Tuesday, January 25, 2011
On Saturday, I paid a visit to author/historian/quilt maker extraordinaire Mary Bywater Cross to talk about the Oregon quilt I'd just bought on eBay. Mary is a longtime member of the American Quilt Study Group (AQSG) and has written books on both Oregon and Mormon quilt history. Many of the people I've met through AQSG are brilliant, but terribly busy, and don't always have a lot of time to devote to other people's research. Mary is also very busy, but has been very generous with her time. Luckily for me, Mary lives about 7 minutes away in downtown Portland. Over the last couple years she has become my mentor.
As we spread the quilt out on her dining room table, Mary showed me pictures of a quilt that had been part of a show she'd curated several years ago. The quilt was made by the American War Mothers and shared uncanny similarities with my quilt, including a center medallion surrounded by inscriptions, some names with gold stars. We both wondered if the quilts were somehow connected. We circled around the table, reading inscriptions to each other, and Mary's delightful husband, Newman, appeared to see what we were talking about. Newman was also very interested in the quilt, particularly because he had been part of the American Legion when living in England many years ago.
During the discussion, Mary wondered if there had been an American Legion convention in Oregon around the time the quilt had been made, 1931, and if the quilt was somehow part of an event such as a convention. We both remarked on the organization of the quilting design, done in rays emanating from the center medallion with two stars toward each corner, each with a pentagon shape in the center of the star design. Whoever made this quilt had skills and a sense of purpose.
Prior to our meeting, I had contacted Jason Virnig, Commander at Post 9 of the American Legion in Salem. I heard back from Jason on Sunday, and he had some enlightening thoughts about the quilt. Jason suggested that the medallion shared similarities with the American Legion Auxiliary, a women's organization affiliated with the American Legion. The Auxiliary, founded in 1917 and incorporated in 1925 to assist the American Legion, works side-by-side with the veterans who belong to the American Legion and is the world's largest women's patriotic service organization. Indeed, the logo of the American Legion Auxiliary is very similar to the medallion of the quilt - even closer than the American Legion logo I had posted in my earlier blog about the quilt.
Jason also had some thoughts about the stars by the names. In the American Legion, the gold star is typically a symbol associated with past Commanders who were deceased, but since this quilt is likely to be a product of the Auxiliary, the stars could indicate deceased relatives who may not have been Commanders. That theory seemed plausible to me, because past Commanders are listed on the quilt with the years they served in that role, but the names with the stars do not indicate any office held. Another enlightening bit of information from Jason was that there was a national American Legion convention in Portland in 1932. So, it's possible that the quilt was somehow linked to that event.
Mary, Jason, and I have resolved to continue our correspondence and research. The first step for Mary and I will be to transcribe the names, which we are planning to do next week. Jason is planning to go through history documents, including Auxiliary records, to see if he can find any references for us. He is relatively new to his post, but eager to revitalize an organization that has a long history of community involvement but has been relatively quiet in recent years. Post 9 will celebrate its 100th Anniversary in 2019.
Has anyone out there ever seen a quilt like this one? If you have, please comment. The remarkable similarities between this quilt and the quilt from the American War Mothers has us all wondering if there was a tradition of inscribed medallion quilts created by women's patriotic organizations. The more information we can gather, the better. :)
Friday, January 21, 2011
Another exciting find on eBay recently, and thank you to Julie Silber of The Quilt Complex for alerting me. This quilt is a 1931 American Legion quilt made in Salem, Oregon by members of the Capital Unit of Post No. 9. It is wonderfully inscribed with names of members and officers, all stitched with blue embroidery thread.
This quilt is the first quilt I've ever purchased that is definitely made in Oregon. I did a quick google search on "Capital Unit Post No. 9, Salem, Oregon" and discovered that the organization is part of the American Legion, and has been active in the community for many years. Around the center ring appear inscriptions naming officers, current and past, hence the earlier dates such as 1926 (pictured).
According to the Salem Public Library, Post No. 9 was actively involved in raising funds for projects such as the Salem Airport. In 1931, Post No. 9 went on record as endorsing the action of the Executive Committee in favoring the sponsoring and raising of $2,000 for the new home of the Salvation Army.
The quilt appears to be a commemorative quilt, possibly part of the fundraising effort for the new Salvation Army building in 1931, and two of the names, including James Gardner (pictured) have yellow/gold stars. The stars by the names could indicate that these people were killed during the war, or had passed away - but the stars are definitely a special designation of some nature.
The star medallion in the center is the same basic design as the American Legion emblem (below), which includes a five-pointed star and rays emanating from the center. The quilting reflects these rays, and is done with yellow thread.
This quilt was an unexpected surprise, and is representative of the many community quilt projects done in Oregon. I shared pictures with author Mary Bywater Cross, who wrote "Treasures in the Trunk: Quilts of the Oregon Trail", which was published in two editions. Mary and I are going to get together tomorrow to look at the quilt in person, and she has asked if she could include it in a presentation she's doing in the Salem area in February. Of course, I said yes.
Sunday, January 16, 2011
|Albert Einstein and Alvin Ailey, from "Small Wonders"|
The "Small Wonders: Doll Quilts by Andrea Balosky" exhibit at Latimer Quilt and Textile Center in Tillamook, Oregon will open on February 6th, 2011, and the catalog is now available for purchase online through Blurb. This pre-release comes during the final preparations for the show, which will include as many as 80 of the more than 100 doll quilts.
|Miala, the artist's mother, graces the cover of "Small Wonders"|
The catalog includes over 100 of the doll quilts made by visionary artist Andrea Balosky, now Nyima Lhamo, who currently lives in seclusion studying Buddhism in Mungpoo, near Darjeeling, India, in the Himalayas. Lhamo has not made any quilts since 2004, but recently, with quilts on her mind during the process of corresponding about the "Small Wonders show and catalog, she made 6 miniature quilts using cotton picked from plants for an Alzheimer's fundraising quilt auction.
|Merrily Ripley and Miala Leong, two quintessential mother figures.|
|Dolls given to the artist by her father when she was a child.|
This softcover, beautifully printed catalog is priced at $26.95, and will be offered for sale at Latimer Quilt and Textile Center and online through Blurb. To see a 15-page preview and purchase the book, click here.
Wednesday, January 12, 2011
Latimer Quilt and Textile Center Presents
Small Wonders: Doll Quilts by Andrea Balosky
Feb. 6—Mar. 6, 2011
Open House—Feb. 13, 2011
|Miala Leong, June, 2002, 13" x 15 1/2"|
Between 1999 and 2003, visionary quilt artist Andrea Balosky produced over 100 doll quilts. Her remarkable body of work is titled “Small Wonders,” and is part of the collection of Merrilly Ripley, an avid doll collector and founder of Adoption Advocates International.
On the surface, these quilts are eye candy, and the candy dish is spilling over. Each quilt has a name, and there is a compelling story is behind the quilts’ names.
The body of work is like a diary, with tributes to people the artist loved and admired. “Albert” is Albert Einstein, “Desmond” is Desmond Tutu, “Rosa” is Rosa Parks, and “Nelson” is Nelson Mandela. Miala is the artist’s mother. There are friends and family, dancers, opera singers, choreographers, and humanitarians.
Given the course of world events between 1999 and 2003, the most extraordinary aspect of “Small Wonders” is how hopeful it is. The quilts envelop the good in the world during a time of great change and much doubt.
A selection of these quilts will be exhibited at the Latimer Quilt and Textile Center in February, 2011. A full-color, 120-page catalog will be available at Latimer, and online. Latimer Quilt and Textile Center is located in Tillamook, Oregon at 2105 Wilson River Loop Road. The center is open Monday through Saturday, 10am to 4pm.