Reflections of the Exotic East | Japan


Crazy Quilt

Crazy Quilt

Crazy quilt
Circa 1889
Made in the United States
IQSCM 2012.042.0007, gift of Marilynn G. Karp in memory of Ivan C. Karp

The Crazy quilt format closely resembles the Japanese “cracked ice” design, a haphazard placement of lines often depicted with superimposed plum blossoms to symbolize the coming of spring. After seeing Japanese crafts at the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition of 1876, Americans rapidly incorporated Japanese motifs and aesthetics into their own fine and domestic arts. The asymmetrical quality of many of these designs, like the cracked ice design, differed radically from typical Victorian styles and therefore appealed to many people as exotic.

Crazy quilts dominated the quiltmaking and fancy needlework of the last quarter of the nineteenth century. Appliquéd or embroidered images of fans, butterflies and other motifs popular in Asian decorative arts frequently embellished these quilts. Images from contemporary popular culture also occur.