By JAMES BENNETT III, Kokomo Tribune
KOKOMO, Ind. (AP) — Dr. Keith Woods likes to create things. On the wall of his studio, more than 20 plaques shine with a certification that the United States patent office recognizes the originality of the chemicals he synthesized to fight cancer. However, there will be no more plates to add.
A self-proclaimed fiber artist, Woods prefers making smaller artistic quilts instead of the usual bed quilts. One of his artistic works has joined the Indiana State Museum’s permanent collection and is now on display in an exhibit called “Collecting Indiana: Recent Art Acquisitions”.
Woods made the art quilt, titled “IN This Together,” at the start of the COVID-19 pandemic. It took him about a week to do it.
“When this pandemic started, we were kind of reminded that there was a pandemic in 1918 that most of us knew nothing about,” Woods said. “So I went and did a lot of research. And I thought, well, I’m going to do this just as a historical reminder.
“IN This Together” is adorned with images depicting life at the start of the pandemic. Among the images are a mask, hands under a water tap and two rolls of toilet paper – one full with extra fabric hanging from the comforter and another down to its last square of paper.
Woods originally intended to donate the quilt to the Howard County Historical Society. However, the historical society recommended that she call the Indiana State Museum instead, where the quilt could be handled and stored by experts.
Woods said he would likely wait for warmer weather to visit his quilt at the museum.
“Once in a while, when these kinds of things happen, it seems odd that it’s happening to you,” Woods said. “Looks like someone else is doing this stuff.”
Sitting in his living room, the fiber artist recalled a previous artistic achievement.
While studying an arachidonic acid cascade during his career as a chemist for Abbott Laboratories, Woods realized that the double bonds he observed looked like blank sheet music.
“I thought, ‘Oh, if we just put some notes on these things, we could write a piece of music.'”
With the help of his colleague, Richard McCroskey, Woods added notes and ran it through a biological route. The “dumb little piece of music” had an asthma attack halfway through, then resolved it with drug treatment.
People started asking for copies, so Woods and McCroskey started composing new songs.
Woods explained that new chemicals are cataloged with a set of numbers. The melodies he and McCroskey produced after their first song translated these numbers into corresponding notes on a musical scale. In 1996 they had a 14-track album titled “Molecular Music: Abbott’s Greatest Hits”.
A copy of the CD is displayed in Woods’ living room on the tree-shaped shelf he built.
In preparation for a meeting with managers around the world, Abbott’s CEO purchased 500 copies of the CD to distribute at the conference. Before long, thousands of copies were being sent overseas.
When the Austrian branch of Abbott Laboratories celebrated its 25th anniversary, Woods and McCroskey flew out to hear the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra perform one of their compositions.
“Once in a while these crazy things happen, and it’s like, ‘When did this become my life?'” Woods said.
The retired scientist also compares the quilt to his work as a chemist.
“You take small pieces and put them together in very specific ways to create something more elegant, more useful and more functional,” he said.
Woods said he sees the world through a scientist’s lens — methodically breaking projects into small chunks and solving problems as he works — but wonders if he’s a scientist. formation or nature.
Most scientists, Woods suspects, are scientists by nature. There is a sense of curiosity that drives their investigations.
“In my career, I was an experimenter,” Woods said. “So I’m not afraid to fail; I’m not afraid to try new things. …I just do it.
Woods first discovered the quilting hobby 12 years ago. His mother was determined to make quilts for each of her grandchildren and enlisted the help of her son. After some time reading instructions for her mother, Woods asked if she could teach her how to use the sewing machine.
It all started with a quilt made from recycled materials. Then, in six months, he had made five “real” quilts. Woods said he still has the first real quilt he made — it sits on his bed.
In total, Woods estimates he made at least 20 quilts, some large enough to fit a king-size bed. It only took a week and a half to put together one of the newest quilts he and his mother made.
Although Woods knows several other male quilters, he considers the craft to be female-dominated. He doesn’t necessarily think more men should start quilting, but if they’re interested in the art, he encourages them to give it a try.
“There are these stereotypical male and female roles in life. Law? And I don’t know exactly why, in some cases. Because if I need to do something, I’ll do it,” Woods said. “I think most people are just not adventurous and willful, most people are afraid of failing.”
He added that the hobby is also expensive – a standard bed quilt can cost up to $400 to make.
“The thing is, a bed quilt is so big, and how many bed quilts do you need?” Woods asked. “And they are expensive to give away. And they are expensive to sell when people don’t want to spend $500-600 on a quilt.
Woods’ true passion is art quilting, although it took him a while to consider himself an artist.
He featured several quilts in a show organized by the Kokomo Piecemakers Quilt Guild and won an award at the Howard County Fair.
With art quilts, Woods can experiment more often. For example, he began creating double-sided quilts, incorporating designs on both sides of a piece instead of leaving one side blank. Plus, he found a way to turn familiar images — like an owl or the Mona Lisa — into kaleidoscopic new works of art.
As he perfected the craft, Woods learned to reproduce patterns without the aid of instructions. If it comes across a pattern that requires more precision, it simply redraws the pattern.
He began to write his own patterns for pieces he felt were unique and potentially difficult to understand without instructions.
His first pattern, which Woods wrote a few years ago, tells readers how to make a Christmas tree that could hang around the house. He made the first quilted Christmas tree for his mother, who didn’t have enough room in her house for a real tree. When more and more people started asking for his own, he decided that teaching them how to make a tree would be easier than trying to make and sell the trees himself.
Woods is now working on a second design that will teach quilters how to create another tree – this time with a background and additional fabric foliage that hangs from the quilted image.
“IN This Together” will be on display at the Indiana State Museum through July 17. Tickets are $17 for adults, $16 for ages 60 and older, $15 for students, and $12 for children ages 3-17.
The Indiana State Museum is located at 650 W. Washington St., Indianapolis.
For more information, visit indianamuseum.org or call 317-232-1637.
You can buy quilts made by Woods, or detailed instructions for the Christmas tree pattern he wrote, online at www.etsy.com/shop/keithwwoods.
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