Amish Abstractions at the DeYoung+

Mom and I had museum day last Friday. We first went to the DeYoung and saw the Amish Abstractions  exhibit. This is an exhibit of Amish quilts from the Stephen and Faith Brown collection.

I could look at Amish quilts for years and never get bored. I went to the Esprit exhibit at the DeYoung back in the Dark Ages and I even demonstrated handquilting during one of their free evenings through a quilt class I was taking at the time. That was in the old museum building and before they charged extra for the special exhibits. Times definitely change!

I really tried to look at each quilt for more than 30 seconds (which my mother tells me is the average time that someone looks at a piece of art in an exhibit.

Shutter Block
Shutter Block

I liked all of the quilts. The ones that particularly stuck in my mind were a small crib quilt with two vertical rows of 3 Jack’s Chains* and a small 6 block crib quilt using a block I had never seen before. I am calling it the “Shutter quilt.” Do you know the name of the block?

The hidden complexity (quilting) in the simplicity (piecing) fascinates me. The piecing designs are often (not always) relatively simple. As the viewer gets closer, s/he can see the complexity of the quilting designs. Many of the quilts had feathers quilted into the border. A quilt using the Bars design had a feather wreath in the middle surrounded by an octagon of straight line quilting design with little quilted clamshell stitching accenting the octagon line. This detail was invisible unless I got up very close to it.

One thing I particularly noticed this time was the deft use of their limited color palette. They use certain colors, which I knew. The glow that I have noticed in some of the quilts comes from the colors and how they were put together. This must seem obvious to you, but somehow it struck me as I was comparing some of the quilts that had this glow to the more subtly shaded pieces.  I noticed that the more subtle quilts did not use the salmon, turquoise and lavender colors. I think, based on this quick trip, that this is the case.

I was drawing the shutter piece block from the crib quilt when my mom sat down on a bench nearby and began talking to the lady next to her. My mom talks to everyone. They were talking about a 9 patch quilt made partially from 4patches when I heard the lady said “oh this is the man that owns the quilts.” A nice looking, white haired man in his mid fifties to early sixties wearing a blue Oxford shirt was standing there. Of course, my mom started talking to him!

She started in asking him how long he had been collecting (since the mid-1970s) and how he stored the quilts at home (acid free boxes) and did he display them at home (no). I decided to mention the Jack’s Chain, which was listed as “pattern unknown”. I have had that pattern on my to do list for years and originally saw it at a shop in the East Bay as a class. Even then it was called Jack’s Chain. He said that he would look it up and made a note. This made me think that he provided all the information about the quilts and the museum didn’t do research. I don’t know for sure, however. Then my mom asked me to give him my quilt business card. No, I do not have a quilt business!, but I do have a card that lists my blog address. He actually looked at it and commented on me having a blog!

Marie over at Z Quilts had a long review of the quilts and the exhibit catalog in which she posted some photos. My favorite, though I liked all of the quilts, is the one mentioned above I call the Shutter quilt. The pattern had no name according to the card next to the quilt. I want to look it up in Barbara Brackman’s book, or int he new Jinny Beyer block book, but haven’t yet. Stay tuned for that info.

I overheard some guys commenting that it looked like the shutter of a camera closing or opening. It is the 5th image on Marie’s page.

The museum had a boatload of stuff in their regular gift shops and they had a full shop right outside of the exhibit. One of the items that really drew me were wooden boxes with quilt designs inlaid on the top. They were form (about $125) and were absolutely gorgeous. I liked the one with the Dutchman’s Puzzle design.

After the DeYoung, we went over to the Legion of Honor and saw the Cartier and America exhibit. This was a jewelry exhibit. I enjoy seeing different types of art and craft exhibits because I enjoy seeing the commonalities with quiltmaking. I also enjoy getting inspiration from other media. Of course, the jewels were fantastic. There was one stone that over 143 carats. Can you imagine? This type of jewelry is so out of my realm of possibility that I just looked at the designs and admired the artistry. There was one tiara of which I wish I could have taken a photo. The swirls would have made excellent applique’ designs. That tiara was in the exhibit catalog, which I didn’t buy. I may buy it later and if so, I will show it then.

Stomacher Broach detail
Stomacher Broach detail

I was also very interested in the historical aspect of the exhibit. The exhibit cards said who bought the piece, who owned it and, in some cases, whether it was purchased for a gift. Some information mentioned changes to designs with the times. The meager information made me think that such an exhibit would be a good way of getting people into the history of the era. There were obvious changes in  the jewelry designs as times changed. Flappers, for example, didn’t need stomacher broaches.

It may be that pieces for the exhibit were selected for their relevance to SF, because there were a lot of pieces owned or purchased by prominent people in local history.

I did, finally, learn what a pave’ diamond setting was. Apparently Ms. Wallis Simpson loved pave’ settings for her panther broaches.

Some of Princess Grace’s jewels were there as were Elizabeth Taylor’s. Sadly, I was very tired after all this visual stimulation, so I didn’t look and read as carefully at these as I would have liked.

I was very annoyed and disappointed with the selection of postcards. None of my favorites were available as postcards. It was probably a good thing as the postcards were poor reproductions anyway. Not the high quality to which I am accustomed. The exhibit catalog was wonderful, but times are tough so I didn’t buy that either. It is on my list. I think you would enjoy it as well!

*No affiliation with this site; I just think the picture of her Jack’s Chain is a good example of the pattern.