Maree Dowdey: Quilting Photos | Digital Traditions

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Because of her close ties with textiles, she became interested in enhancing the beauty of fibers with natural dyes. She learned how to use roots, berries, flowers and many other organic materials for her dyes. Dowdey gathers the plants herself from within and around South Carolina. Many plants are gathered at specific times of the year and stored until needed. Once she has the desired ingredients, she soaks and boils them in water and then strains them out to produce the dye. The dye may be used to color wool, cotton, oak splints, reeds, as well as many other items. Currently, Ms. Dowdey is growing indigo in her garden and enjoys using her own plants to create the blue dye.

Soap-making, a tradition that has been with us for many centuries, requires the rendering of grease from animal sources, dripping water through ashes in order to secure the lye, then cooking them together to produce soap. Although seemingly a simple process, it is time-consuming and requires patience and skill. Lye soap was a staple in most pioneer homesteads and is a very good cleaning agent. Dowdey received the Jean Laney Harris Folk Heritage Award in 2003.

Dowdey has been very active in her endeavors to educate the public about the many traditional crafts in which she is involved. She works extensively in the public schools, universities, museums, and demonstrates her skills at many historical locations within South Carolina. She has conducted special programs for S.C. Parks, Recreation, and Tourism, Historic Camden, Historic Columbia Foundation, Walnut Grove Plantation, Kings Mountain State Park, and Andrew Jackson State Park bringing a vast amount of historical expertise into her efforts. She is also a juried member of the S.C. Artisans Center in Walterboro, S. C. which is the official folk art center of our State. She is a first year Community Scholar in the Traditional Arts, the S. C. winner in the Stearns and Foster 1976 Bicentennial Quilt contest and a member of the S. C. Traditional Arts Network. Maree has also served as a statewide consultant in research and conservation projects at McKissick Museum and the South Carolina State Museum. She is also a fiber specialist who is involved in appraising, conserving and restoring artifacts of intrinsic value.