Published: May 29, 2001
Crazy in Alabama:
BIRMINGHAM, ALA. – A vivid exhibition featuring and titled “Crazy Quilts” will be on view June 10 to September 2 at the Birmingham Museum of Art (BMA). Drawn from the museum’s quilt collection, The exhibition is free and will be on view in the Jemison Galleries, third Floor.
A variety of stitching styles, embroidered motifs and luxurious fabrics can be found throughout these crazy quilts. The seemingly random design combines irregular shapes and a wide range of color and materials, resulting in an aesthetically pleasing collage pattern.
Popular fabrics include lavish silks, velvets, brocades and plush satins, but also wool and linen. Lush representations of birds, flowers, butterflies and Japanese-inspired fans are some of the favorite and recurring motifs; information recording family events and religious verses were also included. Occasionally small pictures were even hand painted on the fabric.
Crazy quilts reached their peak of popularity during the Victorian society in the late 1880s. The centennial Exposition in Philadelphia (1876) provided the primary asymmetrical design influence for this popular trend of quilt making.
During this Exposition, Japanese art was highlighted, introducing fascinating crazed Oriental ceramics, lacquered furniture and silk screens. This new style had a direct influence on both needlework and other forms of decorative art. Direct design influence can be seen in designs of a variety of birds, spider webs, dragonflies, flowers and fans.
Quilts have served many purposed for people throughout the years, but the crazy quilt was created exclusively for decorative reasons. These quilts lack an interior layer and no batting is used between the patchwork, thus providing no warmth or comfort. As show pieces, rather than functional rdf_Descriptions, they were often used as throws to decorate the parlor. A fine, hand made quilt was an enormous status symbol and exemplified the limitless imagination and skill of the seamstress.
As early as 1884, contemporary women’s magazines contributed to the crazy quilt craze by publishing “crazy” embroidery patterns and selling pre-packaged collections of fancy scraps. Many thread companies began touting their product as the quintessential product for crazy quilt embroidery stitches.
Crazy quilts also became a popular rdf_Description for fundraising. Famous personalities were often approached by women for a piece of clothing to be incorporated into the crazy quilt being created to raise money for charities.
When the crazy quilt craze began to fade in the early 1900s, this style of patchwork was regarded as one of the worst examples of Victorian over-ornamentation. Today the tradition of the crazy quilt is regarded much more favorably and is enjoying an immense resurgence in popularity. Quilt makers and artists are using the same idea of random piecing and embellishments to re-interpret the crazy quilt within the broader aspect of contemporary art.
“Crazy Quilts” is curated by Gail Andrews Trechsel, R. Hugh Daniel director at the Birmingham Museum of Art.
The gallery is located at 2000 Eighth Avenue North. For information 205-254-2565.
5 Church Hill Road / Newtown, CT 06470
Mon - Fri / 8:00 am - 5:01 pm