Profile: Elizabeth Talford Scott (1916-2011)

Elizabeth Talford Scott was an American folk artist, known for her quilts.

Early life

Elizabeth Caldwell was born near Chester, South Carolina, where her family lived as sharecroppers on the Blackstock Plantation, on the land where her grandparents had been enslaved. She was the sixth of fourteen children (seven brothers and seven sisters) born to Mary Jane and Samuel Caldwell, and the third female. Elizabeth grew up in a family of craftspeople who practiced pottery, metalwork, basketry, quilting and knitting. They were also storytellers. Both her parents made quilts, and Elizabeth learned to quilt by the age of 9. Her father was a railroad worker who collected fabric scraps in his travels, and he colored the scraps using natural dyes that he made from berries and clay. In 1940, during the Great Migration, Elizabeth moved north to Baltimore, Maryland to escape bigotry and to seek greater economic opportunities.


In Baltimore, Elizabeth Talford Scott worked long hours as a domestic servant, a nanny, and a cook, and stopped quilting from around 1940-1970. Upon her retirement from these other jobs, Elizabeth took up quilting again, and soon developed her unique style that expanded upon the traditional strip piecing that she had learned from her family. In addition to piecework, these new quilts often incorporated embroidery, appliqué, bead work, sequins, plastic netting and found objects such as stones, buttons and shells. Her quilts evolved into dense compositions, often abstract and asymmetrical, with references to family rituals, personal stories, and the rural environment of her childhood. Elizabeth regularly presented workshops and demonstrations, and frequently collaborated with her daughter, artist Joyce J. Scott, to educate students about her craft

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