Saturday, January 23, 2010

"Amish Abstractions; Quilts From The Collection of Faith & Steven Brown" Published by Pomegranate Communications

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I have been enamored with Amish Quilts for more years than I care to admit to! My obsession with them began with an exhibit of Amish Quilts at the Whitney Museum in New York City in the 1970’s. I have always thought that Amish quilts represent the height of quilt artistry and I’ve collected books on Amish quilts for many years. I was, therefore, thoroughly delighted when I was asked to review this new book from Pomegranate Communications!

“Amish Abstractions: Quilts From The Collection of Faith &  Steven Brown” is a lush, beautifully printed, book presented by the San Francisco Fine Arts Museums and is, as mentioned above, published by Pomegranate Communications . I have known about Pomegranate as a purveyor of fine cards, book marks and wonderful calendars, but I was not aware of their extensive, very beautiful, line of art books. Their catalog is impressive!

"Crazy Quilt" circa 1930, Arthur, Illinois  78 X 63 " 
Could anything be more modern, abstract or awesome as this Amish 'Crazy Quilt'?! 

The forward to “Amish Abstractions” is written by John E. Buchanan, Jr. Director of Museums/ Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. Faith & Steven Brown have written an excellent ‘Collector’s Note’ about their superb collection and the book contains essays ,written by noted quilt historians,that are both interesting and very informative.

Janneken Smucker, quilt historian, presents an excellent, very enjoyable, essay entitled ‘Quilts In Amish Contexts : Traditions and Adaptations’ in which she explains a bit about the history of the Amish, the Amish aesthetic, and how the tradition of Amish quilt making began. This essay offers a compact history of how the Amish began making quilts, initially large scale patterns made from fabrics left over from clothes making - progressing to how the Amish ultimately used more mainstream patterns in their quilt making.

 Below: "Unnamed Pattern" Circa 1930, Crib Quilt 30 X 25"

The eminent quilt historian Robert Shaw has contributed an essay entitled “Fundamentally Abstract: The Aesthetic Achievement of Amish Quiltmakers”. This is a well written essay that describes the evolution of Amish design work and the historical differences between the quilt styles of various Amish sects. From the Lancaster Amish and their brilliant central diamond designs that feature large open spaces filled with beautiful feathered quilting patterns to the Midwestern Amish quilt makers who favored blue & black, used pieced patterns, and used more main stream cottons and other fabrics as opposed to the wools used by Lancaster County quilters – this essay is an excellent preview to the history of Amish quilt patterns.

An essay contributed by Joe Cunningham, another noted quilt historian, is entitled “All In The Details: The Making of Amish Quilts”. It’s a concise, well presented introduction to the history of the quilt patterns that were most often used by the Amish.
Above: "Unnamed Pattern" circa 1930, Mifflin County, Pennsylvania  70 X 70 "

What I enjoyed the most about this book is that the Brown’s collection of Amish quilts contains some amazing examples of quilts- some of which I have not seen. The plates in this book offer some prime examples of the large, beautifully quilted, wool quilts of the Lancaster Amish, but there are also some spectacular examples of quilts made from more main stream patterns: Amish crazy quilts, abstracts, nine-patch and variations, ocean waves, hole in the barn door, broken dishes – all ‘main stream’ patterns that, in the hands of the Amish, become works of art. The Amish aesthetic and their utilization of colors make the patterns sing and their use of juxtaposed colors raise the patterns from traditional patch work to artistic masterpiece. I think that the artistry in Amish quilts is what has always fascinated me about them – they are brilliant, bold, aesthetically pleasing and, to my eye, they always represent the epitome of quilt artistry.

Below: "Tumbling Blocks", circa 1925  Ohio or Indiana  72 X 70 "

I highly recommend this book for quilt enthusiasts in general but most certainly quilt historians and those who admire Amish design will be especially pleased with the Faith & Steven Brown Amish quilt collection presented in this book. The color plates are very well done and the text portions of the book are excellent reading. I could go on and on about the patterns and color plates in this book – but it is probably best if you just buy the book! All in all, although I seldom provide the rating, I believe that this book deserves five stars!

Above: "Railroad Crossing" circa 1888, Melinda Miller, Walnut Creek, Ohio  89 X 69"

Below: "Ocean Waves" circa 1925, Holmes County, Ohio   89 X 76"

Disclosure Note: I received this book in exchange for an honest opinion and review. No other remuneration was received.


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