LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS 11)--He’s a man who admits, he has an obsession that he just can’t put down. But it’s that obsession that helps him connect with students, and teach them perseverance. Our Jonathan Wahl spent a day with.
“Nothing else matters. I can work out the problems. Put it all aside, and also analyze the things I’m going through,” explained Joe sitting in the room where he works on his tapestries.
Joe was first introduced to stitching by his great, great grandmother – a former slave. He would come home from school, feeling rejected, and she would be stitching on their front porch.
“She would say, ‘Son I want you to remember one thing. Don’t worry about what people say you cannot do, and I want you to find something that you can do, and do it,’ “ explained Joe.
At first that was the corporate world for Joe, but years later he picked up a needle, and started his first project.
“Embroidery and quilting allows me an opportunity to express myself. I can say controversial things in a way that does not turn people off, but allows them to look and read.”
Joe started by writing words on the back of jackets for protests, then got national television exposure when he made a shirt for president carter. Now that joe is retired, he works on large-scale tapestries.
“This quilt chronicles the first four years of president Obama’s first administration,” explained the artist. On it is everything from President Obama’s election slogan, to credit ratings. It’s a time-consuming process.
“Four and a half years, 5 years. And the message in this quilt, taking such a long time is perseverance,” explained the artist. He says it’s not just a hobby, it’s an obsession. He uses that obsession to tech others.
“I’m not in a hurry to finish, but I have to finish what I start,” said Joe, talking to a group of students at Providence High School.
“Let me tell you something. An artist can be very creative, but if you don’t understand business and how to operate you art on a business level, you know, have you heard of the term, starving artist?”
He challenged them, using the lesson’s he’s learned from stitching.
“Am I doing by very best? Am I committed to finishing what I started??
He left students be reciting a people he wrote. He says it every day before leaving his house.
“Life is beautiful, and it can be real. It all depends on my freewill. Going places and doing things, just naturally spreading my wings. Being honest and being real is the only way to give myself a fair deal. Keep my mind open and my sprites high. I can do anything, even touch the sky”
Here are some fun facts about Sunshine Joe:
- His nickname is J. Moose Sticking Needle. It was given to him by a student because he used a Moose puppet in his presentation.
- When he’s stitching, he does it in the imaginary land of “Moose Farm USA.” He created it after he was given his nickname.
- When Joe picked up stitching later in life, he did so after seeing Rosey Grier, a former football player doing needlepoint on TV. He thought if Grier could do it, so could he.
- Joe stitches six days a week. He says usually for 10-12 hours per day.
- At that rate it still takes him 4-5 years to complete an entire tapestry.
- Joe’s next big project will be his interpretation of “a literal 7 days of creation” as told in the Bible.
- Joe has done work for Dick Gregory, Sammy David Jr., and lots of world leaders.
- Joe has a business degree. He spent years as a Boy Scout executive and later in HR.
- He’s only made a total of 8 full quilts. One of his most special projects chronicles the life of his son.
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