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American, contemporary.
Born 1954, Milford, Connecticut.

Raymond Materson is a self-taught artist known for miniature pictures that he sews from threads of unraveled socks. He came upon this approach to making art while serving a period of 7 years in prison. Faced with seemingly endless time, he remembered his childhood and how he watched his Grandmother sewing peacefully for hours. His initial sewing efforts required colored threads that he got from pulling apart his socks. He fashioned a round plastic stretcher by cutting off the top ring of a plastic jar with a toenail clipper and stretched cotton fabric from boxer shorts or handkerchiefs to sew on. He began by sewing sports patches for himself and other inmates.

As he developed his skills, he began to sew pictures drawn from his life experiences. Some were raw images of his days of reckless abandon, other pictures were inspired by his former involvement with theater, by his sports heroes, and some by his dreams, demons, and aspirations. All of this was done with the fine orlon or nylon spun from a bag of socks that he would turn into his palette wound around pens and pencils. The pictures remained small enough to hold in one hand and increasingly more intricate with up to 1200 stitches per square inch. The picture served as a healing mirror to Raymond’s troubled life. His prison time saved his life from a destructive drug addiction and led to the discovery of his artistic abilities. He has continued creating art since his release from prison few years ago.


Recently, a book has been published, "Sins and Needles: A Story of Spiritual Mending", telling of Materson’s remarkable life from drug addiction to prison and the discovery of his artistic talents.

Ray Materson has had numerous gallery shows as well as being exhibited in museums from the New Museum of Contemporary Art, the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston, The Hudson River Museum, Baltimore’s American Visionary Art Museum, and The American Folk Art Museum. 

- Courtesy of American Primitive Gallery


Selected Exhibitions
1994, Raymond Materson: Pictures from Unraveled Socks, American Primitive Gallery, New York
1991, Peace, Albany Institute of History and Art, Albany

Selected Collections
American Visionary Art Museum, Baltimore

Selected Bibliography
Glueck, Grace, "ART REVIEW: Portraits of Life and Fantasy That Embody the Artists," New York Times, May 6, 2005.
Kimmelman, Michael, The Accidental Masterpiece: On the Art and Life and Vice Versa, Penguin Press, New York, 2005.
Rogers, Anne, "Outside Prison, 'Sock Thread' Artist Finds Success," Fiber Arts 30, no. 4, 2004.
Karlins, N.F., "Outsider Extravaganza," Artnet Magazine, January 30, 2003.
Materson, Ray and Melanie, Sins and Needles: A Story of Spiritual Mending, autobiography, Algonquin Books, Chapel Hill, 2002.
Fusselman, Amy, "Through the Needle: The Art of Ray Materson," Raw Vision, #17, Winter 1996-97.
Reif, Rita, "From Scraps of Prison Cloth a Miniature World Grows," New York Times,December 11, 1994.

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