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!!!”  

~ ~ ~ ~ ~

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

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