"The Ardis and Robert James quilt collection is unique. Unlike the antique quilt collectors who spurn the quilts of today or the modern-art collectors who ignore antique quilts but dabble in purchasing a few present-day art quilts, the James[es] collect both. They have made the comforting discovery that quiltmaking, like all creative pursuits, is a continuum."

—Michael Kile and Penny McMorris in the preface to "Quilts: The James Collection," Kokusai Art, 1990

Although collecting antique American quilts was where the Jameses got their start, they also began noticing—and admiring—contemporary work. Because Ardis herself made quilts, she was attuned to current trends and developments in quiltmaking, including the foray so-called "fine" artists had made into the field over the previous few decades. A purchase of not just one, but six Michael James (no relation) quilts truly kicked off the Jameses' contemporary collecting. And when they subsequently partnered with art curator Penny McMorris, they were able to more easily and assuredly collect work by contemporary makers, including many who were part of the studio quilt movement's vanguard and included such highly regarded artists as Nancy Crow, Faith Ringgold, and Terrie Hancock Mangat. They also soon realized that quilts had become a global art form, bound by no specific geography. Through their encouragement and patronage, artists all over the world came to deeply appreciate Ardis and Robert James' love of quilts.