By: Marin F. Hanson and Janneken Smucker
Using two examples of cross-cultural interaction, this paper examines how periods of cultural exchange have influenced quiltmaking practices. American quilts with clear links to Eastern cultures echo the larger patterns of economic and cultural trade between Asia and the West during the past several centuries. Beginning with the use of Asian-produced or Asian-influenced fabrics in the eighteenth century, American quiltmakers have frequently looked to the “exotic” East for design inspiration. The distinctive Old Order Amish quilt style exhibits clear ties to “English” (non-Amish) quiltmaking techniques, patterns, and formats. Amish quilts support the assertion that Amish culture is continually influenced by and reacting to larger American or “English” society. During the current quiltmaking revival, cultural exchange has again had an impact; Japanese quiltmakers have adopted American quilt styles, adapting them to create a distinct Japanese art form, while “English” quiltmakers and quilt collectors have embraced the Amish quilt aesthetic.