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Out of a Cotton Boll Bloom Beautiful Crafts
Article first published in Vol. 10, 1992.
By Becky Lettunich
Driving along the outskirts of El Paso everyone at some point notices the cotton growing alongside the road. Maybe it's when it first shoots up and colors the fields green, or it could be when the plant blossoms into its distinctive white and pink flowers. What's really hard to miss is the bolls opening, so fluffy, white fiber can become visible. This fiber is made into clothing, paper, typewriter ribbons, and many other items.
Ivey, a mother of three who is married to a Lower Valley cotton farmer says. "My love affair with cotton began the first time I ever walked through a field. I was fascinated with the beauty of God's handiwork in each little cloud of cotton, and even now I get excited when I see the perfect boll."
She began using cotton in flower arrangements and wreaths about 12 years ago when she and her mother went into their dried flower business. The idea was no popular among farm wives and valley residents that she decided to expand. "I began looking for other cotton crafts to make and paint, but I could not find a cotton boll pattern anywhere. Then I came up with my own stylized design," Ivey says. She paint her own cotton design on jackets, jumpers, shirts, earrings, stationery and notecards, Christmas stockings and ornaments and blue enamel ware. She also uses cotton designs in copper punch and copper enamel ware. In addition, Ivey makes the cotton bouquets given to the Maid of Cotton and her court each year.
"I hope my cotton designs make people happy, and in my own small way I hope I have helped to promote this wonderful "King Cotton'."
Joan Nussbaum lives in Clint with her husband and two children. She is a substitute teacher in Clint and a student at El Paso Community College. A weaver, Joan uses cotton, wool and different furs in her work. The most exotic and expensive fur she has used is the quivot, an animal raised only by Alaskan Natives and whose fur sells for $10 an once. She has even been known to use dog hair. She spins her own yarn and often dyes it as well.
Nussbaum first became interested in weaving in 1970. "We were on vacation in the Grand Canyon when we came across a Navajo woman who had set up an exhibit and was working at her loom. This was really exciting and fascinating to me. However, it was five years before I could find some place to learn the craft." She says. She has since learned to weave on numerous looms, including the type used by the Navajo. She continues learning different techniques through the local weaver's guild. "We are dedicated to promoting weaving and gaining knowledge and expertise," says Joan. Twice a year experts on different types of weaving are brought in to teach the members of the guild. Nussbaum herself also teaches weaving.
Nussbaum creates wall hangings and tapestries, and functional items such as clothes, rugs, saddle blankets, ruanas (loose, knee-length cloaks which wrap over the shoulder) and has started a Navajo rug, which will take about a year to complete.
The cotton creations of these women can be found at "Carol's Collectables," a craft shop in Clint, or by contacting either artist individually. The craft you may take home not only will be "Made in U.S.A." but the cotton will be grown in the U.S.A.
- "Cotton picking" El Paso Times 1943 article