Judith Scott and the ties that bind

As part of our series on artists who have overcome obstacles to create their art, today we focused on the amazingly inspirational life of Judith Scott. Judith was born, along with her twin sister, Joyce, on May 1, 1943 in Columbus, Ohio. She was born deaf and mute and with Down Syndrome and spent the first seven and a half years of her life at home with her sister and brothers. Then, under the advice of doctors who said Judith would never be able to be educated or live on her own, Judith’s parents sent her to a State Hospital where she would spend the next 35 years of her life.

Only when she went to live with her sister in California, did Judith’s artistic capabilities come to life. Here is Judith with her sister. The bond they had is palpable.


It was there, at the Creative Growth Art Center in Oakland, that Judith’s amazing abilities with found objects and yarn were discovered. Today, Judith’s pieces sell for more than $15,000 and are on display in museums around the world, including the MOMA in New York, SFMOMA and others. Her pieces are very emotional, particularly this one, that seems to depict the love she and her twin share:draft_cover_pic1


Judith died in 2005 at the age of 61, a full 50 years longer than any doctor said she would live. Today, we learned all about Judith and Down Syndrome, looked at a variety of her most famous works and then, with Judith as inspiration, created our own yarn-wrapped masterpieces. The results are amazing!

IMG_2458 IMG_2463 IMG_2469

A few more interesting facts about Judith:

  • Judith and her twin sister, Joyce, shared a deep and wonderful bond. While Judith was living in the hospital, she missed Joyce terribly and would act out from sadness and anger
  • In 1985, Joyce became Judith’s legal guardian and took her to the Creative Growth Art Center, a studio in Oakland for people with developmental disabilities
  • When Judith first attended the Center, she tried painting and showed no interest in it whatsoever. It was only when she was introduced to a fiber art class that her remarkable talents were ignited!
  • Some of Judith’s pieces are very small, while others, including a completely wrapped shopping cart, are extremely large
  • In addition to wrapping her artwork in yarn and string, Judith also fashioned her own hats and accessories and wore them proudly!
  • Judith worked five days a week for eighteen years, producing over 200 cocoon-like pieces

Here are a few family activities you can do to further this lesson:

  • The Creative Growth Art Center where Judith worked and developed her masterpieces is right around the corner in Oakland. Perhaps you can visit as a family (and take me with you!!) For more information, visit www.creativegrowth.org
  • The Judith and Joyce website is a remarkable source of information, pictures and other resources about Judith and her sister. Visit it at http://judithandjoycescott.com/
  • Try your hand at creating a Judith Scott-inspired piece! Take a walk and forage for found objects that you can then take home and wrap with beautiful yarn and string!

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