by Rachel Perry
photo by George Bredewater
June Wolpert’s passion for quilts is apparent as soon as you enter her home. A large meticulously pieced quilt hangs at one end of her elongated living room and several framed examples of block designs decorate the east wall. One room in the house is entirely dedicated to shelves of cotton fabrics available for future projects.
Although quilts are an integral part of American women’s history, the perception of quilts as an art form has evolved only in the past three decades. In addition to the traditional block patterns, modern quilters pursue their own creative designs to produce stunning visual wall-hangings using fabric as their medium. Today, museums and historic sites regularly feature shows to foster appreciation for the skill, ingenuity, and patience involved in the art of creating quilts.
June Wolpert began making quilts in 1979. “I’ve always been interested in quilts,” she said. “My interest in sewing and crafts naturally led to making them.” By 1984, Mrs. Wolpert was an established quilter and began teaching others her technical methods. From the basics to complicated “reversible log cabin” designs, her various classes offer something for every skill level. She currently teaches for Nashville’s Lifelong Learning program.
In addition to being “an inspired and inspiring teacher” according to Patch Works in Bloomington, Mrs. Wolpert continues to enjoy taking quilting classes as a student. She attends an annual International Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas, where workshops are taught by experts from all over the world.
June Wolpert’s quilts have been featured in several publications and received numerous awards. In 1988 her quilt called “Radiant Star” was selected winner of the Hoosier Choice award and her original adaptation of a log cabin design called “Pizazz” took third place honors at the 1991 Quilt Festival in Houston. The latter quilt was photographed for the cover of the Quilters Newsletter Magazine. Mrs. Wolpert’s “McKim Butterfly Quilt” is included in Best Loved Quilts and appeared in a national television commercial in January 1994.
Not content to rest on her laurels, Mrs. Wolpert continually strives toward improvement and innovation. A more recent quilt called “Fantastic Wings” looks modern with oriental nuances. Large vivid silk butterflies swoop over a dark variegated diagonal background. The piece won Best of Show at a recent Columbus, Indiana, exhibition.
“I like to design my own patterns,” she acknowledged. “I think the more you do the more you improve your color sense. Sometimes I start out with something and when I look at it, it doesn’t work for me so it changes.”
In order to accomplish such large projects, June Wolpert tries to work on her quilt projects every day. It takes at least a month to sew the pieces of fabric together and another three or four months, working every day, to “quilt” a 70″ X 65″ piece. Mrs. Wolpert’s tiny, uniform stitches, used in her favorite “fan method” of quilting, display her meticulous and time-consuming work.
In addition to making quilts and entering shows, Mrs. Wolpert devotes much time to organizations and events that promote the art form. She became an expert at dating historical quilts and participated in the Indiana Quilt search, initiated to document and register quilts in the state. Mrs. Wolpert coordinated the Brown County Historical Society Quilt Show in 1984 and served as the President of the Columbus Star Quilt Guild in 1989_1990. She also belongs to the Bloomington Quilt Guild and the Brown County Historical Society Pioneer Women, who produce a quilt to be raffled every year.
June grew up in Corydon, Indiana, where she met and married Art Wolpert. Mr. Wolpert worked as a regional representative selling pharmaceutical products. The couple moved to New Castle where both of their children were born. Brown County’s central location in the sales territory prompted the family to purchase a house near the Bean Blossom Overlook in 1954. They moved to Nashville, Tennessee, and later to Kentucky in the 1960s but could not resist returning to Brown County by the end of that decade.
After returning to Nashville, Mrs. Wolpert took a job as executive secretary for Cummins in Columbus. She retired eight years later to accompany her husband on his business trips. “I did a lot of crocheting and crafts projects in motel rooms,” she laughed. When Art became terminally ill, June cared for him until his death in 1992.
Recently moved into a house on Artist Drive, June Wolpert appears to thrive on her quilt-related activities in addition to regular participation in two bridge groups as well as a part time job at the Red Cross. Her accumulation of quilts, dating back as far as 1875, rivals the textile collection of any museum in the state.
Believing that no two quilts should be alike, Mrs. Wolpert’s own creations vary greatly in style and subject. A whimsical quilt called “Hometown USA” includes blocks featuring downtown Nashville buildings like Michael’s Flower Shop, the Daily Grind, the Caramel Corn place, the Courthouse and, of course, the Quilt Parlor. The latter building is proportioned to reflect June Wolpert’s priorities. It appears to be the largest building in Nashville.