Amish Quilts

To complete my Master’s degree in 2004, I had to write a dissertation and then defend it before a college committee. Emotionally speaking, the few days preceding the defense felt like a complete nightmare since I’ve never been very comfortable with argumenting with people. Plus, I then believed that everything that needed to be said on the subject was already in my paper. So why the hell should I develop more? But it was not as if I was given the choice to skip this stupid exercise, hey? I worked hard on my dissertation over the whole year and it also took me a few months before even starting research to just find the subject. Turns out it clearly emerged by itself at the beginning of the academic year, in September 2003, while I was attending a quilt exhibition near Paris called “Amish and Mennonite Quilts”.

Yes, Amish people master the art of making quilts. And no, it’s not their only occupational activity outside attending church!

Anyway, the event was organized by Catherine and Jacques Légeret, a couple from Switzerland. For years now, they have both been contributing to promote, through exhibitions, the amazing craft of quilting and Amish savoir-faire. You can visit their website here for more information: http://www.quiltsamish.com/

So that’s how it started. I decided to focus my dissertation on the Amish people, and more specifically on their relationship with  the US institutions. Obviously, my motivation did not come from the amazing quilts I saw that day. Let’s say the quilts and the book written by Jacques Légeret, “L’énigme amish”, aroused an interest that I already had in American culture and religious matters. Against all odds and despite  the (questionable) Puritan stereotype Europeans have about Americans, most of them certainly are very open-minded about religion and accepting of the many (and sometimes weird) ways to practice it in their country. While, in Europe, some practices would be considered as illegal, sectarian or dangerous, they are authorized – or at least tolerated – in the US. That point was probably much more interesting for the americanophile that I am than the quilts themselves.

The Amish are a fascinating community (or should I say fascinating communities). But sadly, they are barely known in France and I always have to explain people that Amish are not dangerous, that they cannot be considered as a “sect” in the French sense of the term, and that – for God’s sake! – they are *not* fundamentalist Mormons and do not practice plural marriages, you gorram idiots! It’s pretty hard to tell people that living the Amish life may raise some kind of admiration in me. Of course, this is not a life that I would like to have – besides, I’m an atheist! – but the Amish way of thinking, bonding and preserving/protecting their culture is simply extraodinary. If you’re not convinced, you still can watch Harrison Ford’s movie “Witness”, maybe it’s gonna make you change your mind.

Don’t worry, I’m not gonna rewrite my essay here. This jibber-jabber was my way to introduce beautiful pictures of Amish quilts, some of them belonging to Jacques Légeret’s personal collection. I’ve never had any real interest in handcraft but the following quilts are genuine works of art. They’re  like paintings. Maybe they even say more than mere paintings to people who’ve got enough background knowledge, as well as artistic skills (which, to be honest, I haven’t). Although some of them are a bit old, they look so contemporary. And look at the colors! Traditional handmade quilts are expensive ($700-1500 for a bedspread) but I hope I’ll be able to afford one some day.

Unknown Amish Quilt - Holmes County, Ohio - Circa 1930-40

Log Cabin, Bull’s Eye Variation - Possibly made in Holmes County, Ohio

Antique Quilt from Ohio - Darwin D. Bearley Collection

Quilt from Illinois

This one below is my favorite!

Wedding Quilt - Prairie Stars - Indiana, 1950 - Jacques Légeret Collection

Tumbling Blocks - Ohio, 1940 - Jacques Légeret Collection