June 25 through October 12, 2014
The Wisconsin Museum of Quilts & Fiber Arts welcomes you to “Traditions” including the exhibit of Mary A. McElwain, as a person, a quilter and an entrepreneur.
In the Mary A. McElwain Quilt Shop, she offered quilt kits, quality fabrics and supplies, patterns, bed turnings, quilting services and an inviting atmosphere that brought customers singly and by the busloads to the small town of Walworth, Wisconsin.
The business, she developed in a small corner in her husband’s jewelry store in 1912, extended to become a full sized store and eventually was expanded to accommodate the shop’s many visitors. It continued after her death in 1943, finally closing in 1960.
Mary designed patterns, developed quilt kits, addressed women’s groups, published her 1936 Catalogue, “The Romance of the Village Quilts”, spoke to radio audiences via WLS-Chicago and was one of the judges of the Sears and Roebuck sponsored quilt contest for the 1933 Century of Progress World’s Fair in Chicago. But Mary was more than that, she was also a wife, mother and grandmother; still finding time to make quilts for family members. In her own words, she spoke caringly of her employees and the joy she found in children visiting her shop.
Starting from a dream for a small corner of a store to developing a successful, recognized business; even through the Great Depression, Mary A. McElwain’s example continues to be a model for today.
Victoria Findlay Wolfe, called a “mod-quilt celebrity” by the Wall Street Journal, won the Best of Show award at modern quilting’s first QuiltCon in 2013. Yet Findlay Wolfe’s work is rooted in tradition. In “Double Edged Love,” pictured next to Findlay Wolfe at QuiltCon 2013, the artist took the traditional double wedding ring pattern and gave it a modern interpretation. She has now created a series of 12 double wedding ring quilts, each employing a new interpretation of that traditional pattern. The results are breathtaking in their originality and diversity. The WMQFA is honored to host this first public exhibition of Findlay Wolfe’s series.
“By changing one element each time, in the traditional design of a double wedding ring pattern, I was able to make 12 Double wedding ring quilts that all look completely different from each other,” says Findlay Wolfe. ”Each time I did, more ideas came to me. I was connecting them to memories of my childhood in relation to my grandmother, Elda Wolfe, who made beautiful quilts of her own. I found during that constant “play” with my ideas, two things happened: One, I pushed the boundaries and ideas of creativity further then I thought I could in just one quilt. And two, focusing on my happy childhood memories brought me to really appreciate my roots, a truly full circle moment. It was a very exciting concept to work with, and in fact, I have a few more double wedding rings to make!”