Friday, December 29, 2023

Statue of Liberty Centennial Quilt Contest 2


"Lady Liberty Lights the Way" by Nancy M. Crasco, Massachusetts

In the last post we looked at quilts entered in the 1985-1986 contest to celebrate the centennial of the Statue of Liberty. Here are a few winners and some also-rans.

"Let Freedom Glow" by Joen Wolfram

"America & Lady Liberty" by Martha Skelton, winner in Mississippi

Jenny Laine Lamoreaux, Michigan

"Liberty in America" by Ruth Beckett, Washington

Mary Kay Horn, Indiana winner

"Spacious Skies" by Charlotte Warr Anderson, Utah
2nd National Winner

Lillie Short, Kentucky

"And Still They Come" by Janet Moreland, Illinois

Ruth Gore Marks, Indiana

"Mothers of Exiles" by Rebekka Seigel, Kentucky Prizewinner

"Mother of Exiles" by Carol Ruszel Gutyan, Indiana

Nita Spencer, Nebraska

Dianne J. Menning, Michigan

Sunday, December 24, 2023

The Great American Quilt Contest


Lida Finnell's quilt in the Smithsonian's collection
may be the one that earned her a prize at a fair in Kentucky in 1890.

Over at our Six Know-It-Alls Facebook page we looked at contests as a reflection of quilt style last month---what was popular at the time of the contest and how the winners influenced future quilts.

Lida's certainly reflects the popularity of crazy piecing and
embroidered florals at the time.

Almost a century later a group of companies sponsored a New York City contest to celebrate the centennial of the Statue of Liberty. We can look at the entries as indications of style popularity in 1985 and 1986 when quilters around the country were considering design options.

As an article in the Chicago Tribune told us:
"Not surprisingly, the Statue of Liberty was a favorite motif. She rose above purple mountains and fruited plains in the grand prize-winner`s quilt from California, towered above cornfields in the Kansas entry and stood bravely above the shining seas in the quilt from New Jersey."

"Glorious Lady Freedom" won Moneca Calvert $20,000 as
the grand prize winner.

Judy B. Dales of New Jersey won her state prize.

"Our Lady's Crown" by Frances M. Barnes of Georgia
Not everyone used a literal picture of the monument. Frances's is a familiar pattern
called New York Beauty or Crown of Thorns,

"Step Through the Door" by Betty Boyink of Michigan

But nearly all of the entries I can find are pictorial in some fashion.
Betty's is abstract in theme and imagery.

"Light of Liberty" by Carole Ann Grotian, state winner in Massachusetts.
Carole's inspiration is the statue's base.
Laura Lane of the New England Quilt Museum adds:
The Massachusetts winner is now in the collection of the New England Quilt Museum. The quilt depicts the view you would see if you looked at the statue of Liberty from above.

"Freedom Needs No Words" by Barbara Schaffer of New Jersey

"The Promise" by Paulette Peters of Nebraska

Julia Swan, Ohio's winner

Many have some reference to traditional pattern. Julia used a
zig-zag set and a clever adaptation of a late-19th century human image.

"Liberty Medallion" by Marianne Fons, Iowa winner

Shirley Barrett of Montana

Beverly Komodo

"Freedom to Dream" by Anita Murphy of Texas

We might compare some of these entries to prize-winners in Paducah in 2023, although it's hard to see trends when one is in the middle of them. I'd say, however, that kaleidoscopic medallions are a current craze.

Pathfinder by Karla Reps

Sweet Madame Blue by Margaret Solomon Gunn

Harlequinade by Becky Prior
And literal pictorials remain popular.

Next Post----More entries in the Statue of Liberty contest.
Ask to join our Six Know-It-Alls Facebook group where we discuss a different topic in quilt history every month.

6KnowItAlls:ShowUsYourQuilts ---- https://www.facebook.com/groups/1413180019082731

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Bertha Stenge & The Key to Winning Prizes


Bertha Sheramsky Stenge (1891-1957)
About 1935

When Bertha Sheramsky was 18 and living with her parents and older (half-?) brother in Alameda, California, the census taker recorded her as an "artist" with her "own studio." 

Alameda in the East Bay near San Francisco about 1930.

A 1955 interview on her art training.

Bertha Sheramsky Stenge (1891-1957)
Time/Life photographer Myron Davis
photographed the artist at work in 1946.
She'd also enjoyed mention in Newsweek.

Bertha married attorney Bernhard (Bernard) Stenge and moved to Chicago where they had three daughters in the teens. As the girls grew Bertha looked to quiltmaking as an art form. She decided to take up the challenge that Sears, Roebuck & Company and the Chicago World's Fair issued in early 1933---a quilt contest in conjunction with the Fair offering a huge cash prize ($1,200) if the prizewinning quilt commemorated the fair's city anniversary theme, a century of progress.

Bertha chose a Century of Progress in architecture with
the dismissive image of the "teepees" of the Indigenous settlers on
Lake Michigan as the primitive and the "Temples" of modern architecture
as the ultimate in progress.

At 6:00 in her circular design, teepees up through Chicago's history to fair buildings at 12.
Contestants found out about the contest in January and entries were due in the middle of May.

Collection of the Chicago Historical Society
That spring Bertha put a good deal of quilting into her entry with some
echoes of traditional piecing.

Thousands of quilters entered; no one won the grand prize promised for a commemorative quilt.

The winner was a traditional quilt, entered
by a needlework shop owner who commissioned the star quilt. 
The judges must have been impressed with the 
 stuffed work quilting, an almost forgotten art.

Sketch of the prizewinner with stuffed work or trapunto 
quilted leaves.

Many quilters copied the winner using patterns and kits.

Bertha Stenge was impressed with the stuffed quilting herself. Merikay Waldvogel tells us Bertha "heard it was the trapunto quilting on the grand prizewinning quilt that caught the judges’ eyes. Sooo she learned a short cut and added trapunto quilting designs to her quilt entries from then on."

"Here she is shown with her Hosannah Palm quilt (1935). It won in the Trapunto Class of the 1935 Kentucky State Fair. She also entered it in a 1936 Grange Quilt Contest and then again in the 1940 New York World’s Fair contest America Through the Needle’s Eye” where the quilt won first prize.

Two years later she entered the Woman’s Day National Needlework Exhibition
with her Victory Quilt and won the $1000 grand prize.

Victory Quilt

Art Institute of Chicago Collection

She and Bernard went to New York to pick up the check at Madison Square Garden in November, 1942.

Illinois State Museum Collection
Detail of the stuffed work quilting in Iva's Pincushion, 1936

In the museum's caption a quote from an article in The Prairie Farmer in 1936: " 'I sew a thin lining on the back of the design. Now, from the back of the design [I] spread threads with a wooden toothpick, poke Germantown knitting wool through the opening, then close.' Stenge created a delicate snowflake-like design which relies equally on appliqué needlework and trapunto quilting to complete its effect. Sometimes Stenge would hire quilters to help her with the more routine quilting on her works. She preferred to do the trapunto work herself."

Collection of the Briscoe Center of American History
Rachel's Wreath, 1935

In her Briscoe Center collection catalog Comfort & Glory curator Kate Adams described the collaborative process between Stenge and professional quilters. Bertha did the trapunto; the quilters filled in the background, usually with a grid.

Rachel's Wreath

The Quilt Show from the 1940s