A Global Art

Early on, the Jameses recognized that studio artists all over the world, not just in the U.S., were making art quilts. At the time that Ardis and Robert James were collecting, studio quilts were becoming a worldwide phenomenon, represented by such James Collection artists as the U.K.’s Pauline Burbidge and Deirdre Amsden, and Germany’s Ursula Rauch and Ruth Eissfeldt

They also began traveling widely on quilt hunts. Artist Pauline Burbidge, then living in Nottingham, England, recalls an early visit from Ardis who—accompanied by her sister-in-law—was searching out contemporary quiltmakers in the U.K.: “I was thrilled to have work purchased for their collection! ... I felt so honoured. It boosted my confidence and made me determined to continue to make quiltmaking my profession.”

The Jameses also became aware of artists outside of the U.S. and Europe who were making quilts. One Japanese quiltmaker especially caught their attention. Shizuko Kuroha began quiltmaking in 1976, while living for three years in the U.S. due to her husband's job. After returning home, Kuroha became one of the first quilt teachers in Japan, a country that had recently become a hotbed of quiltmaking, partly due to a series of widely publicized American quilt exhibitions. The Jameses bought two of Kuroha's quilts in the early 1990s, both of which showcase her focus on using traditional Japanese indigo-dyed fabrics. In their letter of greetings in the catalog for their 1990 Japan exhibition, the Jameses wrote,

"We are especially happy to be able to show contemporary quilt art. This extension of the long history of American quilting has in recent years attracted Japanese artists, and their work is in the forefront of quilt art today. For over a thousand years Japanese fabrics have exhibited subtle beauty and expert craftsmanship. It is to be expected that contemporary Japanese artists would treat quiltmaking in an innovative way."