Wednesday, August 30, 2017


Celebration 2017

Induction of 

Dr. Virginia Gunn 

into 

The Quilters Hall of Fame

By Karen B. Alexander





Dr. Virginia Gunn’s diverse background in the decorative arts -- far wider than just quilts -- enables her to frame historical quilts from any era within a broader historical context and a wider human narrative. The fact that she settled on quilt history as one of the major focuses has broadened the field of quilt history enormously.



In 1980 when the American Quilt Study Group was founded, there were no graduate programs offering degrees in quilt history; no academic gatherings in which to present scholarly papers on quilts; no journals in which to publish scholarly research. All three conditions have changed dramatically since 1980. Dr. Virginia (Ginny) Gunn has played a vital role in the reordering of this disparity within the academic world since the days of such desert conditions for quilt scholarship. Many of us who know Ginny personally were thrilled to learn in 2016 that she would be inducted into The Quilters Hall of Fame in July 2017.




Those of us lucky enough to be able to attend Ginny’s induction July 20-22 (2017) in Marion, IN were treated to an exciting array of lectures by Ginny, not the least of which was a wonderful overview of her own life story.  Presented below are just a few highlights of her induction week.





You know how quilt historians love to know more about the personal stories behind the lives that have so greatly impacted quilt history in the 20th century. Ginny supplied it in spades in her lecture luncheon, My Textile Journey.








I for one am very grateful that Ginny shared slides of her personal odyssey that reflected the ever-expanding popularity of the needlearts revival of the 50s-70s era; of her pursuit of her educational dreams and goals of first a Master's and then a Ph.D; plus the challenges of raising a family of two boys, all at the same time.

Along the way came learning how to quilt, discovery of the American Quilt Study Group, teaching, writing and lecturing.






Gunn served on the Board of AQSG from 1984-1993, and as President 1990-1993








Of course, collecting quilts was soon woven into everything!



Following her personal story, Gunn then shared her in-depth academic knowledge on the Red & Green Quilt Era as well as the Quilts of the Modern Era.  Her three slide lectures were exciting and substantive, as they always are at AQSG as well, and I personally had a number of questions I had been pondering for some time, answered.





That Gunn has a diverse background in the decorative arts far wider than just quilts, has enabled her to set the historic quilts of any era into a much broader historical context. That she settled on quilt history as one of the major focuses of her career and personal love has broadened quilt history, in particular, enormously. My notes from these three lectures are a very brief overview of them.


Inspiration and interpretation! 

Inspiration and interpretation! Isn’t this the nuts and bolts of every design era change no matter the subject? Some fascinating questions Ginny examined: what was behind the shift from piecing to appliqué beginning in the 2nd quarter of the 19th century? 



Just how did changing design preferences — in women’s fashion (flowering dress prints), home furnishings (cartouches and scrolls), furniture (curved legs) and architecture — influence quilts at that time? When did the “Romantic Revival” era replace Neo-Classical and how did the curves of this new design era influence the look of quilts?  





How did the artists of the era influence the Jacquard weavers and conversely how did their patterns influence quilt designs? How did migration routes influence disbursement of quilt patterns? This is just a small taste of all that Ginny shared in her Red & Green Quilt Era slide lecture! 













Ginny’s 3rd Lecture


Gunn's 3rd lecture Quilts of the Modern Era addressed the fast paced industrial changes in the first 40 years of the 20th century, among other things, as well as the shift of design influences from German to French due to the alliances of WWI. Gunn also went to some length to share the changes within fabrics, dyes and print styles as well as the beginnings of the commercialization of the quilt industry. In the late 30s, as war rose again in Europe, she pointed out the noticeable design shifts that arose once more, this time from French to South American. 






Using *slides as well as actual examples from her collection, Gunn gave a very graphic and helpful sense of the subtle color changes within fabrics that took place in the mid-1920s as well as mid-1930s, making it much easier for yours truly go home and reevaluate the quilts in her collection from those decades.







*Photos were taken during Gunn's slide lectures.



A personal anecdote about Ginny Gunn shared at Celebration

I first met Ginny Gunn when I attended my first AQSG Seminar in 1985 in San Rafael, California.  In those days, we did not have bid numbers at the Silent Auction. We simply had bid-sheets on which we wrote our name and bid.  I happen to outbid Ginny on an old segment of what i think is Eastern European embroidery.  (I'll have to ask Ginny!) Being the pack rat I am who must document everything (just ask my family), I still have the bid sheet as well as the antique piece of embroidery.







Other Lectures at Celebration 2017

The quilt history lecture selections at this year’s TQHF Celebration also included AQSG members Xenia Cord, Sue Reich and Honoree Merikay Waldvogel. All in all, the combined shared knowledge by these four quilt historians stitched together the first 40 years of the fabrics of the 20th century in great depth.  

Stay tuned for more recaps from Celebration 2017!  If you enjoy quilt and textile history, I highly encourage you to join both TQHF and AQSG both!

Also visit The Quilters Hall of Fame on Facebook for more photos!

I know we can all look forward to a similar rich offering next year when textile historian Xenia Cord is inducted into The Quilters Hall of Fame next July (19-21) so mark you calendars now.

Happy quilting and please support those organizations recording quilt history!


Here are a few Gunn articles from 
the published Research Papers of the 
American Quilt Study Group


"Victorian Silk Template Patchwork in American Periodicals 1850-1875," by Gunn, Virginia, in Uncoverings 1983, pages 9-25.

"Quilts for Union Soldiers in the Civil War" by Gunn, Virginia, in Uncoverings 1985, pages 95-122.

"Yo-Yo or Bed-of-Roses Quilts: Nineteenth-Century Origins," by Gunn, Virginia, in Uncoverings 1987, pages 129-46.

"Quilts at Nineteenth Century State and County Fairs: An Ohio Study," by Gunn, Virginia, in Uncoverings 1988, pages 105-28.

"Quilts for Milady's Boudoir," Gunn, Virginia, in Uncoverings 1989, pages 81-101

"The Gingham Dog or the Calico Cat: Grassroots Quilts of the Early Twentieth Century" by: Gunn, Virginia, in Uncoverings, 2007, pages 1-26.

"Reflections on Quilt History: Accomplishments and Challenges" by: Gunn, Virginia, in Uncoverings 2009, pages 171-190.

"McCall's Role in the Early Twentieth-Century Quilt Revival" by: Gunn, Virginia, in Uncoverings 2010, pages 11-64.


For a complete listing of articles and publications by Dr. Virginia Gunn, google https://www.uakron.edu/dotAsset/2242809.  Click on the item at the top of the list and a PDF file will automatically download.



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