Mood, Martha, 1908-1972
The daughter of German immigrants, Martha Mood was born in Oakland, California in 1908. She studied at the California College of Arts and Crafts in Oakland in 1928–29, and earned her BA from The University of California at Berkeley in 1931. In the 1930’s, she started a toy business and began experimenting with photography. In the 1940’s she and her husband moved to Hawaii, where she worked on five Hawaiian photography books. After her divorce, she and her daughters moved to San Rafael, CA. She eventually married Texas photographer, Beaumont Mood, and they relocated to Dallas where she began studying ceramics, ultimately struggling to continue working in the medium as the result of a severe automobile accident. In 1952, they moved to San Antonio, and Martha Mood began working primarily as a stitchery artist. She taught art in San Antonio public schools and at The San Antonio Art Institute. She also had two solo exhibitions at the Witte Museum, one in 1953 that featured her photographs, and one in 1957 featuring her ceramic sculptures. Following a collaboration with American architect, O’Neill Ford, Mood also established a business creating various architectural design elements and home furnishings.
Mood is, however, best known for being instrumental in elevating the craft of stitchery to a fine art, and for being one of the first stitchery artists in the United States to create a large, well-known body of work. She received a number of important commissions from clients like Lyndon B. Johnson and other prominent Texans. Mood created her pieces and wall-hangings using a number of techniques —including appliqué, cross, running and daisy stitches, collage, embroidery— and often used numerous found fabrics and unique combinations of embroidery threads. Her wall-hangings typically revolve around natural themes related to plants and animals, in addition to her overarching interest in human subjects. San Antonio's Mexican-American community would prove to be an important source of color and design for Mood, in addition to her interest in modern art. In 1967 she exhibited her stitchery at the Witte, and also received the San Antonio Arts League’s “Artist of the Year” award, and Lester Kierstead Henderson began representing her the following year. Mood passed away in 1972, and some of her biggest exhibitions were held posthumously. In 1972, the University of Texas held a large exhibition of her work, and in 1975 in response to the increasing public interest in her work, Henderson organized an exhibit of 38 pieces, from appliqué to tapestry work, that travelled the country.