- Associated Press - Sunday, August 17, 2014

FLORENCE, Ala. (AP) - Shoals artist Martha Beadle said she thinks of her abilities and style as a gift.

Beadle’s son Sam has Down syndrome. And when he finished high school at the age of 21 there was nothing for him except the sheltered workshop.

He had a complete shutdown, Beadle said.

“He went through a very aggressive period,” Beadle said. “So I was pretty much shut down here at home. I think my art came from that.”

Beadle had always done needlepoint as a hobbyist, but she points to that time period in 2000 as the start of her career as an artist.

In her studio, located in the basement of her Florence home, she still has the first piece she ever made, which was a Christmas gift for her husband.

It just says “Come on barge, dadgummit little joe, little joe.”

“My son and my husband go down to the river bottom and watch for the barges,” Beadle said. “That’s what he would always say and just laugh.”

From there Beadle has cultivated a distinctive style of art. Typically there is a quote stitched onto the background with a central figure - Beadle likes making people and animals - cut from various pieces of fabric and decorated with buttons and pieces of jewelry, pins or other knickknacks.

Having coped with the transition from life as a high school student, Sam, now 36, still lives with Beadle and her husband, and he enjoys going to art festivals and meeting different artists and their families Beadle said.

In her youth, Beadle went to school to be a kindergarten teacher, but spent most of her life raising her three children.

“My daughter had gone to North Carolina for school and, like I said, it was just Sam here,” she said. “We were here for three to six months and didn’t go anywhere really.”

Mary Nicely, program director at the Kennedy-Douglass Center for the Arts in Florence, said Beadle’s work is known as fiber art.

“She makes use of common materials to make something so clever and so beautiful,” Nicely said. “And one thing that makes her pieces so special are the wonderful quotes that she finds.”

Most of her pieces have quotes ranging from Shakespeare, Bob Dylan, Tallulah Bankhead, the Bible, Hank Williams and Amy Winehouse.

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