Master Woodcarver

Inez found her element with woodcarving, inspired by nature. In the 1970’s & 1980’s, she honed her craft and focused primarily on carving birds and ducks. This final post in her Tribute Blog shares some of Inez’s wonderful carvings and her great joy in, at last, owning her own business and competing in US national woodcarving shows.

Inez always has an entrepreneurial spirit – starting back in NY city with her greeting card business. After having success with her mail-order woodcarving pattern business, she wanted more. In 1976, she considered opening a consignment shop in the planned new “1776 Shopping Mall” in Menands NY, Luckily, she got cold feet with that endeavor, as that mall faltered.

Then, an opportunity to open her own shop in a location within walking distance to her home became available in 1979. At last, Inez opened her very own shop, Imagination Plus, located on Rte. 7 in Latham, NY. It was a woodcarving, art and consignment store. Inez moved all of her carving equipment and tools into the back workroom, and was able to carve throughout her days between tending to customers or chatting with local artisans.

At this time Inez also started a woodcarving club in the Town of Colonie, and taught carving classes in her shop. Many local artists offered their work for sale in her store. For the six years she ran her business, Imagination Plus was a hang out for the local carvers and other artists. Often, artists would gather, chat and carve the day away together. Inez always had a smile and the coffee pot on.

Inez at her shop, Imagination Plus c. 1984

In addition to operating her shop, Inez was carving continuously and showing her bird and duck carvings at national carving competitions.

In 1985, Inez’s husband, Ed Sewell, passed away. Inez chose to close her shop by the end of 1986. At home, Inez focused her time and energy on her carving and showing & competing in US national wood carving competitions. Inez enjoyed and was carving up until she passed away in June of 1989.

Many thanks to my sister, Karen Sewell, for her time and talent in photographing many of the art pieces seen in Inez’s Tribute Blog!

And, Thank You for reading Inez’s Tribute Blog. It has been an honor to share her amazing talent and life with all of you.

Dabbling with Wood

In the 1970’s, Inez began working with wood and discovered that she loved forming shapes from it. Early in this endeavor, she began creating simple toys and animals. Inez also enjoyed creating relief carvings and then began focusing on chip carving. Her home art studio became filled with a myriad of woodcarving tools, lathes, sawdust and wood chips!

Inez began carving animals and birds and discovered this was her calling. Inez was in her element! She loved forming something from a beautiful piece of wood.

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As Inez read through the carving magazines, she came to realize that many people who wanted to carve needed patterns to carve the animals or shapes. As we know, Inez could draw anything … so she started advertising in the back of the magazines that she could draw and create patterns for any shape someone wanted to carve, and thus her carving pattern mail-order business was born! She did this for quite a few years, and reignited her desire to have her own business.

Here are a few samples of her carving patterns:

Over the next few years Inez experimented with chip carving, relief carving and started to hone her skills at carving birds and ducks.

Inez began going to art and woodcarving events and learning more and more about the art and science of woodcarving. Here she’s seen with a display of her early carvings at a wood carving event.

Up Next: We’ll see where Inez’s new passion, lifelong creativity, love of nature, entrepreneurial spirit and a few more years of wood carving experience took her.


Inez & Ed Sewell

Inez drew all her life. Here is a selection of drawings from throughout her lifetime.

People … Some you might recognize


Things …

Did you recognize any of the people, places or things? Let us know in the comments below.

Next Up: We’ll be moving into Inez’s final and best area of her art career. With her children grown, the 1980’s brought a whole new direction for her art.

Abstract Art

Let’s first take a look at Inez’s geometric abstraction paintings from the 1960’s. As you’ve seen, throughout Inez’s life she experimented with several different media and artistic styles. In the mid 1960’s she explored geometric abstract painting of ships, with the subject matter influenced most likely from her East Coast travels.

This first one is titled, “Four Boats at Anchor”. The first is a sketch with colored pencil; the second is her final painting.

And here is the development of “Schooner at Anchor”. Sketch; Colored Pencils. We do not have the final painting in this sequence.

Her final painting in the geometric abstract series is below.

My Favorite

Inez also created this series of abstract paintings. These are very different from her geometric abstractions, but interesting nonetheless!

Next up: we will take a look at her drawings of the 1960’s & 1970’s.

Influences – The Natural World

Today, in Celebration of what would have been Inez’s 96th birthday, let’s take a further look at some of her early influences.

As a young girl Inez was often in nature. Her aunt Ethel was a Girl Scout and her family went on nature hikes and camped. Despite growing up in the depression, or perhaps due to it, her family spent a great deal of time outdoors in all seasons.

Having her aunt Ethel’s Girl Scout influence and her aunt Carrie’s painting influence, there’s no surprise that nature and art infused Inez’s life.

Ethel at Girl Scout Camp, Moreau Lake, NY – c. 1918

Here is a compilation of home movie clips from 1937-1939 of Inez, her brother Frank, and their parents enjoying the great outdoors (3:11).

1937-1939 – Clip compilation of Inez and family: Hiking Whiteface Mountain; Climbing and Camping (in dresses!), Snowball fight and Skiing without poles (!) and a Toboggan Ride

FAST FORWARD to Inez’s married years. While raising her children and working in advertising design, Inez continued to draw and paint for pleasure. During these years she also spent a great deal of time in nature and continued learning about the natural world.

Inez enjoyed gardening with flowers as well as fruit, vegetables and herbs. She grew rhubarb, strawberries, gooseberries and currants. Every year there were peas, tomatoes, cucumbers and many other vegetables.

Ed and Inez’s family explored the natural world together, with many camping trips throughout the Northeast region, up and down the East Coast, and even a summer trip across the USA to visit many of the National Parks. They canoed in summers and cross country skied in winters. Inez was a birdwatcher and learned a great deal about the birds of North America.

As a Girl Scout leader for nearly a decade, she shared her knowledge of birds, animals and plants with the girls on nature hikes and on annual camping trips.

Ed and Inez were supportive of the environmental movement in 1960’s and 70’s. They held paper drives and taught their children to respect nature. They primarily heated their suburban home with a wood stove and fireplace, and grew and preserved a significant crop of fruits and vegetables. Inez busily canned and dehydrated her crops throughout the summer months for use during the winter.

Much of Inez’s artwork during this period reflects her joy and appreciation of nature. Here are a few of her drawings and paintings from the 1960’s & 70’s.

Up next: Inez explores geometric abstraction art.

Marriage and New Career Direction

In upstate NY Inez taught art in the Schoharie County school district, where she was also offering adult education classes for the community. By the mid 1950’s, Inez was working as a junior high school Art Teacher in the Troy, NY school district. It was there she met her partner for life, John Edward (Ed) Sewell — the Music Teacher!

In the summer of 1957 they married, and Inez became pregnant with her first daughter soon after. Therefore, she had to quit her teaching job, as pregnant women were banned from working in the 1950’s. For a total of nine years Inez had taught art in the public schools, but now her career would take a new direction.

Her Sweetheart – Ed Sewell

At home as a wife and mother, Inez embarked on a new career avenue that utilized her degree from Pratt Institute in Advertising Design.

The newlyweds had a music studio in their home for Ed, and after they built an addition for their growing family, they turned a spare bedroom into an art studio for Inez. From here Inez sought out freelance opportunities for advertising art. She worked with many businesses, such as Pacific Pools, Colonie Block and Supply Co., and Reynolds Construction and Supply Co., and her work included creating brochures & logos, advertisements for newspapers and magazines, and catalog layouts. Inez provided layout design, mechanicals, copy, type specifications, hand lettering, and color separations. This was long before the time of computers, and Inez drew and prepared all her work by hand.

Here are two sample prototypes and their final products:

Inez also worked extensively for Argus-Greenwood printers of Albany, NY, Each Friday she would drive into Albany to drop off her work from the week and pick up her new assignments. One could say she was ahead of her time as a work-from-home advertising artist.

Thanks to Karen A. Sewell for the images for this post

Inez enjoyed this work for many years, but still made time for her personal art pursuits. Next up: We’ll take a look at some of the influences for her drawings and paintings in the 1960’s and 70s.

It’s October – Family History Month!

October is Family History Month. Here are three easy things you can do this month to begin saving YOUR family history. Just pick 1 to start and see where it takes you!

1. Dedicate a little notebook to use to jot down stories of your life and stories that you heard about your family. When you think of a new story, add it to your notebook. Need some prompts to start writing?

  • Describe the house you grew up in, what it was like in your neighborhood, who you played with and what games you played.
  • What is a funny story you remember about your parents or grandparents?
  • What was your favorite vacation and what details about it? Close your eyes and spend a few minutes “there again” and write down your memories.

2. Look at your old photographs and slides. Do they jog your memories? Take one picture and think long and hard about it. What was happening and who was there? Do you recall the feeling you had at the time the photograph was taken? Write down your memories associated with the picture (not on the photo, though – use a separate piece of paper).

3. Take a look at the many choices of free online sessions you can attend from the Allen County Public Library ACPL is one of the largest centers devoted to genealogy and family history research. Nearly every day they have a different workshop you can attend to learn more about gathering and saving your family history.

This photograph is of my great aunt, Ethel Reade. I never got to meet her, but I know she was a teacher in the NYC school system and her life companion, Kathleen Jester, taught English at the college level in NYC. This photograph was taken in their country home in Connecticut in the 1950’s. I like how the scene was posed with Ethel “reading” a book by the fireplace, no fire burning, a bed warmer hanging from the wall and an antique clock on the mantle.

Ceramics and Sculpture Arts

Inez Clute in the1950's at the Catskill Game Farm

In the mid 1950’s Inez reached age 30, and she left NYC to move back to the Capitaland Region of upstate New York, this time for good. She was employed as a junior high school art teacher in the Troy, NY school district.

From the late 1950’s and through the 1960’s, Inez dabbled in the ceramic arts. As you will see in the images of her work below, she continued to primarily be inspired by nature.

Many of her works at this time include birds, which will be a focus of her work in the 1980’s.

Inez Clute, Catskill Game Farm, mid 1950’s

Man and Woman Seated Figures – Sculpture Series – 1957

The next group of work is of animals – owl and birds. The red bird is a recipe card holder. The piece with three birds is dated 1966.

This last set is of practical household item:. Trivet. Plant hanger. Detail of bottom plant hanger and her signature. Candle holder. Vase.

Photos in this post are courtesy of Karen A. Sewell

Coming up: In the next post, Inez will marry. There will be new influences in her artwork and US laws of the 1950’s forcing a change in her career.

Metalwork and Jewelry

In the early 1950’s, the abstract expressionism art movement began. Artists such as Jackson Pollock and Helen Frankenthaler were experimenting with shapes, colors and forms, coupled with free and spontaneous emotion in their paintings. Many of these abstract expressionists lived, worked and showed their art in the galleries of NYC, the hub of this movement – right where Inez was living.

Inez clearly took note of this trend. Follow this link to get a flavor of abstract expressionism and see the interesting use of color and shapes. You will then see some resemblance in the works of Inez below.

At this time, Inez began exploring with copper and silver jewelry making, and she incorporated concepts of abstract expressionism into her designs. You’ll notice she also retained the idea from her earlier work in greeting cardmaking, with embedding metal wires in some of the designs.

Most of her jewelry pieces were earrings, pins, necklaces and scarf clips

Inez’s earrings were exclusively clip-on’s. During the 19th and early 20th century, the idea of piercing ears and having holes in them was considered vulgar. The invention of clip on earrings in the 20th century allowed all women the opportunity to wear earrings. By the 1950’s, clip-ons were in high demand with styles available for every occasion. Pierced earrings came into fashion by the 1970’s.

Pins were very fashionable at this time as well. Often times, she created matching sets of earrings and pins.

Set of earrings and pin

A Seamstress Perfected

As a child, Inez had learned to sew and in fact had made some of her own clothing.

During the late 1940’s, Inez spent a year working as a seamstress for a professional theater. As such, she quickly learned all the ins and outs of true garment construction.

Crash Course Materials

If you look past my poor ironing and photography skills, you will see below an example of her fine garment craftsmanship in a blouse from the late 1940’s. Note the perfectly lined-up seams and covered buttons in matching fabric. Each button down the front is perfectly lined up such that they blend into the pattern of the fabric.

Can you see the buttons running down the front?
Detail. Each button is hand covered with fabric to perfection
Each sleeve is constructed with detail – three strips of the fabric pattern aligned and sewn, running the length of the sleeve
Culminating in the matching cuff, again with the matching three strip of patterned fabric.
And matches the two three-strips running down the back of the blouse

And lastly, she carries the three-strip pattern through to the matching headband.

During her time working with the theater she developed her sewing skills, as well as creativity and attention to detail. Inez designed & sewed garments and other things throughout the rest of her life. Some of her most playful designs were children’s clothing, doll clothes, toys, and halloween costumes, such as a fire breathing dragon and a giraffe.