Ira Blount’s Crafts Collection consists of baskets, woodwork, quilts, needlework, beadwork, paper art, punched tin, and calligraphy created by Blount, a self-taught artist, during the late 20th and early 21st centuries. Images of animals, birds, flowers, fruit, trees, leaves, and Japanese culture can be found throughout his work. The beadwork is drawn from Ndebele (African) culture. Family history is integrated into some of the quilts and wall hangings.
The baskets are made from reed, tree bark, or gourds. They vary in style, and most of them have wood-carved handles. Some of them have color and bead accents. The woodwork includes a staff, letter opener, spoon, egg, processional cross, and wooden boxes, which contain more than one type of wood in their design. Wood carvings on the boxes and pieces of wood include animals and religious imagery.
The beadwork includes necklaces and strips or strands of colorful beads. One of the pieces contains the image of the American flag. The paper art includes paper cut-outs and origami, particularly cranes and kimonos. The calligraphy piece states Blount’s motto, “Peace of mind comes to me through making things with my hands. An added bonus comes if my efforts inspire others to try the creative process.”
Quilts and wall hangings are made from cotton, canvas, and other fabrics. Beadwork, patches, pins, photographs, brown paper, and cross-stitch are incorporated into some of the designs.
Specifically, patches with images of African American astronauts, photograph of Sergeant Blount, and a family photograph including Blount’s grandfather, Cannon Beckley (1840-1903). Independent cross-stitch work includes images of a woman in a kimono, Japanese characters, and flowers.
Additional collection objects include an etching of Albert Einstein, three photographs, a resolution from the Council of the District of Columbia celebrating the life and achievements of Blount, and an award plaque.
Ira Blount was born to Clyde and Irene Beckley Blount in 1918. As a child in Memphis, Tennessee, he had a passion for reading and crafts. His mother worked for a wealthy family who gave her books and magazines for her sons. His father “encouraged them to educate their minds and reach for greater heights.” Blount learned sewing basics from his mother, who created quilts from bits of clothing and rags to keep her sons warm in the winter of the 1930s.
After graduating from high school, Blount attended Tuskegee Institute. During World War II, he was drafted into the Army and served as First Sergeant in Virginia for four years. In 1945, Blount moved to Washington, D.C. After a brief, ill-fated marriage to Louise Virginia Baker, Blount slipped into depression. He found an outlet for his personal struggles and despair through craft making.
Blount is primarily a self-taught artist who prefers to sew quilts and other crafts by hand. In addition to quilt making, he creates Appalachian style baskets, Ndebele (African) beaded necklaces, colonial-era tin punching, paper cut-outs, origami, wood-carvings, wooden boxes, calligraphy, and needlework.
Blount desires for as many people as possible to see his work and hopes to inspire others to work with their hands in hopes of getting peace of mind doing it. Through conducting workshops at shelters, schools, community centers, and museums, he has seen power of creating something by hand and “big changes in people when they create something on their own.”
As an active member of the Asbury United Methodist Church, Blount contributed his talents through creating a visual history quilt and certificates for baptisms and marriages; teaching quilting classes; and serving on the worship committee and as a chair for the food pantry. He was also a founding member of the hand bell choir.
Blount won awards for his work, particularly his baskets, at Maryland county fairs, including Prince George’s County, St. Mary’s County, Anne Arundel County, and Calvert County fairs. His work has been displayed at the Smithsonian Institution Anacostia Community Museum, Martin L. King Jr. Library, The Sumner School, and Children’s Hospital in Washington, D.C.; the Banneker/Douglas Museum in Annapolis, Maryland; and the Ellipse Galley in Arlington, Virginia.
Ward 7 Arts Collaborative. 2009. Ira Blount: the common threads that bind. Washington, DC.
African American artisans
Animals in art
Art, American--Japanese influences
Birds in art
Flowers in art
Fruit in art
Trees in art
Permanent Collection, Smithsonian Anacostia Community Museum