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Ellen Anne Eddy
Author of Thread Magic: The Enchanted World of Ellen Anne Eddy Fiber artist, author and teacher
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Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Fare well, Jean. And Thanks!

March 3, 2011 10:25 PM

Jean Ray Laury, 1928-2011

Some sad news: We've lost Jean Ray Laury, Fresno's most beloved fiber artist. She died Wednesday after a long illness. From the obituary in Friday's paper:
Her most recent local project was an installation at the new headquarters of the San Joaquin River Parkway and Conservation Trust: five 9-foot banners that depict, in alluring colors, the array of plants, wildlife and other inhabitants of the river region. The project took two and a half years.
"I can't imagine any commission that could be more fun or more rewarding than this one," she told The Bee.
A graduate of Stanford University, Mrs. Laury developed an international reputation in the world of quilting and fiber arts, and traveled as a guest lecturer, including to Australia, Belgium, France, Norway and South Africa.
In 1999, her work was included in a Houston installation titled "America's 100 Best Quilts of the 20th Century.I'll be putting together an appreciation of Laury in the days to come, so if you have any thoughts on her artistic contributions or personal memories, feel free to share.

Several weeks ago when I was on facebook, I found Jean Ray Laury had died. 
Jean was not one of the names I remember most from my beginning quilting. I watched the "quilt artists" with a lot of interest and passion.  I don't remember seeing her name that much. 

But it was there. What I do remember is seeing her quilts. Advice from Your Mother. Cowgirls. Political statements. They represented a  huge change in the art quilt world. They centered around her printmaking skills and wacky sense of humor.They were strictly about women's work, ideas, lives fears and hopes. They were an education. I was at a conference several years ago with her and had the time to see her lecture. What I found was that I did know mountains of her work. Year after year, piece after piece, this quiet woman with a loud artistic voice made an astonishing  statement about art, femininity, and self expression. Her work had lifted me to a level where I was brave enough to begin my own.

So many of us as quilters have a trick, a tool, a viewpoint of our own that makes us unique.Perhaps that was the beginning of the movement from quilt to art. I think Jean may have been part of the first of that. Her prints, so unlike quilts, but clearly  quilted showed us that path. Now she shines on. 

Do we have quilting saints? I hope we do. People larger than life, full of a path and vision that changes us all? I think we do. Saints are legends, not necessarily holy, so much as they are wholly what they are. Their lives illuminate ours. Their clarity clears away our clutter and confusion. Do they watch us to see what we do in their wake? God knows, we learned from watching them.  I think she's a grand Saint Jean, of the quilt.

Fare well, Jean. And thanks!


Terry said...

One of my early inspirations and a patron(ess) Saint for us all.

Catskill Quilter said...

Sad to lose her! I remember buying her books eagerly as they came out; there were too few quilter role models when she began, so I think of her as a pioneer!

Dianne Leatherdale Johnson said...

I have some of Jean's books in the library I inherited from my mother. They are some of what sparked my interest in fibre arts. She will be missed, but always fondly remembered and greatly appreciated.

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