Mildred Baldwin is an accomplished fiber artist, painter and photographer. Born in Conway, South Carolina to a minister-Father and a professional seamstress-Mother, she is the 10th born of 15 children, and the sixth of nine sisters. Mildred realized her love of art at an early age. Her first art supplies were found objects, then pencil, pen & ink, and paint. She also was taught to sew, and on Sundays she and her sisters were allowed to play with their best dolls and would make clothes for them. Thus, her passion for sewing was born.

Mildred states, “My inspiration to create handbags comes from growing up in a home where I was surrounded by all kinds of fabrics, however I was attracted to the upholstery and tapestries, the carpetbags, old stuffed velvet and leather antique chairs with fine woodcarvings. I’d watch my mother sew on her Singer sewing machine and was struck with awe of her talent of making clothes and household items like curtains, bedspreads, and slipcovers.”

Mildred first began making bags at the age of 15 when she worked after school in a leather shop in Wilmington, NC.  For the last fifteen years, she has refined her craft and enhanced her designs of one of a kind bags and totes. Mildred’s bags are expressions of her love of design, textiles, fine leather, and African fabrics. Materials like burlap, hemp, muslin, canvas, linen, Kente cloth, mudcloth, and Kuba cloth are some of the essential materials she uses when constructing a bag. She prides herself on impeccable craftsmanship.

Ms. Baldwin is a studio photographer at the Smithsonian American Art Museum (Smithsonian Institution), is the recipient of numerous arts awards and honors, has exhibited her work extensively, and was featured in the book Gumbo Ya Ya: Anthology of Contemporary African American Women Artists. We are honored to welcome her to Detroit Fiber Works.

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