Quilting Traditions: The Art of the Amish
from the collection of Marsha and Thomas French
Hodge & Temporary Exhibition Galleries
Amish women began making quilts around 1860 for utilitarian purposes—to keep warm or commemorate important events in their family's lives. Such practical objects are seen as art because of the patterns, intense colors, and highly skilled techniques that make them striking visual images. Within the rules set by their faith, Amish women created quilts that both adhered to tradition and were unique expressions of the individual quilter. The solid colors, geometric patterns, and intricate quilting have come to be recognized as outstanding characteristics of these quilts.
Quilt patterns and color arrangements are usually specific to Amish communities. Ohio quilts are known for their complex arrangement of color on black backgrounds (as in Broken Star, 1920–30; opposite). Quilts from Indiana use more white and light green pieces in a block format. Pennsylvania quilts are known for their large pieces, bold colors, and elaborate quilting. Quilts are usually composed of three layers: 1) the ornamental or top layer; 2) the lining; and 3) the support or bottom layer. Quilting, which is a time-consuming process and an elaborate design in itself, binds these three layers together. The design of the top layer can be created by piecework (small pieces of fabric sewn together) or appliqué (pieces sewn onto a backing).
Traditionally, Amish quilts from Ohio and Indiana are made up of piecework. The collection presented in this exhibition was assembled by collectors Marsha and Thomas French. Examples from the Amish communities in Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana from the 19th century to the mid-20th century illustrate the history of Amish quilts and the importance of this ongoing tradition.
VIEW LARGER IMAGE
sateen & cotton, 1920–30
83 x 82 inches
Collection of Marsha & Thomas French
Photo: Gary J. Kirksey, Larry Hamel Lambert, & Sam Girton. Courtesy of the Dairy Barn Arts Center.