Wild by Design explores the American tradition of freewheeling, improvisational, often asymmetrical quilts, whose makers experimented boldly with design, color, and pictorial motifs. It examines both the aesthetics and the social history of quilts from the early nineteenth century to the present, including Amish, African American, and modern art quilts.
From the state fair to the clothesline, women have sought ways to exhibit the beauty and optical effects of their quilts. The "quilting frolic" of the nineteenth century was for many women an alternative to the art academy and the salon. Janet Berlo reminds us that quilts were a valued form of artistic expression, meant to be shared and admired among the company of other women.
Over fifty applique and pieced quilts are illustrated, chosen from the collections of the International Quilt Study Center for their outstanding visual qualities. Each is accompanied by a lively dialogue among quilt experts that illustrates the varied dimensions of quilts as aesthetic objects of the highest order and as reflections of the lives and societies of their makers. This multifaceted analysis of quilts sheds light on the histories of women, textiles, and American art and culture.