Pattern and Paradox

USD $34.95


Paperback with flaps

ISBN: 978-1-913875-57-2

160 pages

305 x 254 mm (10 x 12 x in)

120 colour illustrations

In association with the Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC

April 2024


A major new publication that reveals the astonishing creativity, design innovation, and skill of Amish women from communities across the United States of America, through fifty premier quilts made between 1880 and 1940.

A “jewel-like catalog”—Madelia Hickman Ring, Antiques and the Arts Weekly

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Pattern and Paradox: The Quilts of Amish Women is an inspirational, lavishly illustrated book which will appeal to quilt enthusiasts, quilters and crafters, scholars and art lovers alike, with photography detailing fronts, backs and stitching of fifty breath-taking quilts from the Faith and Stephen Brown collection of Amish Quilts at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. Assembled over the span of nearly five decades, these extraordinary examples expand our understanding of the distinctive aesthetics that Amish women shaped within and for their communities. They situate Amish quilts within the larger scope of quilts in America as well as within the American art story.

In the main essay, Janneken Smucker—professor, historian and scholar of Amish quilts and culture—explains what unites and distinguishes the Amish and their arts and describes the sometimes fine line between personal artistry and communal practice. Her insightful text illuminates the ways in which Amish quilt patterns overlap and diverge from community to community. Through a series of discursive entries, Smucker considers “visual clues” for reading and interpreting Amish quilts, which are often more complex and curious than they might first appear.

An accompanying exhibition at Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, DC, is on view from March 28 – August 26, 2024.

Author biographies

Janneken Smucker is a cultural historian and professor of history at West Chester University. A leading scholar in the study of Amish Quilts, she is the author of Amish Quilts: Crafting an American Icon (2013).

Leslie Umberger is the curator of folk and self-taught art at the Smithsonian American Art Museum. She is the author of, most recently, We Are Made of Stories: Self-Taught Artists in the Robson Family Collection (2022).

Table of Contents

  • Director’s Foreword by Stephanie Stebich, The Margaret and Terry Stent Director, Smithsonian American Art Museum
  • Collectors’ Note by Faith and Stephen Brown
  • Who Are the Amish? by Janneken Smucker
  • Unpacking Paradox: Quilts and American Art by Leslie Umberger
  • “Mine Was a Little Different”: Amish Quilts and Cultural Expression by Janneken Smucker
  • The Quilts by Janneken Smucker
  • Glossary
  • Exhibition Checklist
  • Selected Bibliography
  • Image Credits