“If we can retain the structural integrity of the traditional quilt, and add to it a contemporary approach in color and design, we will achieve a quilt which merges past and present.”
— Jean Ray Laury, Quilts & Coverlets (1970)
Jean Ray Laury was drawn to the quilt medium for its links with the past, the pleasure of having a handmade object and the joy of creating something that provided physical and spiritual warmth. Her own work “merged past and present,” combining traditional quilt references with contemporary design. Laury also used quilts to share her artistic vision and opinions. Perhaps no other traditional design captured Laury’s artistic imagination more than Sunbonnet Sue, whom she saw as the nemesis of any quiltmaker aiming for originality.
Laury and her work were recognized widely. She was inducted into the Quilters Hall of Fame in 1982. In 1997 she received the prestigious Silver Star Award from the International Quilt Festival in recognition of her past and continuing contributions to the quilting industry and community. Laury’s influence extended to quilt history; she was active in the California Heritage Quilt Documentation Project during the 1980s and wrote Ho for California, bringing to life the 101 quilts and 99 makers included in the book.
Perhaps Laury’s greatest contribution to late-twentieth-century quiltmaking was to recognize and promote quiltmaking’s potential as an art form, paving the way for the emergence of studio art quilts. She encouraged all quiltmakers to apply art principles: pattern, color, texture, rhythm, line; to quilts, and to incorporate painting, printmaking and photographic techniques in their work.
Click images below to view larger and read more information about some of the quilts included in the exhibit.