EBHQ History . . .Partnerships, Exhibitions, and Symposiums, Oh My!

By Joan Sextro

With the great success of the first show at the Oakland Scottish Rite Temple, in 1978, the guild sought ways to continue public exhibitions. Finding a new venue took an interesting path. Helen Goeriz’s husband’s brother had gone to high school with Phil Linhares, then curator of the art gallery at Mills College. He showed an avid interest in the concept of a quit exhibit, so the board took a look at the gallery space and the partnership was formed.

The result was an almost two month exhibit at Mills College, between October 9 and November 28, 1982. Visitors were treated to an exhibit of 60 antique and contemporary quilts, entitled, “Quilt: A Tradition of Variations.” Glendora Hutson was a guiding light for this event. A 5-Sunday series of speakers was a highlight. The theme of the show focused on seeing how a traditional pattern has been interpreted differently throughout the years. Two raffle quilts were offered, a woolen Amish quilt designed by Lucy Hilty. A second quilt was entitled Barely Enough. The fabrics were donated by Marilyn Davis, owner of Patience Corners and it was constructed by Jan Inouye, Janet Shore, Marilyn Davis, and Ann Rhode, among others. A David Lance Goines poster was commissioned by a group of members for the event. A very elaborate catalogue which contained color photos on coated paper was underwritten by the guild.

This event was so successful that it was decided to expand the Mills partnership to a symposium format. The first symposium, July 25-29, 1984 was entitled “Growth Through Diversity.” It included five lectures, participants’ choice of a six-hour workshop, one three-hour workshop, one mini lecture, two fashion shows, a quilters’ home studio tour, quilt exhibit, merchants’ mall and special western barbecue. Famous quilters and quilt lovers from all over the country, as well as from Canada and England, were presenters. Anne Ito and Janet Shore were the chairs. In informal travels around the country, they had collected ideas about what the guild could offer in order to provide the scope and focus of the event. The participants lived in Mills College dorms for four days and ate in the cafeteria. Participants had to be members. Ann Ito brought a group from Japan, who became members of the guild, for several years after. See photos here.

These events were wildly successful. The decision was to do another event, so the next symposium took place July 26-30, 1988, and was entitled, “Quilts: Tradition with a Future.” There were lectures, fashion shows, twelve-hour workshops, six-hour workshops, member and teacher exhibits, “Cut from the Cloth” clothing exhibit, merchants’ mall, quilters’ studio tour, and a tour of the Esprit collection. A Baltimore Album Quilt, made under the supervision of Adele Ingraham was unveiled. It currently resides at the San Jose Quilt Museum and is often shown at Voices in Cloth. Ann Rhode designed “Baltimore Rag”, using fabrics left over from the Baltimore Album Quilt, which became the raffle quilt for the event. The 17 teachers read like a who’s who of the quilting world, including some of our distinguished members. One hundred and fifteen member quilts were exhibited. Folk artist Ed Larson, who was one of the teachers, was known for creating art from peoples’ storytelling. He interviewed Anne and Janet and designed images for them based on their life stories. Guild members transformed the images to quilts which they gave to Anne and Janet as thanks for their years of effort. See photos here.

These were joyous, exciting times for the guild members. The synthesis of local professional collectors, quilters, shop owners, quilt historians and teachers with an enthusiastic group of young, competent women, up for learning anything served to advance the art of quilting, a pursuit which remains to this day in the Bay Area and EBHQ.

Helen Goeriz, the first president reminisced that this was also a very exciting time for women. Women were redefining themselves and challenging the traditions with which they had been raised. She said that she got her consciousness-raising around the quilt frame. Women from all walks of life; education, culture, experience, and age were equalized through the shared experiences they had while sewing together.

The events were successful fundraisers for the group, but it took a lot of effort. When Phil Linhares left Mills College, it was decided that the symposium format would be changed to what we now know as Voices in Cloth, which premiered in 1990.

Contributors: Ann Rhode, Mabry Benson, Helen Goeriz, Friendship Knot archives, photo archives.