Since moving to Leland, Mississippi, Thomas has worked in a funeral home where he “digs and covers” graves for fifteen dollars a grave and where he also helps with the embalming. His art reflects these experiences; one of the clay figures he made during my visits was a dead man in a coffin. Thomas told me he was in the process of defining his ideal form for this subject and was unsatisfied with the results of his efforts. I asked him: “Where did you get the idea for a man in a casket, Son?”
“Well I do that kind of work and that rolled across my mind. I didn’t git that casket shaped just like I wanta. But whatever funeral home I be at next, I’m gonner pick up me a casket book and I’m gonner make a better casket than that. If you ain’t got it in your head, you can’t do it in your hand. You got to have it in your head what to do.
Ferris: “How would you make a better casket than that one?”
“I would look at the picture and get the future of it better. If you can’t hold it in your head, you can’t shape it. Just like a person’s writing, if you can’t make a A, you can’t make nar’n.”
From an interview with William R. Ferris.