Ethel Wright Mohamed


Mohamed created thread paintings—embroidery done on linen or cotton with a crewel needle, cotton thread, and various stitches. Mohamed “painted” people, places, and events: My Husband in 1914, Waiting for the Stork, The New Baby, The Cotton Pickers, Storm, Depression Days, Family Night at the Crescent Theater . Mohamed was born on a cotton farm near Eudora, Mississippi. At eighteen, she married Hassan Mohamed, a Lebanese dry goods peddler and merchant. Thecouple moved to Belzoni, where Hassan opened a general store; after he died in 1965, Ethel managed the store herself.A single work by Ethel Mohamed might take a week to four months to complete. She began with an outline on paper, transferred it to cloth using carbon paper, andthen improvised the details with thread. She would use a print background fabric to suggest growing plants, or a blue fabric for the sky. At first she used pictures frommagazines as inspiration; later, she relied on her imagination. She was eager to show her pictures but reluctant to sell them, though she donated some to charities.Mohamed completed about 125 pictures and numerous embroidered sheets and pillowcases. While sewing, she felt like “another person,” in a world of her own.She stitched steadily from 1965 until six weeks before she died.Her work is at the Smithsonian Institution and at the Ethel Wright Mohamed Stitchery Museum in Belzoni.