Beloved quilt world legend Yvonne Porcella died on Friday. She will be greatly missed by her family and friends and by so many in the quilt world–her fellow artists, her students, her colleagues at SAQA and the Quilt Alliance.
Yvonne (or YP as many called her) was documented by the Quilt Alliance and its partners via projects like Quilters’ S.O.S. – Save Our Stories (Q.S.O.S.), Go Tell It at the Quilt Show!, Quilt Treasures and The Quilt Index (see excerpts below). The vibrancy of her work and her spirit were exciting and magnetic, and the YP brand was easy to spot–bright red and/or pink and always a black and white element (be it a quilt binding or a pair of socks, pants
Many of our sister organizations have also documented and honored Yvonne. (Find links to these resources at the end of this post.) In 1989, Yvonne founded the Studio Art Quilt Associates organization and remained committed to its mission until her death. In 1998, she was inducted into the Quilters Hall of Fame in Marion, Indiana. That same year, Yvonne was named the 5th recipient of the Silver Star Award at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas.
Yvonne was very supportive of the Quilt Alliance’s newest project, Go Tell It at the Quilt Show! which debuted in 2012. We recorded two Go Tell It!’s with Yvonne in 2014: the first during SAQA’s 25th anniversary conference in Alexandria, Virginia and the second at the International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas.
Yvonne’s life and work was documented by the Quilt Treasures project in 2002. Quilt Treasures, a joint project of the Quilt Alliance, Michigan State University Museum and MATRIX Center for Digital Humanities and Social Sciences, documented the stories of a limited number of notable individuals – quiltmakers, designers, business people, collectors, scholars, publishers – who were instrumental in moving the 20th century quilt revival forward in some significant way.
Yvonne Porcella Mini-Documentary
As a founding board member of the Quilt Alliance, Yvonne contributed to many aspects of the organization’s projects and initiatives, including co-founding the Alliance quilt contest. In 2006, she worked with Karen Musgrave to launch this annual fundraising and documentary effort, and since then, artists from the United States and around the world have created and donated 872 quilts to support the Quilt Alliance. For the past nine years, Yvonne has made and donated one or more of her own quilts to the contest. Here are those quilts, now documented both on the Quilt Alliance website as well as in The Quilt Index.
Yvonne’s struggle with cancer was long and daunting. As a former nurse, she knew her body and her illness with precision. She managed to stay incredibly positive in the face of her prognosis, and maintained a lightness of being and sense of humor that fueled her fight.
When Yvonne had to cancel her presentation at the Quilt Alliance’s 2015 Quilters Take Manhattan event, it was not her battle with cancer that prevented her from attending. She called me, laughing, about a week before the event to explain that she had dropped a giant bottle of ketchup on her foot and her doctor wouldn’t let her fly in that condition. She even texted me the photo of her foot as we talked, so we could mock the situation together with proper visual aides.
Keeping up with the latest technology, while never losing touch with handwork was a central theme in her optimism and excitement for the future. In this Quilters’ S.O.S. – Save Our Stories interview conducted on November 29, 1999, Yvonne talks about anticipating the Twentieth Century.
Interviewer, Jeri Baldwin: What have you done with thinking about the Twentieth Century in your work and your teaching? What do you think you’ll change, or will you want to change, or what do you want to leave the same? What are you going to take into the Twenty-first Century as a quilter and as a teacher?
Yvonne Porcella: I’m still going to take the passion I have for doing it by hand. I’m going to take the passion of creating something totally for myself, that pleases myself, that comes from myself. I am not interested in scanning it on the computer. I am not interested in coloring it on the computer. Because to me the reason I am an artist, which was very difficult for me to even reach that point where that I can verbalize it because I was trained as a nurse. I was trained as a mother, as a grandmother and to be an artist was to say to people, ‘Well, I think I am an artist although I am not academically trained.’ But I have a passion and I know that if I don’t do the work that I’d be unhappy. So for me the twenty-first century will be similar to the twentieth century because I will continue to work until I can no longer work. The wonderful part of being an artist is that the wonderful ideas never stop so the concept of the creativity that will be produced in the–however long I am going to live is very exciting to me.
On behalf of the board, staff and membership of the Quilt Alliance, I want to send my condolences to Yvonne’s family.
Rest in peace, dear friend, colleague and treasure. You inspired us to be our Best.
Please leave your own remembrance of Yvonne below in the comments.
Those who would like to make a tax-deductible gift to the Quilt Alliance in Yvonne’s honor can make a secure donation online via credit card or PayPal here:
Or mail a check, payable to Quilt Alliance to:
67 Broadway Street, Suite 200
Asheville, NC 28801
Please indicate “In Honor of Yvonne Porcella” in the memo or description line.
You can contact us here: firstname.lastname@example.org or 828-251-7073
More online resources about Yvonne Porcella:
Studio Art Quilt Associates
Quilters Hall of Fame
The Quilt Show.com
Yvonne Porcella’s website
San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles
Twisted Sister (blog of Jamie Fingal)
Pokey’s Ponderings (blog of Pokey Bolton)
Video interview with Yvonne recorded by Lisa Ellis in November 2015
Posted by Amy E. Milne
Executive Director, Quilt Alliance