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Artists among us

Dot Goodwin: military and art

Posted: February 1, 2013 5:01 p.m.
Updated: February 4, 2013 5:00 a.m.
Denise Schnese/C-I

The city of Camden seal displayed in council chambers is 48 inches solid mahogany and hand carved by Goodwin.

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Having been a soldier, artist Dot Goodwin has a knack for combining the worlds of creativity and discipline. Her past military experience includes service in the U.S. Army as an arts and crafts specialist after having completed basic training. She then continued her work in the Army as a civil servant in the Army Recreation Services division.

For many, art and soldiering may seem like somewhat of a dichotomy, but in Goodwin’s case the two are not mutually exclusive. Military bases not only consist of the soldiers themselves, but the families of soldiers. Those soldiers along with their spouses and children (who may or may not reside on post, depending on the assignment) are provided recreational services. Such services are generally geared toward improving soldier productivity and improved family dynamics. The Army recognized Goodwin’s talent for bridging the two worlds, and she excelled in doing just that.

Born in a farmhouse in Chatham County, N.C., to a farming family, Goodwin’s earliest memories growing up were on a farm. It was there, she said, that she learned the meaning of sustainability and the capacity for creativity.

“That gave me a solid foundation,” Goodwin said.

Living on a farm also gave Goodwin the opportunity to develop her imagination. She recalls many quiet moments alone which allowed her to develop her creative side.

Goodwin recalled a spiritual moment when she was sitting alone on a swing on her grandparents’ farm.

“That was my favorite place on the farm,” she said. “From there I could see a disk that someone had gifted me and it had two horse cutouts on it -- one convex and one concave -- and it was kind of a gold color so it was reflecting the sunlight. I was mesmerized by it and began to think … bend the light, don’t break the light.”

Goodwin said at that moment she prayed, asking God to teach her how to bend the light.

Her prayers were answered. Life seemed to provide all she needed to develop her talents and pay the bills. Goodwin cites key individuals who acted as guides along the way. She also learned to recognize the benefits of institutions, and the value of hard work. Those who helped and shape her include her step-grandparents, father, mother and sister. Goodwin stated that each played a distinctive role in her life.

“My step-grandfather would show me something and trust me do it right. He taught me how to drive a tractor and plow … he trusted me and encouraged me,” Goodwin said.

She said her step-grandmother gave her the opportunity to develop her artistic talents.

“She used to tear out butcher paper and tear it off and let me draw,” she said, “and I would draw horses with saddles on them. I was a stickler for detail even then.”

When Goodwin’s father had difficulty making ends meet on the farm, he joined the military and the family began to move to various bases around the country. She recognizes her father for teaching her the value of hard work.

“My father instilled in me if you do something, do it right. My dad was an airplane mechanic and an auto mechanic and I would help him rebuild engines on cars,” Goodwin said.

Circumstances and environment also influenced her.

While her father was stationed in California, the high school arts program was so advanced that it enabled her to take two and three art courses a year. She immersed herself in the program.

Goodwin’s mother also provided opportunities for her to practice her craft.

“I went to hobby shops at Hamiliton Air Force Base in Novato, Calif., with my mom,” she said.

When the family moved back to North Carolina, Goodwin began working for a manufacturing company.

“Before I joined the Army, I was working at Purolator (a filter manufacturing company) in Fayetteville N.C. I was good with my hands. I had worked there for five years and I was the only one who was doing the jobs that the men were doing (in production),” Goodwin said.

She recalled that the money was good, but the repetitive motions required for the job began to take a toll on her physically.

Her sister then talked her into joining the military. They joined the army together and served at the same post: Fort Jackson.

“In the Army, I worked the automotive craft shop as an enlisted military occupation specialist in recreational services,” Goodwin said. “They decided to set up an arts and crafts program at Fort Jackson and my sister and I were both assigned (to the post) in 1974. There, I was responsible for the automotive craft shop, wood shop, and multi-craft shop.”

A shift toward a civilian career in art began when she began to experiment with the printing press in the craft shop. People would see them and asked to buy them. At one point she decided to have a studio built in her backyard and began working part-time for the military.

Goodwin ended up in Camden because of her love of horses and nature.

“I happened to be a stable officer at Fort Jackson. So I was riding horses in the area and eventually decided to settle in Camden. I moved here in 1995 and set up a studio in one of the rooms in my house,” said Goodwin.

Later, she visited a local studio called the Artists’ Attic. She moved her business to the artist cooperative and has been there ever since.

“I had a goal to be a part of a collection of artists. Not starving artists, but making it,” she said.

Goodwin touts the importance of getting things done, even as an artist. She professes that bouts of inspiration feed her more creative pieces; however, she has always finds ways to sustain herself when inspiration wanes. She sees no dichotomy between inspiration and productivity, and encourages other artists (and non-artists) to do the same.

Goodwin’s achievements as an independent artist have included first and second place honors in ceramics at the S.C. State Fair; numerous awards from Camden ART; regular commissions from Fort Jackson; the University of South Carolina - Lancaster World Affairs Office; as well as Strom Thurmond’s office. Goodwin also earned a commission to create the city of Camden’s official seal, displayed in the Camden City Council chambers. Currently, her work consists of embossing, sculpture, casting and private commissions. Her artwork will also be featured at the upcoming Carolina Craftsman Classic show, March 1-3, where she has been a participant for 29 years.

As the proprietor of the Artists’ Attic, Goodwin promotes not only her own work, but the works of a number of skilled local artists. The cooperative includes artists Margaret and Fletcher Bass, Jane Hannon, Marta Herman, Emily Houde, Kathy Redner, Anne Starnes and Benira Sutphin. Located at 930 Broad St. in Camden, the Artists’ Attic is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and by appointment at 432-9955.

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