Archive for Wednesday, October 16, 2002

Gish started quilt show at festival 30 years ago

October 16, 2002

In 1973, Enola Gish, a graduate student at Emporia State University, had an idea. She felt that the Maple Leaf Festival, then in its 15th year, needed a quilt show. Gish eventually approached the Maple Leaf Festival Committee to ask for a donation of $25 to help cover expenses to put on her quilt show.

Gish was in the process of taking her first quilt class and had seen only one quilt show in her life, but still had the vision, courage and tenacity to forge ahead. In August, she received final approval from the committee. Using borrowed screens, blackboards and lumber, she was able to put together a double row of quilts. Her husband, Lowell, slept with the quilts and had coffee ready in the morning when the workers arrived.

From these beginnings sprang 25 years of quilt displays at the Maple Leaf Festival under her direction before she retired from the task. Sharon Vesecky, not wanting to see what had become a renowned and prestigious event come to an end, picked up the task for four more years.

Gish comes from a family of quilters. Her mother, grandmother and great aunt were all quilters. However, Gish didn't begin quilting until she took her first class in the spring of 1973 in Lawrence.

With the first Maple Leaf Quilt Show under her belt, she went on to become one of the area's most active quilters, designers, teachers and historians. She wrote a column for the Baldwin Ledger where she covered other quilt shows around the state, as well as one in England. She included information about other shows, quilters, patterns and quilting tidbits. She continued her column until 1995.

Gish began teaching others to quilt. Many of the local quilters remember taking classes from her. She continues to teach new quilters today.

In 1978, Gish traveled about 9,000 miles around the country looking for great examples of quilts and meeting the people who made them. She worked with Helen Ericson, Betty Hagerman and Chris Edmonds to stage the Kansas Symposium, bringing together these quilters to participate in the sharing of quilts and quilting with the citizens of Kansas communities in a program she called "Meet the Quilters."

Sponsored by the Kansas Art Council, she curated a quilt show that was hung in the Kansas State Capitol building in Topeka, after which it traveled to other Kansas locations.

Now in it's 30th year, the Maple Leaf Quilt Show would like to honor Gish for her vision and effort over the years. Quilts numbered one through six in the quilt show are her quilts. She will be available at the show on Saturday from 10 to 11 a.m. and 2 to 4 p.m. and on Sunday from 10 a.m. to noon.

Gish will also be presented before the Quilt Lecture at 8 a.m. Sunday at Owens Hall at Baker University.

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