A Tribute to Joyce Gross
Pictured above:Joyce Gross, at the 2008 International Quilt Festival in Long Beach, California, where works from her collection of quilts were on display as part of the exhibit “Master Piece Work: The Joyce Gross History Collection
The world of quilt history has lost one of its most influential figures—Joyce Gross. Joyce died on Christmas Eve, very peacefully, after a day of seeing family, friends, and even her beloved dog. There will be a memorial service for her on January 27 at Point Bonita, California, where she ran seminars for many years. Joyce’s lifelong dedication to a painstaking, labor-intensive quilt research project resulted in rooms full of boxes of her notes, all cross-indexed, along with the original printed documentation: more than 1000 quilt books, vast assortments of periodicals ranging back to the early 20th century, ephemera of all kinds, including rare fabric samples. She had a library of original documents that would be almost impossible to assemble today. Luckily the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas was able to acquire this incredible body of historical reference materials, along with an important part of her quilt collection which included examples by such important quiltmakers as Bertha Stenge, Pine Eisfeller, Florence Peto, and Dr. Jeannette Throckmorton. She was a major force in early quilt research and documentation.
Director Emeritus, International Quilt Festival—Houston, Cincinnati, Long Beach, Chicago
Co-founder, Texas Quilt Museum
Joyce was one of the early pioneers in the renaissance of interest in quilts that gained force following the Bicentennial. Her focus was on the individuals who had preserved and furthered quilting in the early to mid-20th century, and she approached her research with the diligence of an academician, producing one of the most extensive and thoroughly researched bodies of information anywhere on the subject of quilt history. She was interested in a scholarly approach to quilt study, and for years produced the Quilters' Journal, as well as organizing an annual quilters' retreat at Point Bonita, California. In 1980, she helped to found the American Quilt Study Group, and was a major force in its establishment as an organization for serious quilt study.
Joyce's archives and quilts are an irreplaceable body of information and they provide insight into the lives, activities, and interests of women in the 20th century, a time of great social and cultural changes. The Joyce Gross Collection now resides at the Briscoe Center for American History at the University of Texas at Austin, and includes nearly 200 quilts by American quilters, including "The Garden" and "Tree of Life," both by Pine Eisfeller, which were named to the list of the "100 Best Quilts of the Twentieth Century."
For those wishing to remember Joyce and her many contributions to quilt history, donations may be made to the Joyce Gross Collection at the Briscoe Center.
Nancy O'Bryant Puentes
Executive Vice President
Co-Founder, Texas Quilt Museum