Wednesday, November 16, 2016

‘If I didn’t have art, I don’t know what I would do’

Gloria Fulton Singleton thrives on being creative. She is diverse with a skillset that’s equivalent to being a songstress who can climb eight octaves on the musical scale. Singing, however, is not her forte. Art is.
Her longtime supporters and art enthusiasts alike are well aware of her development as a painter, muralist, interior designer, decorator, woodworker, upholsterer, art teacher and seamstress.
But the years it took her to reach the apex of her career are inconsequential compared to the opportunities she now enjoys as an artist and craftsman who manages to eke out a reasonable living.
Gloria Fulton Singleton's creativity comes
in many forms such as the chair she
painted and holstered to give it an artsy
look. (Photo by Wiley Henry) 
“If I didn’t have art, I don’t know what I would do,” she said.
Singleton comes from a family of artists and craft persons. Her late mother was a seamstress and her late father once dabbled in portraiture painting. Brothers Walter “Atoosie” Fulton (painter) and Jerome Fulton (painter) are professional artists.
Sisters Vickie Fulton and Towanda Fulton are artists as well. Vickie, who recently discovered her talent, stitches quilts, makes bowties and organic, holistic oils. Towanda makes jewelry.
 “My mother sewed slip covers and my grandmother made shoes. My mother also made our clothes. So it was natural for me to sew,” said Singleton, who transformed her sewing skills into a multi-faceted home-based business called “Custom Furniture and Textiles.”
 “I’ve been creating art for a number of years,” said Singleton, who took a sabbatical in the early days to raise two children, Tonique and Joneaú, who are now adults with children of their own.
“I had to slow down to take care of my children,” she said.
Tonique and Joneaú also have artistic inclinations as well, said Singleton, 64. “But they never cultivated it. Tonique prefers instead to critique my work. They don’t want to be starving artists.”
The reluctance of Tonique and Joneaú to follow the artistic path taken by other family members didn’t bother Singleton, who allowed them to make their own choices in life.
Her own career path had not been hewn out as a child when brothers Walter and Jerome were advancing their skills in the home with their parents and siblings. “I studied under my brothers,” said Singleton, one of eight Fulton children.
 “‘Tootsie had stuff all over the place. I just threw stuff away. But I felt inferior to him. When I would try one time at a work of art, he would come behind me and perfect it,” said Singleton.
 “Jerome was much neater than Tootsie. Jerome’s skills had to be developed, though. But Tootsie had the natural gift to draw and paint. He would be up late at night. So, for me, it was innate. It was our way of life.”
Both Walter and Jerome graduated from art school. Jerome and Towanda had gone to Saturday art school as well, said Singleton, who attended the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, the Ray Vogue School of Fashion Design in Chicago, the Tennessee Technology Center at Memphis to study carpentry, and the University of Memphis.
During her stint in Chicago, Singleton got a whiff of star power by being exposed to the fashion titans at Gucci, Willie Smith, Giorgio, and Armani. “I sewed for people while going to art school,” she said.
In 1975, Singleton worked for Ebony Fashion Fair, the world’s largest fashion traveling show. She did alterations as the wardrobe seamstress. This experience prompted her to look at fashion in a different light.
 “For me to draw and be creative, I like painting on denim,” said Singleton, who has taken the idea of painting clothes to painting a couch or chair she has upholstered. “I like the combination of art, fabric and wood.”
She also likes splashing colorful acrylic paint on chairs to give them an organic look. Some drawing is required in some of the artist’s finished upholstered chairs, such as a drawing of Prince, the ‘Purple One,’ and Dr. Seuss’ Cat in the Hat.
“You can pay your bills with upholstering. People need something nice to sit down on,” she said. “If I can combine art, fabric and different textures to my upholstery business, that would be ideal.”
Creativity is just one phase of Singleton’s output as an artist. Teaching is another. “I want to teach girls and guys how to sew,” she said. “I want to teach them sewing skills so they can make gifts.”
In her spare time – or rather time she commits to mentoring children – Singleton teaches sewing and upholstering periodically at Northwest Mississippi Community College in Senatobia, Miss.; Me & Mrs. Jones in the Cooper-Young community; and at Mustard Seed Studio: Sewing and Crafts Workroom.
“We’re trying to appeal to the youth to keep them busy,” she said. 

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