Born March 15, 1954 in Milford, Connecticut, Raymond Materson grew up in the Midwest. He earned a G.E.D. and attended Thomas Jefferson College as a drama and philosophy major, but was plagued by a serious drug problem. To support his habit, he committed a string of robberies with a shoplifted toy gun, was eventually arrested and sentenced to 15 years in a state penitentiary in Connecticut. To keep himself sane Ray taught himself to embroider, using unraveled socks for thread and a sewing needle secured from a prison guard. He stitched miniature tapestries depicting life outside prison walls and sold his works to other inmates for cigarettes. Most of Materson's miniature embroideries include approximately 1,200 stitches per square inch and measure less than 2.5 x 3 inches.
Since his release from prison in 1995, Ray has worked as a teacher, counselor, caseworker, program director, design consultant and speaker. With the help of his former wife Melanie, he published his autobiography, "Sins and Needles: A Story of Spiritual Mending." In 2003, he became the first artist to ever receive the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation's Innovators Combating Substance Abuse Award.
Materson's work has been featured in numerous exhibitions at The American Museum of Folk Art in New York City, The American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, MD, The Center for Contemporary Art in Seattle, WA, The Boston Metropolitan Museum of Art, and The New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York City to name just a few.
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