Quilts: Crafting an American Icon

Category: Season 2


Dr. Janneken Smucker

West Chester University

Quilts have become quintessentially American objects, but they have not always covered Americans’ beds. Once they got started making them, Americans developed a special relationship with quilts. They have produced them in a multitude of formats and have used them for a variety of purposes, from practical to symbolic. Whole cloth, mosaic, medallion, block style, Crazy, utility,prizewinning, political, crib, bed, wall—Americans have done them all.

In 1997, art critic Robert Hughes called Amish quilts “America’s first abstract art,” due to their strong graphics and visual parallels with abstract paintings. At the same time, these country crafts help attract tourists to “Amish country” eager to take home a souvenir of their visit. Smucker will explore these and other paradoxes of this material manifestation of Amish culture.

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