Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Jean Ray Laury 1928-2011

The world of textile art has lost an influential artist with the passing of Jean Ray Laury on March 2, 2011. She wrote over thirty books, taught countless students and was a pioneer in the art of teaching women to prioritize their work.

The Housewife's Fantasy
(c) Jean Ray Laury

"She was an instigator in getting women to realize they could do their own creative work while still maintaining a household," her husband Frank Laury told the Fresno Bee. "Many women wrote saying how much [she] made a difference in their lives in terms of doing creative work."

Jean Ray was born March 22, 1928, in Doon, Iowa. She earned a bachelor's degree in art and English from the University of Northern Iowa in 1950 and then a master's degree in design at Stanford University.

Toms' Quilt 1956
(c) Jean Ray Laury

For her thesis she made a quilt. If that quilt seems conventional now, it's only because she created the conventions. At the time “Tom’s Quilt” was innovative enough to earn a spot at the De Young Art Museum in San Francisco and travel in an international exhibit. Roxa Wright, needlework editor for House Beautiful, was impressed, describing it later as
"a delightful, completely unorthodox quilt depicting all the things that interested and excited her children, at that time very young. It was like a fresh breeze, the first contemporary quilt I had ever seen that really came off successfully, yet it was far simpler and more direct in stitchery than the many fine traditional quilts in the exhibition."
The quote is from American Quilts, The Democratic Art by Robert Shaw.

Detail of a quilt from Jean's 1970 book Quilts & Coverlets

Jean’s first article appeared in House Beautiful in 1960 and she began designing quilts for Woman's Day. Her first book was Applique Stitchery in 1966. Among her many other publications was the California state project's 1990 book Ho For California: Pioneer Women and Their Quilts, which she edited. 

Jean was a confident upbeat person, always consistent in her feminist positions about what was art and how it should impact your life. She also had a great sense of humor. Judi Warren Blaydon wrote a note:

Jean Ray Laury ruled. She enriched all our lives. My favorite Jean story: at a Nova Scotia quilt show, she overheard a woman say, "Those aren't quilts! They're just art."

To her webpage
And to one of her quilts at the International Quilt Study Center and Museum
Starfire 1981. 1997.007.1031
Do a search for her name to see more.

For more information about Jean


And here is the obituary she wrote for herself, published in the Fresno Bee.

I Write This For My Many Friends

Don't mourn for me. I have had a long and happy life, a wonderful family, and an exciting and satisfying career. My family includes Frank, my husband for most of over 60 years, who has always been incredibly supportive, helpful, and fun to live with. Our son Tom is a voracious reader, and for more than forty years a beekeeper. Tom's wife, Dr. Ritva Laury is a linguist who divides her time between Fresno and the University of Helsinki, Finland. Our daughter Lizabeth Laury works with horses and writes. Mike Brown teaches chemistry and physics at Washington Union High School. Ritva and Mike are very special additions to our family. Our granddaughter Anna Laury, M.D. completed her final boards in 2010 and pursues her career in Boston. Her sister, Emma Laury, J.D. graduated in May 2010 from law school, passed the California Bar and now works at OSHA in Washington, D.C.

Among my most cherished friends of many years are partner and co-author on several books, Joyce Aiken; the talented and remarkable Stan Bitters, a diamond covered in clay dust; and Ruth Law, Los Angeles toymaker, and friend for over sixty years. It's been wonderful working with fellow artists and writers. My Book Club, which has met for over forty years, has been special, and I've enjoyed our discussion group, Dry Creek Seminar, and my writing groups. I have always loved writing, and have had numerous books published, and many articles, parodies and essays. It has been a constant in my life. I recently completed a collection of stories, titled "Growing up in Doon, the 1930's: A Quilter's Memoir" about life in Iowa with my sisters, Jackie, Joan and Joyce.

My quilting career gave me the opportunity to travel the world: Japan, Australia, Canada, Norway, France, England, South Africa and many other countries. Quilting friends from across the United States have been an important part of my life, having always been enthusiatic and supportive in whatever I did. I was never far from home when I was with quilters. As wonderful as teaching and traveling were, getting back to Fresno felt like coming home. It has been wonderful being here with you. To all of you, thanks for being with me on this journey.

Remembrances may be made to Hinds Hospice; Marjaree Mason Center; or at jeanraylaury@... NEPTUNE SOCIETY Of Central California 1154 W. Shaw, Fresno (559) 222-7764


  1. Thank you so much for sharing about Jean, the quilting world will certainly miss her.

  2. Jean was a treasure. I had the opportunity to hear her speak and it was wonderful. Very early on in my quilting career I read one of her "Getting it Together..." books and always remember this piece of advice: be the first to volunteer, so you can choose the job you want and the time you want to spend on it.

  3. She was a true pioneer. Back in the 1970s when I was first learning about quilting, I read everything I could find on the topic. Her articles and sense of humor always stood out. She will be missed.

  4. Thanks so much for the tribute. I did not know she had passed. Beautiful women and accomplishments!

  5. Thanks for letting us know. I had the pleasure of taking a class from Jean at the very first Quilt National in 1979. She was a treasure and one of quilting's pioneers.

  6. Thanks for the post. I took a class from Jean, long ago and she was a remarkable woman.

  7. Very nice post about her, Barbara. I got her book 'Quilts & Coverlets' back in the 1970s but didn't actually start quilting until about 3 years ago. She inspired me, though, and now I can look at the book from a different vantage point. Also have a couple of her other books, including the 'No Dragons On My Quilt' which is so fun; it's on my 'must do someday' list.

  8. Thanks for letting us know. I've always admired her from way back when she first started writing.

  9. Thanks for news, sad tho' it is. She was a big influence on me, and I was lucky enough to take a class from her a few years ago. She will be missed.

  10. I grew up quilting with her on programs such as Lap Quilting with Georgia Bonesteel . Jean was a foundational teacher of the quilting arts to us....With so many new "modern" quilters out there that have never even heard of these wonderful ladies, it is a loss.

  11. Thank you for this post. I am so sad Jean Ray Laury has passed. I love her quote 'when I was with quilters I was never far from home'. I hope she is with quilters now.

  12. I was already an admirer of her quilts and crafts when she published "The Creative Woman's Getting It All Together at Home Book." I was surviving on a meager teacher's salary, but I bought multiple copies as gifts for creative friends. She was an amazing woman and a real treasure!