Fabric 'paintings' help blind feel art

CHICAGO Although replicating some of the most famous painting is not easy, Sally Barker created a system that she hopes others will follow.

Each painting takes Sally Barker between four to six months to complete.

"The three primary colors, red is satin, blue is wool, yellow is flannel and three secondary colors, orange is what they fall flag silk or taffeta, purple is linen and green is velvet," said Barker.

"I do it like a quilt, and the battering underneath tells you whether it's a light red or a bark red, so dark red is over cardboard and it's hard. Pink is over a light cotton batting, and so it's soft, so the harder the batting when you touch it the darker the color and so it gives more dimension to the picture."

Barker started replicating paintings in 2000 after she retired from a bank.

"I'm not really a good sewer, and even being poor sewer it's comes out alright," Barker said.

None of these are for sale or profit.

"The Blind Services Association here in Chicago is really the first one who gave me this opportunity to let a number of blind people see it," said Barker.

Her favorite is Andrew Wyeth's Christina World.

"It wasn't too hard to do, but it's got a special quality in the grass around the bottom; if you touch it you can feel underneath the brown suede covering these's lumps in there that gives you a feeling of dimension," Barker said.

All the fabric used is from clothes she finds in thrift shops.

For people like Lee Gilbert, who is losing all her sight, this is a dream come true. "Because, as a visually impaired person you think in terms of not really being able to see, you know what a painting of a picture is really about, because someone just describing it to you does not give you the full impact or what's going on with it, but when you feel through your fingers."

Sally Barker would very much like to teach people who to do this. For more information, the Blind Service Association is the contact agency and their number is (312) 236-0808 or e-mail blindsrvc@aol.com.

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