Amish Quilts

I have long been taken with the Quilts of the Amish. I always thought that their wonderful quilts were like abstract paintings and I embarked on a series of large square paintings inspired by the work. Using masking tape for hard edges and multiple glazes I am attempting to reach an evocation and homage to their designs.

A recent visit to the American Museum and their bookshop brought a surprise in a book called ' Fundamentally Abstract '. This is a publication to accompany exhibitions of the Amish quilt collection of Faith and Steven Brown. 

To my amazement the whole thrust of the book mirrored my own reasons for making my Amish paintings. I was trying to translate  their abstraction, albeit intuitive, into paint . I thought that the soft edges of their fabric shapes could be replaced by hard edged geometric shapes using their colours as an inspiration.

An essay in the book put things much more eloquently than I could so I have paraphrased some of it and I thank the author.

"The talented American quiltmakers of the nineteenth and early twentieth century created thousands of works of extraordinary beauty and expressive power. For a century or more preceding the self conscious invention of pictoral abstraction in European painting , the anonymous quilt makers of the American provinces created a remarkable succession of visual masterpieces that anticipated many of the forms that were later prized for their originality and courage. Chief among these masterpieces is the work of the Amish whose quilts are unmatched in their combination of rich colour, perfectly balanced proportions and imaginative design. The women who made the quilts lived in a world stripped bare of self pride and the need to create self conscious works of art, the quilts were made by believers not seekers. Unlike other American quiltmakers who made appliqued and pieced quilts, the Amish practiced only piecework, thereby largely eliminating the possibility of creating anything representational.

Lancaster Amish quilts are distinguished by their unerringly wonderful use of colour which brings their minimalist designs to life. They reveal surprising colour choices, often juxtaposing hues of the same or similar value, placing slightly different tones of the same colour next to one another or putting strongly contrasting shades side by side, setting pieces of vivid pink, intense pumpkin orange, or bright sky blue against dark earth tones."

The book is called "Amish Abstraction " from " Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco". Amazon have it.

Oh! and by the way a visit to The American Museum in Bath is well worth a trip. Their collection of Folk Art is spectacular.  September 2013