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Now in her 88th year, self-taught Biltmore Lake artist Elizabeth Moody continues her lifelong passion for drawing, filling journals with sketches from memories, photographs from travels, drawings for the pure pleasure of the making. Many of us treasure the hand painted cards we’ve received from her at Christmastime.
“When I was a little girl I loved crayons and colors and pencils, and I was drawing things from the time I could hold a pencil or crayon. Back in those days my father would send his shirts to the laundry, and they put cardboard in the shirts, and I could hardly wait for Thursdays to come, and the laundry man to bring the cardboard. And then I would make paper dolls out of the cardboard. I loved it. And then as I got older, we had this woman who would cook for us, and I would lose my crayons or break my crayons, and she would gather them up and put them in a sock, and when I got so I didn’t have any crayons left, she would go and get out that bag. And I would be so happy ‘cause I would have all my colors.
“In the 2nd grade we had a poster contest at the public library in Greensboro (NC). I won that contest, and my poster got put in the library when I was in the 2nd grade. So that was a fun thing. And then when I was about 11, I had a real bad heart murmur. My mother bought me a paint set, and she made sure I had paper and crayons and such. My dad was a florist and raised orchids. He had a whole greenhouse full of ‘em. And he would bring an orchid in, and that’s when I got started in with orchids. I was like 14 or 15 years old. The originals were framed and put in my dad’s flower shop. So he would tell a bride, well, I’m gonna put one of these orchids in the middle of your bouquet. And then when my dad retired and sold his shop, those pictures got put up in my mother’s attic. Well, the silverfish got in ‘em and ate all the edges…
“When my husband and I sold our business, my daughter Gwen suggested that I make Christmas cards. And they’re not Christmas. They’re whatever is important in my life that year, or whatever I want to draw or do. So I started in 1983, I think, and I’ve done about 36 or 37 years of sending out 100 Christmas cards every Christmas.
“I usually start about May thinking about what I might want to do. By June I’ve got it drawn out. And by July I start drawing the cards. I work on them all summer. Then I put ‘em up for a while because I found out that colored pencils are just color, and they change, and they sort of become embedded in the paper, and they look different. So then I get them out about October, and freshen them up and see what I want to do with them, and cut my tissue paper, and about November I start thinking about all the people I want to send them to, and I have a list, and it takes me about a day or two to address all of the envelopes and get ‘em together and mail them out. I try to get them out in December.
“Before I started making my Christmas cards I decided I wanted to keep a journal. So I made a big spreadsheet, and I went back to the year I was born, and I started writing down as much as I could remember about my life. I wanted to make this journal, and this is the journal of my life. I decided I wanted to know at any one date what age my family was. I didn’t go outside of my immediate family, and so I saved these photographs from when I was little. (Reminisces). I have kept this book the whole time, so that I can go in here and pick out any one year and then I write what I can remember.
“And I did this just for me.”
—As told to Bob Ware