Thursday, 23 May 2013

Dorothy Ferry Strauser

While looking through embroidered items for auction recently, I stumbled upon the work of Dorothy Strauser. This jolly piece was described as embroidered which to my eye it jolly well wasn't - and so, drawn in and intrigued, I decided I need to know more about its maker. In fact, in the auctioneer's notes even the name of the artist was incorrectly spelled and so I became duty bound to put the record straight for Dorothy - all the more so since she passed away in 2005 aged 96 and couldn't answer for herself.

You can see here that a mark of her works is her initials: DFS. The F is for her maiden name, not her middle given name, which commenced with C. Dorothy, fondly called Dot, lived most of her life in East Stroudsburg where she was known as a gifted watercolor artist and maker of hooked rugs. She was born in 1908 in Hazleton to Grover and Mary Ferry. She married Sterling Strauser in 1928, her high school sweetheart, and they both went on to attend Bloomsburg University.

Dorothy was a self-taught artist who made hooked rug pictures from textiles she collected and dyed herself. Her works like World Peace above are much sought after. Besides being artists, Dorothy and Sterling were collectors and supporters of American folk art. In recognition of their efforts, authors Chuck and Jan Rosenak dedicated to the couple their exhaustive Encyclopedia of Twentieth-Century American Folk Art and Artists in 1991; the Folk Art Society of America awarded Dorothy and Sterling its Annual Award of Distinction in 1993; and Dorothy won COTA’s award for the visual arts in 2003. They have one daughter, Jill, born in 1933.


  1. Wonderful works. Thank you for introducing Dorothy to us.

  2. Hello, I'm Dorothy's granddaughter, Kathryn Zervos. You have done a beautiful job of introducing Dorothy to your site. She also was a highly talented painter, and worked in acrylics and watercolors. Please feel free to contact me if you'd like more information. One last thing -- Dot met Sterling in college, and they married after they graduated.

  3. Dear Kathryn,
    Thank you so much for getting in touch and correcting the details of Dot and Sterling's marriage. What was it like having such creative grandparents?

  4. Funny, I thought all grandparents were like mine. "Dot and Pop" were country people from farm families in Northern Pennsylvania with none of the airs you might expect from "the art community." Their home was a museum of outsider, folk and naive art, and as a young child I learned from my grandparents about the importance and brilliant vision of untrained artists.

    Also, Dot didn't dye the fabric she worked into her hooked rugs, as is often stated -- much of her fabric (especially during the 60s and 70s) was provided by folk artist Jack Savitsky's wife Mae, who brought her scraps from the textile mill where she worked. Dot preferred stretchy, synthetic fabric like pantyhose and nylon/polyester lingerie (much of the skin tones in her work is made up of nylon stockings and pantyhose). These new, "modern" fabrics (as opposed to cotton and wool) have retained their vivid color over time.

  5. Hello, I have a watercolor by Dorothy Strauser that depicts a Redcoat Soldier Drummer. It is signed and dated 1970. Can anyone give me more insight into this painting? Thank you