The Japanese pavilion at the 1876 Philadelphia Centennial Exposition has been widely credited with introducing the American public to Japanese arts and culture. Among other innovations attributed to this exposure, it has been theorized that the irregular look of Crazy quilts can be traced to Japanese print designs or to the “cracked ice” motif used on some Japanese porcelains.
While many Crazy quilts do exhibit a characteristic randomness, a Crazy occasionally can be so ordered that it appears as if the maker were simply using the form as a fashionable background. This Equestrian Crazy Quilt, for example, is composed of twenty-four center medallion –style Crazy patchwork blocks arranged around a larger medallion at the center. While the piecing in each block is random, there is an order and symmetry to the quilt that seems to stretch the definition of a Crazy. Considered together, the figures on the quilt appear to be performers in some kind of spectacle, although the exact event remains unknown. Anecdotal information supplied to the Museum with the quilt stated that the maker was a member of a traveling circus from the southern tier of upper New York State. The designs may have derived from either contemporary printed fabrics or other sources or from a type of woven ribbon known as a Stevengraph –a ribbon picture woven in silk on a Jacquard loom. These commercially produced ribbons, whose designs included a set of racehorses with jockeys that resemble one of the figures on this quilt, were widely available and were sometimes incorporated into Crazy quilts.
Elizabeth V. Warren, "Equestrian Crazy Quilt," in Stacy C. Hollander, American Anthem: Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum (New York: Harry N. Abrams in association with American Folk Art Museum, 2001), 352.