By Matt Hawkins
Bradley alumna Dana Baldwin ’81 always wanted to be an artist, but never realized it would take three decades to achieve her dream. She chose a dietetics career path and dabbled in textile art until life circumstances prompted a change.
Baldwin built a successful career and enjoyed recognition for her textile art as she raised her family on the East Coast. However, she returned to Peoria in 2011 after a divorce and realized it was time to follow her dream.
She quit a dietetics job during orientation to start a business in Studios on Sheridan near downtown Peoria.
“That was not what I wanted to do the rest of my life,” she said. “I’m a fiber artist in my heart. It’s a gift God gave me, and I had to use it.”
Baldwin’s Sheared Edge storefront is filled with bright colors of dresses and other handcrafted items. She pays the bills with her line of gloves but admits her heart lives for coats and dresses.
Many of her creative works give new life to old clothing found at secondhand stores. A pile of 20 sweaters typically makes one coat, and materials such as burlap are used in other creations.
Baldwin has received national and local recognition for her craft since returning to Peoria. She displayed in Vogue Knitting Live in New York City and at Chicago’s Adorn: Contemporary Wearable Art exhibit. She also completed a residency at Peoria’s Prairie Center of the Arts.
These accomplishments come from a lifelong arts immersion. She grew up in the fine arts cultures of Spain and New Orleans as the daughter of a military doctor and an artist mother. Her family toured Europe’s noted art galleries and continued the arts immersion Stateside.
The European influence shines in the bright color palette Baldwin uses in her clothing, as she remains attached to Spanish, Portuguese and North African works.
“I always loved art and was engulfed in it,” Baldwin said. “Art is what we talked about around the dinner table.”
Baldwin also is driven by a standard of excellence developed during college and graduate school. After Bradley, she entered Case Western Reserve University’s nationally-honored dietetics program, where she worked with future American Dietetics Association president Dr. Janice Neville. She then interned at Mayo Clinic.
Her abilities also have given her opportunities to meet and work with accomplished artists.
“I was fortunate to see high-caliber work in nutrition and art and to work with excellent people,” she said. “That made me want to try harder and gave me something to aspire to. I don’t want anything to be second rate.”
Baldwin credited Bradley for its role in giving her a foundation from which she could succeed. She now gives back as the “house mom” for the Chi Omega sorority house.
“Bradley provided a lot of opportunities for me,” she said. “I learned a lot about myself and the world, and it’s been an even better experience coming back and working with students.”