Artist weaves scarves to honor her son’s legacy
On the wall near a corner of GAIL LISTON’s sunlight-filled weaving studio in her Wilmington home is a long column of baby photos. Each child pictured is named after Liston’s son, GREY LISTON, who died in a mountain climbing accident.
They’re among ten babies named after Grey, including Liston’s grandson – Grey’s nephew.
“That is a testament to his loving-kindness toward others as he came along,” Gail Liston says. “This spoke volumes to me about what people thought of him.”
The photos reveal part of the many ways loved ones continue to honor Grey Liston after his death in 2013.
With Gail Liston, it’s through her artistic weaving of one-of-a-kind scarves, that she named Greyt! Scarves
“I’m weaving with a purpose – in memory of my son, but also to raise money,” Gail Liston says.
Gail Liston takes requests for handwoven scarves and charges nothing. Instead, she asks recipients to donate money (she recommends $100) to the University of North Carolina Wilmington Richard Grey Liston Scholarship in Athletic Endowment to help student-athletes in the swimming and diving program.
Grey and his brother SETH LISTON both swam for the Seahawks. Their father RICHARD LISTON helps raise money for the scholarship through the memorial swim event Stoked To Go Out in Wrightsville Beach.
Grey Liston, a certified public accountant and musician, was twenty-eight when he fell while climbing Mount Olympus in Washington.
“The death of your child… it’s like your umbilical cord, even though it’s been long gone, it’s like a heartstring. It just snaps! And I was in shock.” Gail Liston says.
Gail Liston turned to her weaving. She made scarves, remembering how she used to weave some for Grey Liston to give his friends on the swim team for Christmas gift exchanges.
As she held one over her arm Gail Liston admired the design, deeming it a “great scarf,” which eventually led to her angel-inspired brand of neck hugs.
“This is my survival,” Gail Liston says. “I enjoy it, and I think of my son Grey.”
Each scarf is unique and has a “Greyt! Scarf” tag with three little gray beads sewn on it.
Gail Liston is a master weaver with about fifty years of experience. She previously worked as a research associate at North Carolina State University’s Textile Protection and Comfort Center.
She studied textiles in college, with weaving as an elective.
“I fell in love with it immediately,” Gail Liston says. “It’s like a combination of math and design and texture and color.”
Liston is unsure how many Greyt! Scarves she has made but estimates several hundred since 2014. She currently has more than eighty orders.
“I want it to be my grief therapy,” Gail Liston says. “And I want it to build the scholarship funding such that other people can benefit.”
Since its endowment in 2013, the scholarship has raised more than $81,000 and helped five members of the swimming and diving program so far, Seahawk Club Executive Director ADAM FEARING says.
Before making a scarf, Liston takes time to think about the recipient, just like she did with the scarves she made for Grey Liston’s friends. She would ask him what color hair they had, what they liked to wear and what were their favorite colors.
“I would think of something from there,” Gail Liston says. “So that’s what I do with people even now.”
Gail Liston uses silk in many of her scarves and may include cotton or linen for people living in warmer areas or wool for those in cooler climates.
An “investigative designer,” she also considers jobs, alma maters, hobbies, and other interests.
“I’m not a production weaver,” Gail Liston says. “These are one-of-a-kind, just as each person is unique and not to be found elsewhere.”
Liston spends about a week on each scarf. Her studio holds a loom, swift, and other weaving and textile tools, as well as collections of colorful yarn and pin cushions.
The room also has mementos of Grey, such as diplomas, athletic awards, and a Stoked To Go Out shirt.
“He was awesome,” Gail Liston says. “I was blessed to be able to care for him and bring him up and have him along for the ride.”
To view more of photographer Daria Amato’s work, go to dariaphoto.com
Want more WILMA? Click here to sign up for our WILMA newsletters and announcements.