At 92 years old, District resident Ira Blount has surely experienced his share of tribulations and triumph. Along the way, he’s utilized a unique pastime to help him make it through.
Blount, just a few years shy of being a centenarian, is a multitalented artist and craftsman. His remarkable collection of handmade works that span from weaved baskets, quilts and other eye-catching items have spurred much attention in his Ward 7 community.
But his noteworthy skills were originally incited by tough times.
Born in Memphis, Tenn. in 1918, Blount attended Tuskegee Institute after graduating from high school. Shortly thereafter, he was drafted into the Army and stationed in Virginia. After holding the position of first sergeant for four years, he left the Army and entered into a marriage that later went sour.
“That gave me a lot of depression, I didn’t know which way to go,” Blount told the AFRO in a recent interview. “I then went through a period of alcoholism.”
Troubled, Blount turned to craft making as an outlet to his despair. “It more or less turned my life around,” he said.
Following the breakthrough, Blount doubled his time working, and continuing to add to his collection of crafts, which he continues to create today.
He says that out of all his works, he’s particularly fond of his handmade quilt that he crafted as a way of paying homage to his mother.
“She was a good seamstress so I wanted to do a quilt in her memory,” Blount said.
“She had given us the basics of sewing, but beyond that, I didn’t have any instructions on how to do it.”
Determined to master the skill, he explained that he kept working at it and finally mastered the process. The experience went on to be a rule of thumb for his future projects.
“Going to classes to learn how to is fine, but when you do these things without any help, I think it’s more beneficial and the product turns out to be better because of the fact that you put a lot of work into it and it’s your own,” he said.
Blount added that he’s also very proud of the many egg baskets he’s made because of their intricacy.
The craftsman’s work drew wide attention and sparked the interest of the Ward 7 Arts Collaborative nonprofit. The organization then worked with local producers to create a documentary in his honor. The final project was titled, “Ira Blount: The Common Threads That Bind” and premiered at Asbury United Methodist Church in August 2009.
Ultimately, Blount says before he leaves the Earth, he wants to ensure more people are exposed to his work. He’s currently in talks with local organizations in hopes that they will feature his projects in a permanent exhibit. Blount believes as a result, the pieces could motivate others to take up the same pastime and find solace doing so, just as he did.
“I get these items out to the public, in hopes to inspire others my age and younger to work with their hands and get peace of mind doing that,” he said.