By Kara Witherow, Editor
Jewell Dabbs is an artist, but she doesn’t use watercolors or acrylics to create her masterpieces. Her canvases are fabric, and brocades, tassels and beads are her brushstrokes.
Dabbs creates banners – beautiful, artistic displays that proclaim the majesty and message of Jesus Christ and his love to all who see them.
A member of Statesboro First United Methodist Church, Dabbs is a great supporter of music and worship. For years she has spearheaded the effort to provide banners for Statesboro First UMC’s sanctuary. As a result, the church has a collection of handmade, one-of-a-kind banners that grace the sanctuary and enhance the congregation’s worship experience.
Dabbs first learned to sew on a treadle, or non-electric, sewing machine. Taught by her mother, she grew to love the art, and once she mastered it she graduated to French and heirloom sewing.
“I have been sewing for what seems like forever,” said Dabbs, who also crochets and knits prayer shawls for the church’s prayer shawl ministry. “I love the challenge of designing and creating a new piece and I love seeing the finished product.”
Since 2010, she’s made 10 banners. Most are specific to Easter or Christmas, but some aren’t seasonal. The first banner she and two friends created is called, “I am the Vine.”
Designed by another church member and translated to fabric by Dabbs, the finished banner measures 33 inches wide and 11.5 feet long and was used during the church’s stewardship campaign.
“We had the best time (making it) and it was beautiful,” Dabbs said. “It was on a brocade fabric and had grapes on it. It was really, really pretty. I had blisters on my fingers from the hot glue!”
This Easter, the church will display a banner that they’ve used before, but Dabbs says she’ll make a new one for the Christmas season. She’ll discuss this year’s Christmas cantata theme with Pierce Dickens, Statesboro First UMC’s music director, to make sure the banner’s theme aligns with the cantata’s theme, and then she’ll begin to dream and design.
“Usually she brings to me a sketch of her concept to ask if I think that it fits,” Dickens said. “Without fail it does! And the final product never disappoints; they are truly works of art.”
Her banners are such masterpieces that they have attracted attention outside of the church and community. Statesboro native and former church member Claire Bowen, now a resident of Atlanta and a member of Peachtree Road United Methodist Church, saw one of Dabbs’ Christmas banners during a visit home a few years ago. She was so awed by its beauty that she asked if she could borrow a banner for Peachtree Road UMC’s Christmas Carols by Candlelight service.
“Everyone was so impressed,” Bowen said. “My pastor said, ‘I have banner envy.’”
While the accolades are abundant, Dabbs doesn’t make the banners for any human recognition or glory. She sews and creates because she loves it and because it brings glory to God.
“God gave me this talent,” she said. “I can’t sing. I can’t play piano. I’m not musically inclined at all, but this maybe is my talent, and I want to use it the best way I can, and I love doing it. It makes me feel really good to go in there and see it hanging.”