3 thoughts on “Quilt Historians Video

  1. Dear Ms.Smith:

    As I was trained to be a teacher of history, and as I have always considered my work with antique quilts to be teachable moments, and (mostly) as I was unable to find a direct email address for you, I leave my comment about one of your recent posts with this quilt historians article.

    Mary Ryan, the Vermont Quilt Festival’s Marketing Director, forwarded your recent Facebook comment to me last evening. I was immensely gratified, and more than a little touched, to read your commendation of the VQF contest and of our exhibits. Our first contest in 1979 drew 25 entries; this year we have almost 240, including 37 by youth quilters. It is a source of satisfaction and pride to me, as it is to the Contest Committee and Board, that each of those people entered knowing that the most they could receive is a ribbon – and well-deserved acclaim.

    The year after we held that first contest, I went to Houston for the first time after meeting Karey Bresenhan and her mother in Vermont in the summer of 1980. In the course of our correspondence afterwards she said I ought to come see the show – which I did, offering to help. She took me up on the offer and I was on staff for the fall shows and some of the spring shows through 2000. I owe Karey and her staff a debt of gratitude because I learned a lot at Houston. I confess that I found some allure to the sponsorships and the attention they drew, but as the Festival was (and remains) a 501 c(3) non-profit, it was always a struggle to make ends meet, so taking money from sponsors just to give it away seemed pointless to me (it rubbed against the grain of my Vermont sensibilities). The effort required to scratch up enough money to provide significant prizes didn’t strike any of us as being worthwhile – although in either 1981 or ’82 we did give $50 to the best in show winner – hardly an inducement to enter! After that the Board (all thrifty Yankees) decided contestants would have to be satisfied with ribbons – and they have been. Some people will never enter because we don’t give cash awards, but no one at VQF has ever lost sleep over those decisions.

    Because I have a background in history, I have always placed special emphasis on antique quilts, although I sometimes encounter visitors who are only interested in modern (with a small em) quilts and wonder why we bother with those old things; I squelch the impulse to harangue and shrug it off with the thought that this is the tradition from which that person is descended, and it’s her loss. The Life’s Work exhibits which we have mounted since 2008 are our tribute to people who helped fuel the revival of the 1970s and ’80s, and I am especially proud that we’re presenting the largest show ever of Ruth McDowell’s work. The exhibit of Gwen Marston’s pre-Modern Modern quilts is another nod to a pioneer.

    That the Festival has lasted this long and grown this large is a source of immense pride to me; it is, and always has been, the work of many hands and hearts, of people who love quilts and want to see them honored and treated with respect, of whom I am only the most visible.

    I hope you’ll be able to attend this year; if you do, please make yourself known to me – I’d like to meet you.


    Richard Cleveland, Chairman


      • Dear Catherine,

        Happy New Year, and may the Quilt Historian thrive. I hope the year brings wonderful things your way as you educate people about quilts.



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