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Thankfulness stirs artist to craft cotton gift

Artist Madison Woodward created thank-you gifts for friends using her artistic talent, including some North Carolina cotton.

Ron Smith, Editor

March 15, 2024

Madison Woodward is passionate about her creative side. It’s a companion emotion with her love for science, research, and cotton.

“I’ve always had a creative urge,” says Madison, a former University of Tennessee Extension assistant, Texas A&M AgriLife Research assistant, and research specialist for a crop consultant in North Carolina. Her current occupation her best yet, she says, is stay-at-home mom for her 19-month old daughter Eleanor.

Her latest artistic endeavor came about as she and her husband, Jason, prepared to move to West Tennessee from Littleton, North Carolina, where Jason, a former Texas A&M Extension specialist, was working as an agronomist with Corteva.

“I wanted to make something for a few farm families we worked with in North Carolina to thank them for all they did for us,” Madison says.

“I had painted a large cotton boll for Jason to hang on his office wall.” She thought something similar would be meaningful to the cotton families they had grown close to. She went a bit further than a simple painting.

“We collected some fiber samples from Jason’s research plots, some HVI samples. It was cool to sketch out a cotton boll from a grower’s field and put the boll on canvas. It was North Carolina cotton; growers know where it came from.”

Related:High Cotton winners honored at gin show

The  creative process

She explains the process.

“I used regular canvas from a crafts store. I  chose a random assortment of sizes I thought would work best for each of the paintings. I planned out each piece for each person. I chose the colors I felt went best with each one and was creative with the accents, textures, and colors. I used acrylic paint for the backgrounds and added little accents to that.

“I sketched out each boll individually on each canvas for an outline, painted a white background for the cotton, and painted the burrs. Next, I applied an adhesive on cotton pulled from samples, made it fluffy, molded it to the right size for each canvas, and stuck it on nice and snug. 

“I wanted to make something our friends could hang on their walls and be proud of, something other than a card to say, ‘thank you.’

“I made 17 for the people who made an impact on our lives. Some of them gave us a baby shower. I personalized each one, using abstract designs, different colors, adding creativity to each one.”

Creative passion

“I’ve always had a creative side,” Madison explains. “Even with research and science, we  have to be creative. But drawing and painting has always been a relief. It’s especially important now that I am a stay-at-home mom.”

Related:30th High Cotton class recognized

She adds that creativity and agriculture, especially cotton, along with being a mom, are big passions.

“I want to continue with my artwork. I have a little ETSY store for some other painting, some flowers, some painted scripture, but no specific style. I don’t want to paint for a job; my art is an outlet. I have to get in the mood for it. I want each piece to have meaning behind it. I like to create things with a person or an inspiration in mind and make it my own.”

She says plans to continue painting and will do more of the unique cotton paintings, “if  people want them and if I can do them without diminishing the paintings I made for our North Carolina friends.”

Madison says she’s had a lot of reactions from a Facebook post showing her cotton art.

“It’s not about making money,” she says. “I haven’t thought much about marketing. These were just presents for friends. It’s a creative, meaningful thing for me. I’m kind of an ADHD person, so it’s hard not to get excited.”

The 17 pieces she made for friends, she says, “came from  the fields of people who love cotton. Each one is personalized, original art.”

Staying with agriculture

She doesn’t intend to give up her career in agriculture. As Eleanor grows older, she plans to do some crop consulting, especially in cotton. “I’ve been working with cotton for 12 years; it’s my favorite crop.”

Related:Richard Gaona named Southwest High Cotton winner

Madison says moving to Dyersburg, Tenn., takes her home, a move she has contemplated since Eleanor was born.

“It’s hard to leave North Carolina,” she says. “That’s where Jason and I started out, and it’s Eleanor’s first home. But moving back to family is important.”

She’s unsure where her creative side will take her next but knows it will remain an important aspect of her life. She says Jason’s new assignment with Corteva will include cotton, corn, and soybeans. “I love cotton, but I might experiment with other colors and other media—wherever the inspiration comes from.”

About the Author(s)

Ron Smith

Editor, Farm Progress

Ron Smith has spent more than 30 years covering Sunbelt agriculture. Ron began his career in agricultural journalism as an Experiment Station and Extension editor at Clemson University, where he earned a Masters Degree in English in 1975. He served as associate editor for Southeast Farm Press from 1978 through 1989. In 1990, Smith helped launch Southern Turf Management Magazine and served as editor. He also helped launch two other regional Turf and Landscape publications and launched and edited Florida Grove and Vegetable Management for the Farm Press Group. Within two years of launch, the turf magazines were well-respected, award-winning publications. Ron has received numerous awards for writing and photography in both agriculture and landscape journalism. He is past president of The Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association and was chosen as the first media representative to the University of Georgia College of Agriculture Advisory Board. He was named Communicator of the Year for the Metropolitan Atlanta Agricultural Communicators Association. Smith also worked in public relations, specializing in media relations for agricultural companies. Ron lives with his wife Pat in Denton, Texas. They have two grown children, Stacey and Nick, and two grandsons, Aaron and Hunter.

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