Making the Most: In the Studio with Carolyn Crump

Craft Practice During the Dual Pandemics

A photograph of a woman with brown hair and a dress standing inside a building.
Mary Savig
Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft
July 2, 2021
An artist's mask with Black Lives Matters posters and the words I Can't Breathe

Carolyn Crump, BLM-4, 2020, cotton fabric, cotton thread, Smithsonian American Art Museum, Museum purchase through the Kenneth R. Trapp Acquisition Fund, 2021.15, © 2020, Carolyn Crump


Mary Savig, the Lloyd Herman Curator of Craft at SAAM’s Renwick Gallery, has been collecting firsthand accounts of the dual pandemics, COVID-19 and systemic racism, from artists working with craft-based materials and techniques. In this series, “Making the Most: Craft Practice during the Dual Pandemics,” artists share personal insight into how they responded to the cascade of canceled or delayed programs, workshops, and exhibitions, as well as the demands of social distancing and social justice. Each account brings new understanding to the import of the studio as a space of reflection, creation, and collaboration.

Carolyn Crump is a storyteller, artist, and member of the Women of Color Quilter's Network. At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Crump began making elaborate art quilt masks to express themes of resilience and social justice. Her studio is located in Houston, Texas. She contributed to this blog series soon after her studio was severely damaged during a major winter storm in February 2021.

Describe your daily routine during COVID-19.

When COVID-19 first started, and there was a need to wear a mask, I made face masks for the community. After about three months I started making art masks to keep me in a joyful spirit.

How has the pandemic changed your studio practice (for example, describe the effect of lockdowns, exhibitions, collaborations, teaching, shows, and protests)?

I used to like doing everything, it was like I had no focus. So, you can say I found my focus doing the pandemic.

The artist standing near her sewing machine working on a Black Lives Matter artwork

Carolyn Crump in her studio

What does your life look like without travel or in-person collaboration? How has this changed your practice?

I spend more time on FaceTime, Zoom, and the telephone. I call it my virtual life.

How has your sense of home shifted with the pandemic? For example, how has your relation to food or domestic life changed? How do you connect to others?

During the pandemic I became more health conscious. I started exercising and eating better. We started a family Zoom once a week. I haven’t had anyone in my home or studio for about a year, until the winter storm in February 2021. When my studio flooded, I had no choice in the matter. People helped move art from my studio to prevent damage, and then fixed and repaired my home.

What is drawing your attention these days (i.e., books, film, tv, music, social media, pets, etc.)

Old movies and TV shows. Reading, juicing, and health to keep myself safe.

How have the dual pandemics provided insight into current or ongoing projects?

It made me think about other people and how I can make a small difference in the world. Not just by telling people stories through my art but by making people smile with happy lifestyle subjects.

What have you experienced or learned about systemic racism in the United States? How does 2020 feel different or contiguous?

Really, I grew up with systemic racism, so I wasn’t surprised. People just didn’t hide any longer. Only time will tell if anything has changed, we all know racism runs deep.

What would you want readers 10/50/100 years from now to know about your life and work during this period?

I started making my art masks to chronicle this time in my life so people could know I gave my love, talent and my time to my community, friends and family, anybody that needed my help I tried do what I could.

What feels most important going forward?

I realized people are more important than fame or fortune.

A close up of the artist in her studio making a mask with a motif of leaves, butterflies and birds

Carolyn Crump working on a mask in her studio that has elements of leaves, birds, and butterflies.


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