Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Helen and Bill Kelley in Marion, Indiana, with two of their daughters - July 2008

The Quilters Hall of Fame likes to keep track of its Honorees and their families as the years roll by. However, sometimes the news is not so joyful. William R. Kelley, husband of TQHF 2008 Honoree Helen Longfield Kelley, passed away on February 14, 2015.  Honoree Helen Kelley preceded her husband in death quite unexpectedly shortly after she was inducted into the hall of fame in July 2008. Helen & Bill Kelley had made their home in Minnesota since 1962.

Bill Kelley will be remembered by his friends and family for his honorable, generous man committed to God, country, community, and his family. He was a graduate of Wayzata High School and Yale University and served as an Officer in the US Marine Corp. He was employed by General Electric for many years and later was a pioneer in computer consulting in Minneapolis. The Kelleys made North Como Presbyterian Church in Roseville their church home where they were very active. With his wife Helen, he was a longtime supporter of Minnesota Quilters and North Como Quilters. Bill enjoyed participating in the Northstar Storytelling Guild in Minnesota and had been active in Toastmasters. He enjoyed serving others and delivered Meals On Wheels until three weeks before his death. A memorial service was held to celebrate his life Friday, Feb. 27th at New Life Presbyterian Church in, Roseville, MN. 

Life as an Unexpected Quilt Teacher and Author

Helen Longfield Kelley was inspired to do needlework as a result of her mother’s fine craftsmanship and bought her first sewing machine, a Singer Featherweight, in 1946.  Kelley taught herself to quilt as an about-to-be bride. In 1972 she made a quilt for her daughter's wedding from quilt blocks garnered from friends around the world. The quilt ended up being featured in the Minneapolis Tribune and the news coverage opened unexpected opportunities for Kelley to teach quilting in the Minneapolis community. In 1978 Kelley was a founding member of the MinnesotaQuilt Guild and its organizing president, 1980-82. Eventually the quilt guild numbered over 1500 members. An international teaching career was born soon after 1978. Criss-crossing America, Europe and New Zealand, Kelley spread the "gospel of quilting" wherever she went with great enthusiasm and even humor. Her teaching talent led to seven books and to an invitation to become a columnist in Quilters Newsletter Magazine in 1983, the oldest continuously published magazine dedicated to quiltmaking and quilt history. Her book, Every Quilt Tells a Story, is a compilation of her column “Loose Threads” and was such a success that a second book, Joy of Quilting, followed. Georgia Bonesteel wrote in 2007. "Many readers kept her articles right on their bed stand, just like a good novel."

Among the many honors that Kelley received throughout her career in quilting and service to her community are: 1995 - Artist of Distinction, Fiber/Metal Arts of Minnesota; 1998 - Minnesota Quilter of the Year; in 1999 - Her quilt Renaissance was selected by a prestigious national committee of quiltmakers and quilt historians as one of the 100 best quilts of the 20th century, a project organized by the International Quilt Association; 2000 - Minnesota Textile Center’s Spun Gold Award. Kelley continued to lecture, teach, and exhibit her work until her unexpected death in August 2008. A 30-year retrospective of her work was on exhibit in Marion, Indiana, at The Quilters Hall of Fame during Celebration 2008.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Mimi Dietrich to be Inducted in 2015

Marie Webster must be smiling…present day hand applique champion Mimi Dietrich has been selected as the 2015 Honoree in the Quilters Hall of Fame. For twenty-five years Mimi has taken the fear out of learning to applique. No longer dreading the “A Word”, quilters discovered they could succeed through Mimi’s teaching and her best-selling books…. Applique came roaring back just as it had boomed in the mid-1800’s, and once again, out of Baltimore. 

 — member of TQHF Selection Committee

The Quilters Hall of Fame is pleased to announce that author and quilt teacher Mimi Dietrich will be the 2015 Inductee during the annula TQHF Celebration in Marion, Indiana, July 16-18, 2015.

Honors are not new to Mimi. The International Association of Professional Quilters named Mimi their 2013 Teacher of the Year! 

Mimi has seventeen books to her name. The one that has probably touched the hearts of thousands of quilters and non-quilters alike is Pink Ribbon Quilts: A Book Because of Breast Cancer. That Patchwork Place has been the proud publisher of all of Mimi's 17 books.  Here are a few of her book covers from her website. 

Come back next month to read an in-depth interview of Mimi Dietrich, how quilting changed her life as well as the lives of those she has taught and the resurgence of the popularity of Baltimore Applique quilts.

Meanwhile, be sure to follow Mimi on her Facebook page here.

Until next month!

Karen B. Alexander
Independent Quilt Historian
Past President of The Quilters Hall of Fame

PS: Remember the public has to submit the names for the Selection Committee of The Quilters Hall of Fame to consider someone for induction into the hall of fame. They can't do it without your in put! Click here to learn more about nominating someone.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Ruth B. McDowell - 2014 TQHF Inductee

Ruth B. McDowell Selected for Induction 

Celebration 2014 — July 17-19

 by Karen B. Alexander

McDowell’s Induction ceremony and dinner will be held 
July 19, 2014, 6:30pm
at the Roseburg Event Center in Marion, Indiana.

As the late 20th century quilt-revival steamed its way into the 21st century, some were predicting that the interest in quilting would begin to finally wane. There goes one more negative prognostication down the drain! Quilting is alive and well in the 21st century with another new movement under way — The Modern Quilt Movement.

As we celebrate this new wave of quilting interest, the accumulated documentable history of this wonderful art and craft continues to grow as well. It is hard sometimes for new aficionados of this field to grasp just how far the field of quilt history has come since the founding of The Quilters Hall of Fame in Northern Virginia in 1979 and the founding of the American Quilt Study Group in Northern California in 1980.

One of the purposes of The Quilters Hall of Fame is to celebrate quilting as an art form by honoring the lives and accomplishments of those people who have made outstanding contributions to the world of quilting and by collecting and preserving and documenting materials related to those selected to be inducted into The Quilters Hall of Fame. As this body of information grows, it is fascinating to cross-reference the paths taken by each Inductee and the influences that shaped each career and life.

"Amaryllis" copyright 2014 Ruth B. McDowell

Our 45th Honoree, Ruth B. McDowell of Colrain, Massachusetts, graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1967 with a B.S. in Art and Design. Here is a young woman primed by education as well as natural proclivity to respond to the world of design and color around her. What caused an architectural student to steer her course toward quilting? 

As chance would have it, among other influences of the times, it was another Honoree of the Hall of Fame’s work: Ruby Short McKim. After reading McKim’s 101 Patchwork Patterns in 1972, McDowell was particularly intrigued with McKim’s geometric renderings of flowers.  She found them “ graphically interesting, botanically recognizable and straightforward to piece with traditional methods.”  

McDowell’s interest in herbs predated her interest in quilts by many years and she was an active member of the Herb Society of America. After making a few traditional quilts — but still thinking about those geometric McKim designs and having been recently motivated by a Nancy Crow workshop (another TQHF Inductee)  — McDowell found herself wandering around her herb garden with graph paper and pencil in hand, looking for the perfect plant/leaf adaptable to graph paper. 

Her eye considered rosemary and lavender and even lemon balm. Hmmm, none easily pieced or appliquéd. Then her eye fell on the lowly celandine (Cheliodonium major). (See page 18 of McDowell's book "Art & Inspirations" for a photo of this quilt.)

A sketch drawn, a forty-inch square quilt, machine pieced with a single yellow flower appliquéd in the center, emerged. “When it was finished, I felt certain this was the beginning of what I was meant to do.”  A series of herb quilts ensued. 

It would be tempting to say at this point that “the rest is history”, but that robs us of the story of a colorful, creative, artistic life

"In a 30-year career, as a self supporting professional artist, I have made around 530 quilts." 

The inspiration for most of McDowell’s 530 quilts to date has come from nature. Her artistic style has shown consistent development and her unique approach to pieced quilts has inspired ten books. McDowell’s 1982 “Twelve Dancing Princesses (Or The Shoes That Danced Themselves To Pieces)” and “The Yellow Maple” (1988) — which won the Quilt National 1989 People's Choice Award — were included in the 20th Century’s Best American Quilts, selected by a Blue Ribbon panel of the top foremost quilting experts of the late 20th century from many different fields of quilting expertise. 

"Yellow Birches - March " copyright 2013 Ruth B. McDowell

"There is a unique quality to a pieced quilt, quite different from an appliquéd, fused or painted quilt, which has to do with the way it is put together….giving the final quilt a structural integrity that is very different from surface designs."  Ruth McDowell

Since that first quilt in 1972, McDowell has shared her exceptional design and teaching skills all over the world and her award winning quilts are highly sought by collectors. Her work has been exhibited in juried, invitational, and solo shows nationally and in Canada, Europe, Australia and Asia.

McDowell wrote her first book, Pattern on Pattern (Quilt Digest Press) in 1991. Her 1996 book Art and Inspirations: Ruth B. McDowell (C&T Publishing) was a retrospective of Ruth’s career at that point and features full-color illustrations of 97 of her quilts, many color details and drawings, and a fascinating text. 

As Ruth refined her understanding of both the designing and teaching of pieced quilts, she rewrote and further expanded her best-selling book Ruth B. McDowell's Piecing Workshop and now offers on her web site several of her titles as print-on-demand and e-books. Visit her site by clicking here to see many of her more recent quilts and some that are for sale. 

Please join us in Marion, Indiana, July 17-19, 2014 to celebrate and honor the art and career of Ruth B. McDowell.

"Summer Visitors"  copyright 2013 Ruth B. McDowell

"The many figured fabrics I use add an incredible richness to the surface patterning, as well as connect the quilt to the use of fabrics in other times, places and lives." Ruth McDowell

Sources & References

Quilters Newsletter Magazine, Vol. 17, No. 6, June 1986 (Issue #183, pg. 8)

McDowell, Ruth B. Art & Inspirations. Lafayette, CA. C&T Publishing, 1996

Quilters Newsletter Magazine, Vol. 45, No. 2, April/May 2014 (Issue #439, pg. 24-27)

Fiber Art Now: Fiber Arts & Textile Magazine

Click here to see more McDowell quilts -

Click here for Ruth B. McDowell website:

Friday, May 3, 2013

Meredith Schroeder-2013 Inductee

Meredith Schroeder – 2013 Inductee
By Karen B. Alexander

The late 20th century quilt revival brought forth women entrepreneurs in the 1970s and early 80s who succeeded beyond anyone’s wildest expectations at the time, theirs included perhaps. Several TQHF Honorees come to mind, the latest being Meredith Schroeder of Paducah, Kentucky.

Not all who have impacted the world of quilting internationally grew up quilting. That may come as a surprise to some. Meredith Schroeder, co-founder of The National Quilt Museum (formerly the Museum of the American Quilter’s Society) and the 2013 Inductee into The Quilters Hall of Fame, had no quilts in her family home as she was growing up and in her youth doesn’t even recall seeing anyone actually making a quilt.

“My first exposure to quilts probably came through my husband’s grandmother who was from Princeton, Indiana,” she related in a recent interview. “I actually grew up in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania until I was three or four, then Philadelphia. We moved to Paducah when I was 15 and I graduated from high school in Paducah. My father, a construction engineer, helped build a large industrial chemical plant here in this area.”

Discovering Quilts and Quilt Books

The family into which Meredith married included many avid antique hunters. After marriage, Bill and Meredith often conducted antique shows for schools as fundraisers, eventually founding Collector Books, Inc. publishing collectors’ price guides. Due to husband Bill’s interest in antique embossed mason jars, mason jars became the focus of their first collector’s guide in 1973. Many more antique guides followed.

In the fall of 1983, after some 10 years in the publishing business, the Schroeders attended their first NQA (National Quilting Association) quilt show in Bell Buckle, Tennessee. They admired what they saw but were surprised to discover that only ribbons were awarded, not monetary prizes. They both felt that quilters needed to be recognized with monetary awards, not just ribbons.

Published by American Quilter's Society 1992

It became apparent to them very quickly that quilt books were selling well and were a natural fit with what they were already publishing.  Their first quilt book, Collecting Quilts, by Cathy Florence, was an enormous success and helped launch the highly popular new division of their growing publishing company.

Meanwhile, the Schroeders continued to attend quilt shows after that first NQA show. In fact, Meredith related “you could say Bill inadvertently began our quilt collection as a result of those trips. Being a hunter, Bill liked a particular duck quilt he saw.”  The $1,000 price tag initially shocked them.  But they did purchase it, eventually.

The Schroeder children were grown at this point. But after that first trip to Bell Buckle, members of the family began to go with them to quilt shows with the specific assignment of helping them figure out what it might take to produce such a show themselves. “Ours was a family business. We already knew how to work together; so we just started brainstorming,” Meredith warmly related. “Eventually we set a time line for starting the show.  At that time, Paducah had just built a new Executive Inn with 400 bedrooms and a convention meeting center. Paducah had never had anything of that size before, so we decided we could actually do this in Paducah after all.”

Published by American Quilter's Society 1988

The First AQS Quilt Show

The first Paducah AQS quilt show was 1985. It’s still going strong today and has expanded to other cities as well. In that first year, the Schroeders told the Executive Inn’s meeting planners to expect 5,000 people. The Executive Director was dubious, to say the least, but 5,000 people did indeed show up! The same Director told them later that he had expected “200 blue-haired ladies.” Meredith and I both chuckled at this point in the interview at how difficult it has been for the public to shake that iconic image that “quilters are little old gray-haired ladies”. They may indeed grow gray hair after years and years of quilting, but most don’t start out old, we both agreed!

As the organizing of that first show began, Meredith would eventually enlist the help of Annette Riddle, Marty Bowne, and Klaudeen Hansen. Meredith and daughter Lynn worked on the educational angle, and education remains a favorite area for Meredith today. Eventually Marty Bowne would become editor of the American Quilter magazine and guide the magazine for almost 10 years.

A First in Quilt Show Prize Money

2002 Best of Show Winner with Meredith Schroeder far left.

Offering cash awards for 1st, 2nd and 3rd  place,  Best in Show and Best Handwork was a goal from day one.  “We awarded $25,000 in the first year and provided the awards money ourselves,” Schroeder thoughtfully noted.  “We were absolutely the first people to offer cash awards at this level. Within a couple of years we were able to raise the money for the awards from other sponsors and offer an even wider variety of awards. We have given away over $3 million in prize money, directly to quilters, since we began AQS.”

Winner's Bay photo op

The biggest challenge has always been rooms and space.  “There really was no other more humongous challenge”, Meredith related. As the show developed and expanded to five days, the number of attendees kept multiplying until Paducah ran out of hotel rooms.  “This is not a problem most convention planners have to deal with. But we enjoyed working together as a family and as a team in spite of that.  Although I feel I’m a delegator by nature, I also go around and make sure things get done.”

A Community Pitches In

As the numbers increased, the options for housing got more and more creative as they started busing people in from nearby cities or housing people in private homes in Paducah.  The Visitors’ Bureau itself eventually set up a “Bed & Breakfast” network, including church people.  “Those who participated were free to charge, of course,” Meredith related, “but most of them wound up donating the money to the Symphony or to their churches.”

Just how does a community of this size feed thousands of people?  Again, the options got creative.  In one instance, four different churches chose to set up meals during the annual Big Event so that quilters had a choice between local restaurants or simple but nutritious meal where they could sit and relax for as long as they liked.  Today we have many food vendors outside the convention center offering everything from strawberry short cake to turkey legs.

Published by American Quilter's Society 1990

The quilters also helped to transform downtown Paducah: “For the first few years, downtown was pretty bleak, so the money the influx of thousands of quilters brought in helped bring about renovations in Paducah. And more hotels eventually were built on the edge of the city.”

In fact, several years down the road, the city would eventually invest in a 40,000 square foot poured concrete floor over which a huge tent is raised each year, with the all important “necessaries” just outside the back door. Today this pavilion has added to the show’s exhibit space, though there are still many satellite exhibit sites scattered about the city. The vendor's mall grew steadily each year as well, offering a vast world of tools, fabrics, patterns, and the ever changing techniques & embellishments.

Eventually the owners tore down the Executive Inn.  I guess we “wore them out,” Meredith chuckled.  “The downtown area is suffering from fewer tourists as a result. We’re working on getting a replacement hotel. It’s a big challenge. There aren’t a lot of people investing in hotels in smaller-population cities these days.”

The Dream – The Museum

With husband Bill in 1991 at groundbreaking for the future museum.

When asked about the building of the museum, Schroeder was quick to answer: “The idea for the museum was present from the beginning.”  In other words, from that first year, the Schroeders offered the winners a choice. They could keep their winning quilt or they could take the cash award. If they took the cash, the quilt was added to the growing museum collection. “There are only four best of show quilts over the almost-30 years that we do not have in the collection,” Meredith shared.  “One quilter won twice and chose to keep both of her quilts, but most of the winners accepted the cash” and the prestige of having their quilt in the collection.

Some might romanticize the owning and running of a quilt business, I suggested, asking her: Do you think running a quilt-related business is any different from running any other business?  “Yes and no”, Meredith answered, chuckling.  “There are a lot of advantages and a lot of drawbacks.  This is a 24/7 job. Everybody in the family contributed ideas, so working together as a family is a big reward. We’d go on “vacation” and come back with all kinds of new ideas, since we never really leave the job.  Mostly we’d talk and read a lot about business whenever we left Paducah.”

There were setbacks along the way: “In 1996, our house burned during the show.  We were taking down quilts on Sunday night and the fire chief called. There was a big electrical storm and lightning struck our home.  One year my mother died right before the show opened, and last year (2011) we had a flood, so we could not get to the convention center.  It was completely closed off to us by the large floodgates.  That Sunday night, we moved everything from the convention center to the pavilion and began looking for somewhere to have classes, vendors and some exhibits. We found empty buildings at the mall for vendors and used a church for the classes and exhibits. They had to add electrical wiring to the buildings at the mall. It took all night long, yet we were able to open on time the next morning. In spite of it being Easter Sunday, the churches gave us tours of their buildings and worked with us all day, helping us to determine possible exhibition spaces and teaching spaces.  It was pouring rain all day.  We had to limit vendors to one booth, not two. Some vendors were upset, but we had no choice but to let the show go on in a way that could include all vendors.”

Big Business and Quilts

Some in the quilt world have questioned the “marriage” of “big business” and the “old community tradition” of quilting. But is the idea of “big business” really new in the quilt world?  After all, direct-mail marketing of quilt patterns via newspaper ads and sale of fabric and quilt kits that arose from that have been around for at least 100 years.  However, time and technology have definitely brought more changes to the world of quilting.

When asked if she was now seeing more male influences in the quilt business world today, compared to 15-20 years ago, Schroeder replied “I see the influence of men most dominant in the mechanical side, the technology, the sewing machines and other tools - the machines that do the programmed sewing. I think it takes both men and women to run a successful quilt business.  And I don’t have any problem with male ‘celebrities’ in the business.  It just brings more attention to quilting, which is a good thing for the industry.”

“Other changes have occurred,” she added. “The fabric industry has exploded, plus the social media on the Internet. Being from a different era, I find the social media amazing, but it’s positive that people want to find new ways to communicate.  The bottom line is to make communication easier and faster, and to make more information available. If you’re the least bit interested, you can find whatever you want. And yes, we’re printing e-books and preparing manuscripts for iPads. We’re also really excited about our new fiction series by Ann Hazelwood*, which has been well received.”

The Emergence of The Modern Quilt Guild
and the Future of Quilting

When asked about the new “Modern Quilt Guild” movement and just what it is they want, Schroeder’s insightful reply was, “The new modern quilt movement is spectacular.  I’m sure they will listen to a few ideas from our older quilters but they don’t necessarily want to be restricted by some of the rules that we have placed on people, to do things a certain way.  They want to create beauty without too many rules. Today’s quilts are covered with quilting, but my perception is that the modern quilters are more interested in design, not so much the “quilting” elements. We (AQS) will be the sponsor for the ‘best of show’ this February at the first international gathering of the Modern Quilt Guild to be held in Austin. I will be there and I am looking forward to it. Each event has its own personality.  Houston is more of a market, where ours is more of a ‘show,’ with the quilts on center stage. The Modern Quilt Guild will make their own mark as well.”

As to the future of quilting, Schroeder concluded, “The financial problems in our country may cause a cutback on hobby spending or discretionary spending; but I feel these hobbies are passions and people will find a way to feed their passions, even in difficult times.”

As Meredith Schroeder stands at this pivotal point in her journey, she looks back and looks forward with thanks and excitement at the new adventures ahead. “It’s been a fantastic journey, with lots of twists and turns along the way.  It’s nothing I would have imagined when I graduated from high school. When I married and had three little kids running around, and Bill was working in a chemical plant, I never would have imagined that we would be running international quilting shows from Paducah. I give the Lord tribute, since I believe He guides our steps.”

As her own future, Schroeder says, “I’m in the process of hiring someone to take over the reins of the business now and we’re working through the transition.  Once again it is a time of new beginnings. And as far as a personal goal, I’ve made a quilt, which I want to finish before the induction ceremonies at the Hall of Fame this summer!”

Click here to go to a registration form.

*Ann Hazelwood has written several books for the American Quilter’s Society including “100 Things You Need to Know If You Own a Quilt,” “100 Tips from Award-winning Quilters” and “100 Sweet Treats by and for Quilters.” “The Basement Quilt” is her first work of fiction.

** This article is based on a phone interview conducted November 2012.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Cuesta Benberry's Quilt Block Collection

The following article written by Karen Alexander was first published in the Spring1999 edition of The Quilters Hall of Fame newsletter as a special committee prepared about one-fourth of Cuesta Benberry's enormous quilt block collection for exhibition.  Benberry was interviewed for this article by phone in February 1999.

Cuesta Benberry being interviewed for news article 
in the Marion, Indiana newspaper, July 1999

Click on the article to enlarge to easier reading.

What would our quilt museums do without Volunteers! What would any community do without volunteers! Volunteers are the backbone of the American system of "giving back and passing it on".

The Quilters Hall of Fame would surely not exist today were it not for all the faithful volunteers, especially all those in Marion, Indiana. The quilters of Indiana and the residents of Marion, Indiana have faithfully given of time and talent since Founder Hazel Carter separated QHF from The Continental Congress in Arlington, Virginia, created a separate entity called The Quilters Hall of Fame, and moved it to Indiana in 1992. Click here to read that whole story.

Today the bulk of the Benberry Collection -- her quilts and her ephemera -- is housed at Michigan State University Museum.  You can read that story by clicking here or watch a video by clicking here.  

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Ardis & Robert James Keep on Giving

Quilt center receives $8M gift for expansion, endowment

The International Quilt Study Center & Museum
The International Quilt Study Center & Museum
The thousands of guests from around the world who each year visit Quilt House, home to the International Quilt Study Center & Museum, now look forward to seeing even more inside thanks to planned expansion of the museum.

The Robert and Ardis James Foundation has made a $7 million gift to the University of Nebraska Foundation’s current Campaign for Nebraska for expansion of Quilt House on East Campus.

The expansion will involve an addition on the west side of the building of about 12,400 square feet and will feature new gallery space for more exhibitions as well as additional room for quilt collection storage and care, education and museum operations.

About his gift and continued investment, Robert James said Quilt House is dedicated to the people of Nebraska, to quilt lovers and to those around the world who have helped recognize quilts as true art.

“It is helping the world comprehend a previously underappreciated form of art,” James said. “That’s what it’s done, and that’s what Ardis and I always had in mind.”

In addition to funding the expansion, the Robert and Ardis James Foundation donated $1 million to establish a permanent endowment at the University of Nebraska Foundation. Annual net income from the endowment will be used to provide a stipend to the executive director of Quilt House for salary, research or program support. The director will be known as the Ardis James Executive Director of Quilt House.

“Because of the vision and generosity of Bob and Ardis James, our university has become the most important place for the scholarly study, research and curated exhibition of quilts as an international art form,” Chancellor Harvey Perlman said. “We are extremely grateful for their support of Quilt House over the years and for making another important investment.”

Pat Crews, founding director of Quilt House, said the public’s interest in the museum, its exhibitions, educational offerings and unique mission continues to grow.

“Our guests have loved what they’ve been able to experience and learn here, but they’re eager to see even more,” Crews said. “With the new expansion, we’ll have additional room for our popular exhibitions as well as increased space for our diverse collections and research. We cannot thank the James family enough for making this possible.”

University officials said the building expansion will take place once architectural studies and designs are finalized later this year and construction bids are complete.

Quilt House opened its current 37,000-square-foot building in 2008 with three exhibition galleries and state-of-the-art textiles storage as an international focal point for the study, conservation and exhibition of quilts. Robert A.M. Stern Architects of New York, with Alley Poyner Macchietto Architecture of Omaha, designed the building. The same architects will design the new addition.

The $12 million facility was funded with more than 260 contributions to the University of Nebraska Foundation, including a leadership gift from the Robert and Ardis James Foundation. More than 130 quilt guilds, as well as quilt organizations in six other countries, provided gifts toward the building campaign.

The International Quilt Study Center within Quilt House was founded in 1997 when Nebraska natives Ardis and Robert James began donating their extensive quilt collection and have since donated more than 1,000 quilts.

Ardis M. Butler James grew up in Lincoln and Omaha and married Robert G. James of Ord in 1949. They raised three children, Robert Jr., Catherine and Ralph, and made their home in Chappaqua, N.Y. Ardis James died on July 7, 2011.

Quilt House and the quilt center, whose academic home is the Department of Textiles, Merchandising and Fashion Design in the College of Education and Human Sciences, offers the only academic program of its kind dedicated to inspiring an understanding of the cultural and artistic significance of quilts and promoting the scholarly study and research of global quilt-making traditions. It holds the largest publicly owned collection of more than 3,500 quilts and is the most diverse collection in existence with representative quilts from more than 24 countries. For more information, visit

The University of Nebraska Foundation is an independent, nonprofit organization raising private gifts to support the University of Nebraska. In 2012, donors provided $165 million for scholarships, medical and other research, academic programs, faculty and buildings. All foundation funds are donor designated. The foundation’s comprehensive fundraising campaign, the Campaign for Nebraska, has raised more than $1.2 billion and concludes in 2014. For more information, visit

— Robb Crouch, University of Nebraska Foundation

For more information about IQSC, click here.

Monday, December 31, 2012

Passing of Joyce Gross, 1996 Honoree

Joyce Gross –editor, publisher, researcher, founder and writer of Quilter’s Journal– was the 1996 Quilters Hall of Fame Inductee.  It seems fitting that we should let Cuesta Benberry– her comrade in arms when it came to quilt research– say a few words about Joyce at her passing December 24th. Theirs was a friendship that probably has no peer in the late 20th century quilt revival.

Below is the tribute Cuesta Benberry delivered when she introduced Joyce as the Keynote Speaker at the fall 1995 AQSG  Seminar held in Paducah, KY. Cuesta's introduction appeared as an article in The Quilters Hall of Fame newsletter Spring 1996.

Information about the location and date of the planned memorial is at the end of this post.

(photo by Karen B. Alexander)
 (above) Panelists Joyce Gross, Cuesta Benberry (1983 TQHF Inductee) and Barbara Brackman (2001 TQHF Inductee) at the July 2004 Grand Opening of The Quilters Hall of Fame in Marion, Indiana.

Cuesta wrote of Joyce in 1995:

You've probably read in various quilt magazines that "the legendary Joyce Gross" is to be a featured speaker at the 16th annual seminar of the American Quilt Study Group. Is the term "legendary Joyce Gross" simply a complimentary or flattering designation, or is it, indeed, based on factual evidence? What makes a person a legend? Among the numerous attributes that characterize a legend, two of the most significant ones are longevity and the performance of a unique feat, or a series of extraordinary achievements in a particular field of endeavor. As to longevity, one rarely hears of an overnight legend.

Approximately 25 years ago Joyce Gross began the long journey that results in her present position of prominence in today's quilt world. In the early 1970's Joyce and a small group of friends in Marin County, California (including the late Sally Garoutte the 1994 QHF Honoree), formed an organization: the Mill Valley Quilt Authority. Although the title was a humorous, a sort of tongue-in-cheek adaptation of the famous Tennessee Valley authority name, these women were not playful dilettantes. Instead they were the cutting edge of the burgeoning nationwide quilt movement of that time. In fact, their "Patch in Time" quilt exhibition held in 1973 is today regarded as a landmark event on the West Coast. Joyce assembled an array of noteworthy quilts, such as The Matterhorn, the Hardman quilt, Rose Kretsinger's quilts, Charlotte Jane Whitehill's quilts that many persons had never heard of. A whole series of "Patch in Time" exhibitions followed. Joyce later had special affairs honoring Berthe Stenge (QHF 1980 Honoree) and a memorable one celebrating the works of Pine Eisefeller that was graced by the presence of this outstanding quilt maker.

During those years Joyce participated in a weekly radio broadcast entitled “California Weekend” over Station KGO, San Francisco, in which she reported on various quilt activities in the bay area and in the quilt world at large.

In 1977, when Joyce became editor and publisher of Quilters Journal, she determined that her magazine would be unlike any other quilt periodical then being published. She wanted the contents to be solely devoted to quilt history, and to reflect the findings contained from quilt research conducted by herself and other scholars equally involved in this phase of quilt work.

When in 1979, under the sponsorship by Santa Rosa Quilt Guild, Joyce organized the first national quilt contest ever held on the West coast, she demonstrated two of her strong points: Joyce is an innovative thinker and an initiator of unique quilt projects. Quilt entries from all over the United States were submitted for this contest, as well as for a second one she organized in 1982.

When Sally Garoutte conceived the idea of holding the first quilt research seminar that later developed into the American Quilt Study Group, she solicited the opinions and input from a very few of her close friends whose judgment she valued. Joyce was one of those friends. She supported and cooperated fully with Sally to bring the proposal to fruition. And so Joyce was not only a charter member of AQSG, but she should also be considered a founder, along with Sally.

Since 1983, Joyce has held the highly successful annual week-long “Quilt Retreat-California Style” at Point Bonita. One can tell just how successful this event is, for each year there is a waiting list of people hoping that someone who has already signed on to attend will drop out and her place can be filled from the waiting list.

When the California state quilt documentation effort began, Joyce promoted the idea, and this was another example of her penchant for initiating projects that frequently have lasting value.

In 1993, she spearheaded another project when a small, group of women assembled at her home and studio in Petaluma.  All of the women had accumulated huge amounts of quilt archival materials. Foremost on their agenda was to devise a plan to make the quilt information in their collections easily accessible. Archival collections have limited value when uncatalogued. Joyce had already begun to index her own collection, and has thousand and thousands of catalogue cards in her files. From this meeting the Quilt Archivists Club was formed.

Most recently [1995] it was announced that Joyce is the 1996 nominee to the Quilters hall of Fame. She will be inducted in July 1996 in Marion, Indiana.

I have recited some of Joyce’s accomplishments in order to answer one question. How did Joyce Gross come to be termed a legendary quilt figure? Just as the TV commercial states, “She did it the old fashioned way. SHE EARNED IT!!!”  

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Read what Xenia Cord – folklorist, quilt historian and Past President of the American Quilt Study Group – wrote about the above quilt "Gross Stuff" that was made to honor Joyce Gross in 1998. The quilt was inspired by a very unusual donation Joyce made to the AQSG Seminar Auction in 1997 and the accompanying very humorous letter Joyce sent along with that donation.  The quilt honors Joyce's passion for collecting quilt ephemera, which she simply referred to as "stuff", and is re-auctioned every year to honor Joyce and to raise funds for AQSG at the same time. Click here to read the story.

The  photo below was taken in 2005 in Houston, Texas at the International Quilt Festival at which Joyce Gross was honored by a special exhibit of selected quilts from her collection.

Joyce Gross in center wearing her Quilters Hall of Fame Honoree medallion with her daughter Vicki kneeling next to her. Back row: Karen Alexander (Pres of The Quilters Hall of Fame 2005-2008), Yvonne Porcella, Karey Bresenhan, and Nancy O'Bryant Puentes.
(photo taken on Karen Alexander's camera)

A Tribute to Joyce from Karey Bresenhan:

The world of quilt history has lost one of its most influential figures—Joyce Gross. Joyce died on Christmas Eve, very peacefully, after a day of seeing family, friends, and even her beloved dog. There will be a memorial service for her on January 27 at Point Bonita, California, where she ran seminars for many years. Joyce’s lifelong dedication to 
a painstaking, labor-intensive quilt research project resulted in rooms full of boxes of her notes, all cross-indexed, along with the original printed documentation: more than 1000 quilt books, vast assortments of periodicals ranging back to the early 20th century, ephemera of all kinds, including rare fabric samples. She had a library of original documents that would be almost impossible to assemble today. Luckily the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas was able to acquire this incredible body of historical reference materials, along with an important part of her quilt collection which included examples by such important quiltmakers as Bertha Stenge, Pine Eisfeller, Florence Peto, and Dr. Jeannette Throckmorton. She was a major force in early quilt research and documentation.

Karey Bresenhan
Director Emeritus, International Quilt Festival—Houston, Cincinnati, Long Beach, Chicago
Co-founder, Texas Quilt Museum

Joyce Gross and Yvonne Porcella at Houston International Quilt Festival 2005 
(photo by Karen B. Alexander)

Joyce Gross with The Garden by Pine Hawkes Eisfeller (1938)
taken at the International Quilt Festival Oct 2005.
This quilt now resides at the
 Briscoe Center for American History
at the University of Texas Austin.
(photo by Karen B. Alexander)

To see other stories about Joyce Gross, click on any of the following links, especially the first one -- the video interview done by the Alliance for American Quilts.

(1) video interview done by the Alliance for American Quilts

(2) The Quilt Show

(3) University of Texas Press Release about the Joyce Gross collection

(4) News article about the Joyce Gross collection

Joyce at the Grand Opening of the restored historic Marie Webster House
as the new headquarters of The Quilters Hall of Fame in 2004. From L-R seated 
in the front row are TQHF Inductees: Donna Wilder, Jean Ray Laury, Karey Bresenhan, 
Jinny Avery, Joyce Gross and Cuesta Benberry.
(photo by Robert Johnson)

More to come. Meanwhile, please add your memories and tributes, too, in honor of one of the most important figures as well as unforgettable characters of the late 20th century quilt revival.

Karen B. Alexander
Past President of The Quilters Hall of Fame

Joyce's memorial will NOT be held at Point Bonita, as originally planned. Instead it will be at the Embassy Suites in San Rafael, California on January 27 at 2 pm. (Same time and date, different location.)  The hotel is holding a block of rooms at a discounted rate ($109) for those of you who are staying the night before or after.  Call the hotel directly at 415 499 9222 and use the code JGM.

In lieu of flowers, Joyce requested memorial contributions be made to maintain her quilt collection.  

Contributions can be made to: 

"The University of Texas at Austin ˆ Joyce Gross Fund"
ATT: Ramona Kelly
Briscoe Center for American History
2300 Red River Street, Stop D1100
SRH, Unit 2, Ste.2.109
Austin, TX 78712-1426