Monday, May 25, 2009

Gone But Not Forgotten--Ray Dockstader UPDATED

On Memorial Day I learned that the stitchers in the D.C. area have lost one of their most famous and interesting stitchers--Raymond Dockstader. That's Ray above in a photo taken from the Washington Post, with a piece of his needlepoint and one of his many ribbons. He specialized in small 3x3 inch squares of needlepoint, with many motifs done in tent stitches, which were later assembled in groups and framed. I've seen a lot of his work exhibited at Woodlawn over the years, all of it wonderful, but I didn't mention all of it in my reports to you. Ray's work was hard to describe as it was original and personal. Sometimes I think you had to be present to study the pieces to grasp their artistic impulse. Ray had two small framed groups on display last March that I didn't describe. I wish I'd taken better notes so I could do that now. You'll have to be content with a quotation from the 2006 Woodlawn Plantation exhibit about Ray's work and my very favorite piece of his stitching, the parrot in a window. This is what I wrote then.

There were also many male stitchers who sent in cross stitch and needlepoint, plus a gentleman was demonstrating Hardanger when I was there. I am glad needlework is being done by both sexes these days. In fact, the winner of my annual "I'd Take This Home If I Could" award was stitched by a man. My favorite was one of four original pieces Ray Dockstader submitted (he showed several original pieces last year, too). This particular piece was the size of a piece of typing paper. It showed a yellow stucco wall with a few bricks peaking through crumbling stucco. There was a window cut in the wall with a black wrought iron balcony. Inside the window the walls were bright red and there was a parrot sitting on the wrought iron framed against the red wall. His pink head was cocked and he had an orange and yellow body, green wings and a blue tail. The whole piece was saturated in color, with touches of green elephant ear-type leaves and other lush green plants outside against the yellow stucco wall. Very nice piece, very different. The bright yellows and reds aren't my usual favorite colors but I thought it a very charming piece full of personality. He did three other pieces, all original, all probably in tent stitches (although I wasn't able to study two of his pieces closely). The largest was sort of a fabric collage in deep burgundy red with various fabric motifs scattered around. Another, also with a deep reddish brown as the main color, was a sort of abstract quilt pattern based on diamond shapes. It had other colors (navy, brown, yellow) but red was the main color. The last piece was another fabric-type collage and it won 1st place in its group. It was his version of a sampler with a marching line of terrier silhouettes on the bottom, a Bird of Paradise, flowers, strawberries, daisies, pears and a nude all scattered here and there. [I think this is the piece in the photo above, by the way.] It reminded me of a crazy quilt but without the fancy embroidery around the pieces making up the crazy quilt. Interesting work and nicely stitched but none of the pieces had the charm or design magic of the parrot in the window. Somehow there is always a piece that has personal appeal beyond its technical merit.

I hope the above brings some of Raymond Dockstader alive for you. I never met the man but I will miss him.  I loved that parrot!

Here is his obit in the Washington Post. If the Post asks you to sign up to read it, please do. You simply give them your email address and create a password. I've never gotten spam from the Post and you will want to read about Ray's amazing life and what he did when he wasn't stitching

More about his other interests.

His online memory book.

UPDATE:  A memorial written by a friend.

UPDATE #2:  Maggie Bunch, who wrote the memorial above, owns several of Ray's pieces and is allowing me to post photographs of them here.  First, here are several 3 1/2 inch square paperweights.  Ray worked these as doodles, creating whatever was on his mind through his hands.  Maggie was fortunate enough to be invited to his estate sale where she purchased these.

She says she doesn't know what they are filled with (walnut shells?) but it is larger and heavier than rice.

Maggie says to notice the subtle color changes in the purple edge at the corners and in the middle.  Each piece has touches like this.

Maggie had this doodle sampler which shows off his through processes framed by Total Framing in Fairfax, VA with one of Ray's needles still parked.

His estate donated a few pieces to Woodlawn Plantation and they part of Woodlawn's 50th Silent Auction.  Maggie was lucky enough to be one of the winners.

These two photos  (above and below) are images of a Navajo style rug.  It is 15 1/2 by 23 1/2 and was blocked and framed by Total Framing.

Maggie says she knows the orb is from her camera flash but she likes to think that it is actually Mr. D. smiling down at us.

Thank you for the wonderful needle art you shared, Ray.

Jane/Chilly Hollow
Main blog at


  1. I saw his pieces at Woodlawn - they were fabulous. The colors and composition were amazing. What a loss. Wouldnt it be amazing if there was a show of all of his pieces!

  2. I adored his original work so much! The parrot in a window piece was my very favorite but all of it was wonderful and some of it magnificent, like the huge piece made up of lots of his small squares. I am afraid much of it is scattered now, but I have hope that someday I'll see that parrot again.