, metal work, fabric arts, and eventually found her greatest passion with woodworking and carving.

In addition, Inez worked as a freelance commercial artist for many years, designing company brochures, logos and business cards, and other business materials

This is a favorite painting.

Oil on Canvas, 1968

Letter from 1876

A Trip to Chicago

This week has me transcribing and recording a letter from 1876. It’s from a young woman — a recent Vassar College graduate — who is in Chicago for the summer and writing home to her family about her adventures. Her letter is pages and pages long. She decided to write one big, long letter to share after her trip was complete.

The letter is in beautiful script, but quite faded. I am scanning the letter to preserve it as-is. However, I am also carefully transcribing it, as well as reading it aloud so there is an audio file that may be listened to as well.

She wrote of her enjoyment of carriage rides through the parks and the grand Chicago boulevards; of presenting her calling card when visiting friends and relatives; and, of visiting the enormous Field, Leiter & Co. Dry Goods Store, which was the predecessor of Marshall Fields. She visited the Palmer House and said it was the finest hotel she had ever seen. She stayed at the home of a friend on Chicago’s South Side, which was two blocks from the shore of Lake Michigan. Her days were spent embroidering or seeing the sights, Every evening brought an array of callers, with singing or playing the card game, Pedro. An interesting observation she commented, “Western people don’t think it wrong to ride on Sunday”. Apparently they were riding on Sunday!

What a treasure this letter is! It is prudent to wear cotton gloves while handling such delicate materials, as well as to store them in acid free paper in a cool location away from sunlight.

If you have such treasures, I encourage you to capture and preserve for future generations to enjoy. They do deteriorate over time, just as as this priceless letter is fading. If you need assistance, Uniquely YourStory is here to help.