Stories from intrepid reporters attending the Illinois Press Foundation Journalism Workshop at Eastern Illinois University
By Sara Dust
Mother McAuley Liberal Arts High School
Steve Meadows started his artistic career carving wood sculptures, but over the course of the past 10 years he has moved onto a new chapter of his life creating eclectic folk art.
For 25 years, Meadows crafted woodcarvings, which he sold wholesale. About 10 years ago the economy was changing and the “country of cutesy stuff was going out,” Meadows said. He always played with the “junk art” and always enjoyed it, so he decided to do it full time. Now he has a workshop/gallery filled with one-of-a-kind folk art pieces made of very unique mediums, such as old wagons, spoons and bottle caps. All of his items are available for sale.
Meadows gets his inspiration from God.
“God shows me everything,” he said, “I’m just a dumb old farm boy who was gifted with a talent.”
He prays every night to thank him for talents and the visions that he does have. On most of Meadows woodcarvings he has a branding on them, which states “created by God through the hands of S.D. Meadows.”
Other than God, Pablo Picasso inspires Meadows. When Meadows was 12-years-old he had a dream that he walked on the beach with Picasso, who is his favorite artist. When he was young he thought an artist was someone who was “dead and gone,” but Picasso showed him otherwise.
Meadows always wanted to be an artist, but classes were never available to him throughout grade school and high school. He attended four years of junior college, double the usual two years. He was staying in college to avoid fighting in the Vietnam War. Meadows was a bit of a “hippie,” as he says. Alas, the draft was changed to a lottery and he was forced to pick up arms in the Marine Corps.
After he served, he went to Eastern Illinois University for a year where he took five studio classes at the same time, something he would not recommend to anyone.
“I turned out with three A’s, two B’s, and a son,” he said.
He left his schooling being to provide for his family. This was his only formal training. He is, for the most part, self-taught, which he looks at as a good thing. He does not think he would be where he is today if he had more formal schooling.
Instead of being a stereotypical retiree, Meadows is far from throwing in the towel. His new chapter of his life is slowing down a little bit.
“What makes it good is I can actually slow my life down now and travel,” Meadows said.
He is working on new ideas and projects, such as his project to make pieces for Palestine’s Main Street. He has a shop on Main Street, and places his work along different points of the street. He likes that this allows people of all ages and incomes to enjoy his work.
His name in the folk art community is still continuing to grow and he is producing piece after piece after piece of incredible artwork. This is all despite the unfortunate passing of his wife, along with a semi-unsupportive community. Some people in the community have complained about the one piece of artwork already along Main Street.
His day-to-day life has changed a lot since his wife died. He wakes up every morning without an alarm clock. He works all day and has dinner at five o’clock, and then he takes his dog for a walk. His night shift ends at around nine o’clock. He enjoys logging on to Facebook in his free time.
Meadows is far from the end of his career. He’s getting ready to change things in his life again and God is showing him things “I’m here because he put me here.”