Expert Guidance

For their first few years of collecting, the Jameses acquired only antique quilts, but they broadened their scope to include contemporary work in 1983. Ardis had taken a quiltmaking workshop in the late 1970s from the artist Michael James at the Brookfield (CT) Craft Center. Bob, knowing she admired Michael’s quilts, wanted to give her one for Christmas. Unable to pick from the six they were offered, Bob bought them all, to cover his bases. Ardis later credited Michael’s influence, writing: “You can take much of the credit for getting us started on [collecting] contemporary work ... Had I not studied with you and always wanted one of your quilts, we might still be lost in the Log Cabins."

As they built their antique quilt collection, the Jameses came to know the top quilt dealers and galleries, but often sought advice from consultants who “knew people who knew people.” These experts would find quilts before they were snapped up by galleries. Bob and Ardis began working with the late San Francisco quilt dealer, Michael Kile of Kiracofe & Kile, who became an early advisor of theirs on antique quilts. But Kile had also recently become interested in contemporary work after he and Penny McMorris curated "The Art Quilt," a traveling museum exhibition of new quilts which opened in 1986. Kile told Bob and Ardis they might like to work with McMorris to build their contemporary collection. 

The fruitful relationship between the Jameses and McMorris relationship led to the rapid expansion of their studio art quilt collection.