Monday, August 17, 2009

Merikay Waldvogel Induction Celebration

Celebrating the Induction of Merikay Walvogel
and 30 Anniversary
of The Quilters Hall of Fame!


The event that officially kicks-off the Induction of a new Honoree into The Quilters Hall of Fame is the narrated walk-thru the Honoree conducts of her/his exhibit. Here we give you an overview of the exhibit as Merikay Waldvogel begins sharing her stories, followed by selected photos with accompanying exhibit notes prepared by the Honoree that appeared in the official commemorative program book.

Each new Inductee presents an exhibit of her/his choosing at the time she is inducted. Merikay Waldvogel chose quilts that reflected her 30-year journey as a quilt collector and quilt historian. All exhibit notes in this post in italics come from the TQHF 2009 exhibit notes written by the Honoree.

Photos in this report are courtesy of Merikay Waldvogel, Debbie Quinn, Barbara Brackman, Sue Jones and Rosalind Webster Perry. Please do not use without written permission from TQHF. )

(You can click on any photo to make it larger.)

A Quilt Career Begins

In 1980, I named my quilt business "Quilts Alive." I planned it as a side-line interest to my then full-time job as an English-As-A-Second-Language teacher. I would write about, lecture on, and research quilts. My business cards carried a line drawing of my first quilt—an oddly shaped North Carolina Lily quilt I bought in 1974. I had had an on-going conversation with that quilt. First it was, "Oh my gosh, that's a fabulous quilt!" Then when I owned it, I wanted to know more. I headed to the library. I networked with newfound quilt experts. The goal was to bring that quilt to life.

After all these years and long after I took on a full-time quilt career, the phrase "Quilts Alive" still encapsulate the joy I feel when studying quilts and quiltmakers. In a sense, I am bringing these historic textiles to life and giving voice to the women (and yes, men) who made them. This exhibit contains some of my favorite quilts: quilts collected for their fabrics or patterns; quilts made in Tennessee, my adopted home state; quilts that sparked a specific research project; quilts made by family and friends; and quilts I have made.

Here Waldvogel shares the story behind Milky Way Log Cabin made by Sara Frances Abernathy Smith circa 1900 of Pulaski, TN.

The quilt behind Merikay is a Basket Quilt - Maker Unknown, Knox County, TN, 1910s-1920s. To learn more about the Milky Way Log Cabin quilt, go to The Quilt Index here. When that page opens, click on "Search" at the top of the page and type in the name of the quilt or the maker's name.

(Coxcombe & Currants - left)

The Coxcombe & Currants quilt at the bottom is ca 1850s-1860s from an estate sale in Cleveland, TN. This is a pattern that must have originated in East Tennessee since I have found a dozen other quilts using this same large four-block wreath design with a historical link to the Cleveland area. This one is probably older than the other. It is more heavily quilted and the solid green fabric is typically found in 1850s quilts.

The Coxcombe & Currants at the top is similar in overall layout, but is less elaborately quilted and the green has faded to a beige color which often happens with green fabrics of 1880s quilts. The antique dealer was having the machine-stitched binding replaced with a hand-stitched one. I told her I would take it "as-is" since machine-stitching is an important clue to the date of the quilt.

Bird's Eye View of the Chicago World's Fair - by Richard H. Rowley, Chicago in 1933 (photo on right)

The Sears National Quilt Contest, held in conjunction with the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair, attracted over 24,000 entries probably because of the $1000 grand prize. There was a bonus prize of $200 if the grand-prize quilt was an original design commemorating the Fair’s theme—A Century of Progress. Unfortunately, the judges did not consider the original designs worthy of top regional prizes. Few reached the final round of judging.

In 1934, to calm the criticism, some of the originally designed quilts were displayed in the Sears Pavilion when the Chicago World’s Fair was re-opened for a second summer. This quilt with its entry tag clearly visible was photographed at that time by Sears. Barbara Brackman and I both tried to find “Mrs. Louise Rowley” and her quilt, to no avail for our book. We included only the photograph.

In 2001, I purchased the quilt at an antique auction in N. Georgia. The quilt came with a hand-written note saying, “This quilt was made by Richard H. Rowley, the son of Louise Rowley.” And there began another interesting research venture to find out more about Richard and why he made this quilt.

(You can see this quilt in the book "Patchwork Souvenirs of the 1933 Chicago World’s Fair" page 13.)

To the right, Jerry Ledbetter, Merikay's husband shares his quilt's story.
For Christmas one year, my husband asked people to make House Quilt blocks for his Christmas present. He hoped he would get enough to make a full-size bed quilt. With red solid and red print fabrics he gave them, some people did their own houses in appliqué. Others signed traditional quilt blocks that his mother made for them. As the blocks came in, he drafted a quilt layout with triple sashes. His mother, Virginia Ledbetter quilted it by hand on an old-fashioned quilt frame suspended from the ceiling.

This quilt was also exhibited at the National Quilting Association 1990 Show in Knoxville, Tennessee.

Sampler Quilt Top-only by Iora Almina Philo Pool, Morgan County, TN, 1870s-1880s. (Collection of Linda Claussen)

Bets Ramsey and I documented this quilt top in the mid 1980s and included it in our book Quilts of Tennessee. Nearly 25 years later, the quilt top appeared in an antique store in Chattanooga. Hearing of the news, Linda Claussen quickly made arrangements to acquire the quilt top. Jean Lester has been restoring it so that it can be displayed. This is its first public viewing. Bets Ramsey, writing about this quilt in 1986, surmised that the maker wanted “to make as many different blocks as she could. Having no regular set, the units flow into each other in happy medley.”

For more wonderful photos of this top, see: Ramsey and Waldvogel Quilts of Tennessee: Images of Domestic Life Prior to 1930 (Nashville: Rutledge Hill Press, 1986), 12 and 108 and Eva Earle Kent “The Tennessee Heritage Sampler: Reflecting Quiltmaking Tradition” in Quilters Newsletter Magazine #211 (April 1989).

Special friend Susan Salser had a bouquet designed to resemble the centerpiece applique bouquet of her grandmother Mary Gasperik's Indiana Wreath quilts. Salser and Waldvogel collaborated on the Mary Gasperik Quilt Index, the first private collection added to the Quilt Index. The bouquet designed by Carol and Randy Power of Marion, Indiana was a spectacular complement to both the induction banquet and the exhibit gallery.

To see Mary Gasperik's "Indiana Wreath" quilts, CLICK QUILT INDEX HERE. Then enter "Indiana Wreath" in the Search box.

Here it is — the North Carolina Lily quilt that got Waldvogel started!

Without any knowledge of quilts—new or old, I purchased this quilt one Saturday morning in the mid 1970s. I was looking for some artwork for my studio apartment in Chicago. The asymmetry of the patterning made me wonder about the maker and what was going on in her life. Unfortunately, I never found out.

I learned my first important lesson to always ask the seller for information about the quilt, the place it was made or the quiltmaker. Even without that key information (and maybe because of not having it), this anonymous quilt opened up an avenue of exploration that greatly enriched my life.

(Exhibited first: “A Patchwork Garden” at The Hunter Museum of Art, Chattanooga, TN April-May 1981. You can see a large photo of this quilt on page 62 of Quilt with the Best edited by Carol Cook Hagood (Oxmoor House, 1992). See the page with this photo in Quilt with the Best below in the display Waldvogel put together.)

A Small Side Exhibit:
Wandering Down Memory Lane

Books, photos, research notes, letters and other memorabilia from Merikay’s archives were nicely arranged in nearby display cases by Debi Shepler of Marion. This was an absorbing display of a busy researcher's challenges, accomplishments and humorous moments.

Waldvogel's collaboration with 2001 Honoree Barbara Brackman on Patchwork Souvenirs of the 1933 World’s Fair was a major contribution to quilt research.
Waldvogel also co-authored two books with Honoree Bets Ramsey and her own book Soft Covers for Hard Times added greatly to the knowledge of the revival in the interest of quilt making in the 1920s and 1930s.

The blue and off-white Square in a Square quilt in this cabinet was pieced by Waldvogel and machine-quilted by Shirley Greenhoe.

Waldvogel exhibit notes read: I made this quilt at a workshop led by Barbara Brackman at the Point Bonita Getaway in 2006. Started by [Honoree] Joyce Gross, the annual week-long retreat in California held in late January is now headed by Kathy Ronsheimer. Point Bonita is the time when I actually try to make quilts, but given its spectacular location on San Francisco Bay, I am more often out walking, hiking, and gazing at the sunsets.

Here you see Southern Quilts: Surviving Relics of The Civil War, one of her collaborative books written with Honoree Bets Ramsey.

Other Honoree Events

In addition to the special exhibit our Inductees present each year, they also presents a lecture and/or workshop depending upon their own specialty in the quilt world. This year Waldvogel organized a panel on quilt pattern collecting and presented a lecture.

Left to right: 2001 Honoree Barbara Brackman, Merikay Waldvogel and Connie Chunn of St. Louis, Missouri.

The two hour panel covered a lot of information. Barbara Brackman presented a humorous overview of collecting, sorting, and retrieving. She talked about how she originally compiled her pieced pattern encyclopedia and announced the forthcoming reprint of her applique encyclopedia.

Next Merikay Waldvogel showed how Round Robin pattern collectors compiled, listed, shared, and retrieved their patterns and in addition talked about the early newsletters and their impact on quilt pattern collecting.

Connie Chunn prepared a powerpoint presentation that detailed her findings about the people behind Ladies Art Co. of St. Louis, Missouri and showed examples of their numerous catalogs and patterns, sharing how she used the internet to purchase items for research. She also used the traditional methods of research including: genealogy, library reference materials, and other archives.

Waldvogel wrapped up the afternoon with a presentation of her kit quilt database and shared a handout on the data she has compiled to date. Then an audience member thrilled everyone by sharing a Tree of Life Progress 1369 kit quilt in the original brown envelope. By all reports, it was a rare find and very exciting to see in person!

In the Honoree lecture Merikay shared some of the fascinating stories behind her research on the 1933 Chicago World's Fair Contest.

Improvisation is the name of the game when unexpected things happen in life. When a projector bulb blows during a lecture, you punt so Waldvogel called in the troops. Fortunately she had brought large photo blow-ups of a number of pictures she had planned to project as slides and, of course, had some great quilts to share as well. Family members and friends had no idea that they would become a part of the show, but perform they did! Thank you one and all for your part in helping the show to go on!

The Autumn Leaves quilt behind Waldvogel in the above photo made by Edith Tessman Snyder won third place in the Philadelphia region of the Sears Contest and was one of only 30 final round quilts shown at the Chicago World's Fair. Merikay invited the quilt maker's daughter Pat Sittler of nearby Silver Lake, Indiana to bring the quilt and share her mother's story.

(Click on the following photos to make larger.)

The Official Induction Ceremony

At the official Induction Luncheon on Friday July 17, TQHF President Joyce Hostetler presented Merikay Waldvogel with her official Honoree medal, a tradition begun by TQHF founder Hazel Carter in 2004 when the Marie Webster House opened as the official headquarters of The Quilters Hall of Fame.

Next Waldvogel receives her Wild Woman doll pin, a tradition begun by Past President Karen Alexander in 2006 for Honorees and for those who have volunteered for at least 10 years.

And third, Merikay Waldvogel is presented with the official Honoree plaque that will hang permanently at The Quilters Hall of Fame in the grand parlor of the Marie Webster House.

In truth, this story could continue but for now we'll end with the simple but heart-felt sentiment seen in Waldvogel's commemorative brick in the restored Marie Webster garden pathway.

Merikay, may you continue to research, write and lecture and add to this illustrious body of of work you have produced in the past 30 years. We're all counting on it!

Comments or questions? Contact the author Karen Alexander by clicking here.

PS: You can read more of my quilt research by clicking here.


Melissa in NJ said...

You've been nominated for a blog award by me. :)

Melissa, The Wired Quilter

Karen Alexander said...

Thank you, Melissa. I'm sorry it has taken me so long to acknowledge your message. I love researching and writing this blog for TQHF.