Betsy Porter

Betsy Porter
Art and Iconography

Work By My Talented Family Members!

Details of a knit vest and 2 hooked rugs by Elizabeth L. Hart

Work By My Mother, Elizabeth L. Hart (1911-1993) Of Baltimore, Md

My mom really knew how to make things, and make them beautifully! In the 40’s and 50’s, a capable and frugal housewife was expected to provide good things for her large family on her husband’s usually modest single income. Clothes, household furnishings, and many other items were relatively expensive; so her hard work and know-how greatly enhanced our standard of living.

In addition to cooking and gardening and canning, Elizabeth made most of her own clothes and knit her own sweaters, as well as clothing her 5 children. She sewed curtains and bedspreads, tailored slipcovers to precisely fit the old sofa, and wove cane chair seats. Her high standards showed clearly in the excellent workmanship of every item she produced.

As the children grew up, Elizabeth turned her talents to challenging projects, such as hooked rugs, braided rugs, quilting, fancy knitting, stained glass, and more. When learning each new art form, she read all the available reference books and practiced with great concentration until she mastered the discipline. My mother never thought of herself as an artist, but each piece is carefully designed and expertly constructed. She taught several of these crafts at the Maryland Fiber Center.

Elizabeth maintained a strong interest in contemporary art and design. She organized fund-raising tours of early modern residential architecture; raising awareness of modern design in then-conservative Baltimore. As a volunteer, she headed up the Sales and Rental Gallery (now discontinued) at the Baltimore Museum of Art.

What a legacy Elizabeth has left for her family! She taught us that we too can make beautiful and useful things for our own families, friends, and communities. Her example inspires us to keep working, keep learning, and keep on exploring and enhancing our abilities.

A stained glass lamp;

Detail of a braided rug

Elizabeth's hooked and braided rugs were made from pure wool fabric strips, obtained by carefully tearing worn-out wool clothes and blankets. The braided rigs are extremely sturdy.

Detail of "Indian Trails" wall quilt.

Elizabeth took a class in oil painting and produced this tennis-themed still life, her only painting of which I am aware. She was an excellent athlete and especially loved tennis - so much that her 80th birthday party was a tennis party!

My parents, Archibald M. Hart and Elizabeth L. Hart, on their bicycle honeymoon in England, 1935

Elizabeth designed and made these two hooked rugs for my brother John M. Hart and his family. Left, a portrait of Bullet, their springer spaniel. Right, a rug based on a brain-teaser or optical illusion of two (or four) horses that she found in a Scientific American magazine.

My sister CATHY HART of Deer Isle, Maine makes beautiful bead jewelry!

My daughter SARAH PORTER of Brooklyn, NY is the author of the Lost Voices trilogy of young adult novels about contemporary teenage killer mermaids. At her site you can see her art work and spooky video, hear a radio interview with the author, and read reviews.

My niece SHARON HART is a graphic artist and web designer. Sharon designed a website for her dad, my brother GORDON HART of Artek Engineering, an engineer specializing in thermal insulation for industrial plants and commercial buildings.

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