Elizabeth Adams-Marks


From rural Madison County in Southern Illinois, USA


As a child, I lived with my father’s parents. They taught the next generations how to make what was needed for everyday life. Craftsmanship was important whether we were making a gingham dress on a treadle sewing machine, designing a trellis for grandpa’s roses, or building a cabinet from reclaimed lumber. They didn’t realize they were artists.  They just “made do.”

With a twenty-five year career as a freelance illustrator and graphic designer, I began classes at Southern Illinois University Edwardsville in 2002 to earn a Bachelor of Science in K-12 Art Education so I could teach in public school. Yet after a class with Associate Professor of Textiles, Laura Strand, my years of experience in fiber arts, gardening, and commercial art found a home. Thus, as a mature student, I chose to just go for it, and also earned a Bachelor of Fine Art Degree in Art & Design/Textiles, as well as being awarded an Undergraduate Research Academy Fellowship to explore handmade paper processed from local crop fiber. In 2005 I presented a boxed set of handmade books with samples of my research, “Handmade Paper from the Crops of Madison County,” to the education library of Eden Project in Cornwall, UK. A companion sculptural book was juried into the permanent collection of the Crane Museum of Papermaking in Dalton, Massachusetts. 

After a trip to Tlaxiaco, Oaxaca, Mexico through SIUE in 2006 to learn back-strap loom weaving techniques from indigenous Triqui artisans, and to make paper from local plant fibers at “The (Smaller) Papel Oaxaca” in San Agustin Etla, Oaxaca, Mexico, my article about the papermaking experience was published by the International Association of Hand Papermakers and Paper Artists (IAPMA). In the summer of 2007, I had the pleasure of presenting my research in papermaking from the crops of Madison County, IL at the IAPMA’s 19th Congress in Oxford, England. 

In 2007 the Mehlville School District in St. Louis, MO hired me as a full-time art instructor for 12 to 14 years-olds.  With an interdisciplinary Art-for-Life Philosophy of Education, I pursued a Master in Secondary Education/Art Degree from SIUE, while also teaching papermaking and book arts workshops at Missouri Botanical Gardens and Eugene Field House in St. Louis, as well as Jacoby Arts Center in Alton, IL. 

Pat Vivod and I met more than 10 years ago at SIUE; and for years, we have exhibited together during ARTEAST, Madison County's annual studio tour. Pat would be displaying the most beautiful silk scarfs and large wall hangings, all dyed and printed with rust, tea, berries and walnuts, while my work focused on handmade paper, indigo dyeing and book arts. During each exhibition, I listened intently to Pat's newest discovery, and even managed to write a few notes on rust printing in my journal, but didn't have the time, or brain space, to take on another art form. Yet in July of 2012, I finished a second masters degree, a Master in Education (K-12) from Lindenwood University in St. Charles, MO, on a Friday and planted myself in Pat's garden studio bright and early the next Monday morning. What a glorious way to celebrate!! For an intensive 100+F degree week, Pat kindly shared her wealth of knowledge of printing and dyeing with rust, plants and tea. 

Lessons learned - my first silk scarf printed with rust and tea
And back in my own outdoor studio -
second silk scarf printed with rust and tea over indigo 
Reclaimed cloth transformed by rust, tea and 100F temps!
Rust on handmade abaca paper
Rust, tea, walnut and indigo on handmade abaca paper
Pat also shared the information learned at one of India Flint's workshop she had attended while I was in England the previous summer. While Pat's technique for printing on keratin or cellulose fiber may only take a few hours or a few days at the most, eco printing takes as much patience as one can muster so as not to unwrap the little bundles until the time is right! But the results can be dramatic!!
Wool shawl before bundling
Bundles waiting ... and waiting ... and waiting
A bit of simmering in a kettle or cauldron

Following a month away to visit my husband’s family in Cornwall, UK, Pat and I unwrapped our bundles that had been hanging to dry for the weeks I was absent. It was like Christmas and birthdays ... and very, very addicting!

And finally ... the time finally arrived to reveal the results!
So much anticipation!!!
My first attempt at eco printing on wool
To return the favor, I invited Pat to my outdoor studio to share the indigo vat before I had to return to my classroom for the fall semester.  


Fortunately, once school started mid-August, I was able to escape to the garden studio on weekends to play with rusty bits and the indigo vat to make a few things before the acorns began falling on my head.

Indigo, rust, sumac berries and tea on silk
Sun Pans & Mica Drags
During the summers, when I am not teaching, my husband and I return to his birthplace, Cornwall, the farthest southwestern tip the United Kingdom. His family nurtures us as we wander through working fishing villages and along cliff top paths; down narrow hedgerows onto pebbled beaches and tidal pools; through disused mines and pre-Christian church sites; and finally across the moors filled with wild ponies and herds of sheep. Every step is filled with layers of ancient history, place, people, texture, industry, work, survival, beauty and faith.  My process is to read, record, draw, paint, listen, smell, taste, collect memories, and stash bits of ephemera to the point of exhaustion. 

Back in my garden/studio in Illinois, I distill, clarify and filter through my sketchbooks and photographs that are not only a collections of memories, but also the textures and colors that are the essence of Cornwall’s natural beauty and industrial history, non-specific to an exact mine, village or sea creature.

Stone Circles & Estuaries
By using stones, stumps, and other objects to draw relational systems on handmade paper as it is freshly pulled or poured from the vat, I seek to capture a moment or moments in time as the paper dries and contracts. The dried sheet retains the ghost or trace of the objects that leave indelible imprints, or seem to capture the moment when some organic being erupts from the paper and escapes. 

The intent of my current handmade paper constructions is to capture the essence and remnants of the 19th century Cornish tin mines and china clay pits as seen still today from the air, through the earth and across the moors. As the work evolves through the implementation of rust printing and eco dyeing, the raw materials used will continue to inform and challenge the process of simultaneously layering and abstracting multiple vantage points through time and space within the ancient landscapes of Cornwall.

Images and statement courtesy the artist.  Work shown here will not necessarily be exhibited in FTIO.

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