VELMA DAVIS DOZIER -
Honorary Life Member – 1974
Information for this article was obtained from “Legacies: A History Journal for Dallas and North Central Texas,” Vol. 16, No. 02, Fall, 2004. Look on pages 24-35 for “A Lady Blacksmith,” written by Ellen Buie Niewyk, Curator of the Bywaters Special Collections at the Hamon Arts Library, Southern Methodist University in Dallas. This article can be found by clicking here.
Thirty years ago an exhibition, A Salute to The Dozier’s of Dallas, was hosted at the Dallas Museum of Fine Arts to honor Velma and Otis Dozier’s lifelong work in the arts of Dallas. Otis has long been recognized as an artist in the Texas Regionalist movement of the 1930s and the 1940s. Velma, the more outspoken of the two, is not as well remembered today. And yet, she was an accomplished artist in her own right. Co-creator of the Dallas School of Creative Arts in 1933 and one of the founders of the Craft Guild of Dallas in 1948, Velma was extraordinary in her pursuit of complicated metal techniques and incorporating them into unique and well-made metalwork and jewelry, which today may be seen in the Dozier Study Room at the Dallas Museum of Art.
Alta Velma Davis was born in Elm Mott, Texas, a small town north of Waco in 1901. Her father had traveled constantly in his consulting business until he managed to settle his family down in Dallas in 1919. Velma had, early in her life, recognized an interest in the aesthetics of nature through studies of the flora in small towns across Texas. She pursued her interest in producing paintings of these flowers at the Aunspaugh Art School in Dallas, where she met Otis Dozier, a graduate of the school, for the first time. In 1926 she enrolled at Southern Methodist University, and later the College of Industrial Arts (now Texas Woman’s University) her elective course being metalworking. In 1932 she received her Bachelor of Science degree in painting, then received a Master of Arts in painting at Columbia University. In 1934, Velma and her friend Esther Webb, who attended classes with her in school, established the Dallas School of Creative Arts for jewelry, textile designs, and hand wrought articles in metals. They also taught leather crafts, sculpture, painting, etching, and wood engraving.
Velma and Esther attended a course in metalwork in 1936 at Menomonie, Wisconsin, where they were nicknamed “the lady blacksmiths.” Soon they hired more teachers in painting, drawing and printmaking, including Otis Dozier and others who taught commercial art and photography.
Velma and Otis Dozier were married in 1940 at the School of Creative Arts. They moved to Colorado Springs, where Otis taught and they enjoyed rock hunting, snow skiing, and exploring old ghost towns. The School of Creative Arts in Dallas was officially closed. Much of their equipment was sold for the war effort at this time. After the war, Velma and Esther reunited in Dallas and decided to reopen the school with a more community-supported operation. Working with a larger group of artists and craftsmen, they opened the Craft Guild of Dallas in 1948. At this point in her career, Velma began working with silver. She won much favorable recognition and awards for her “ceremonial” and “humorous” pieces.
The 1950s were a prosperous time for Velma and Otis Dozier. In 1955 they moved into a new contemporary house in East Dallas that included a painting studio for Otis and a metalworking studio for Velma. In 1957 Velma was able to work in gold, and they traveled to many countries where she studied ancient techniques and treatment of precious metals. Her use of these ancient techniques garnered her even higher praise and prizes. She wrote in 1964, “My main struggle now is to try to keep my work as simple and as primitive as if it were made 2,000 years ago.”
After Otis died in 1987, Velma encouraged her family to establish the Dozier Foundation to help professional Texas artists to travel as she and Otis had done. After her death in 1988, the Otis and Velma Dozier Travel Grant fund was established at the Dallas Museum of Art in 1990. Renowned Texas author A. C. Greene wrote of Velma Dozier, “Her best self-expression was, of course, her work. There is no question of her value there. But something often overlooked is her sense of humor and her exquisite balance, both brilliantly incorporated in her work….She was a work of art, a specific jewel that flashed brilliantly within the definition of the things she did and the life she lived.”