|Teacher, Jazz pianist
Inducted in 2006 at The Quilters Hall of fame Celebration
Research Associate: Karen B. Alexander
|Born Virginia Cox in Greenwood, Indiana, Virginia Avery graduated from DePauw University with a
degree in English Composition and went to work at Indianapolis News. She would soon marry, move
to New York and raise four children. In New York she pursued both her love of fabrics and clothing as
well as her love of jazz. This talented renaissance woman showed a very early interest in what would
become a life-long passion - materials and fabrics, colors and movement. "We are all surrounded by
designs every day of our lives," is her answer to where her inspiration comes from. "We just have to
learn to open our eyes and see."
Totally self-taught in clothing construction, Jinny made her first dress at age 12 not realizing one was
supposed to use a pattern. In the early 60s, Avery approached two fabric shops and landed herself
two clothing-construction teaching jobs. Around that same time she realized quilting was beginning to
make a comeback. Although she had never made a quilt, she thought of them as simply another form
of sewing. It never occurred to her that she couldn't teach it. With some family quilts as a guide, and
a couple of magazine articles, she gave herself a crash course and planned a series of lessons.
In August 1976, Avery attended the first quilt conference of the new "quilt renaissance" held in Ithaca,
New York, and it became a turning point for her career. Not only were very much in evidence, and this
gave Jinny the confidence to begin teaching clothing classes along with quilting classes.
As an accomplished jazz pianist, Jinny has played with the King Street Stompers for more than fifty
years. This lively dedicated group of musicians has appeared on the Today Show and played for the
United Nation's Delegates, as well as many other events. Her traffic-stopping coats that she is so
well-known for are: "Don't Shoot the Piano Player She's Doing the Best She Can," on the cover of
Wonderful Wearables, A Celebration of Creative Clothing "(Collector Books, 1991); Midriff Lilies, which
is the reverse side of "Don't Shoot the Piano Player She's Doing the Best She Can;" and Purple
Passion on the cover of Quilts to Wear (Scribner, 1982). Her outfit for Fairfiend Fashion Show's 10th
anniversary was "There'll Be a Hot Time in the Old Town Tonight," a garment titled with an old jazz
In her forty-plus years in the wearable art and quilt world Virginia Avery has amassed a considerable
body of celebrated work, as well as a reputation as a teacher for inspiring and motivating her students
in a self-affirming, creative learning environment, richly deserving being named one of the 1000 most
influential women of the 1990s by Mirabella magazine; selected as the 3rd recipient of the 1996 Silver
Star Award for Lifetime Achievement by the International Quilt Festival; and now for her selection as
the 36th Honoree in The Quilters Hall of Fame. Avery was once again in top form walking the public
through the retrospective "Virginia Avery: A Flair for Life: of her work and playing her lively jazz at a
jazz and jam session at the Community School of the Arts the night of July 15th. Her official induction
took place Saturday, July 16, in Marion, amidst heart-felt testimonies, as well as tears and laughter,
among her many friends and 17 family members present.
In December 2007 The Quilt Show, produced by Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims, released their
documentary of Virginia Avery filmed in Avery's New York home.