Saturday, December 12, 2015

Doug Tompkins

I never met Doug Tompkins, but was sad to hear he passed away last week. The New York Times eloquently summed up his remarkable life, but one significant accomplishment slipped through the cracks-- the Esprit Collection of American Amish quilts. When Doug and Susie Tompkins were married and owned Esprit, they worked with curator Julie Silber to build one of the world's most incredible collections.

The quilts were displayed on the brick walls of Esprit's headquarters in San Francisco. When Doug and Susie divorced, they divvied-up the quilts and a handful were sold. Two of those quilts are now part of my collection. Both are smaller than full size, one turn-of-the-century Nine Patch crib quilt and a 1940s Tumbling Blocks trundle quilt, both from Wayne County, Ohio. These pictures do not do the quilts much justice. They are magnificent in person.

There is something modern about Amish quilts. The geometric designs are graphic, and the solid colors rich. Esprit collected these quilts through the 1970s and 80s, when the market was at a high point. These colors surfaced in the clothing, influencing what a whole generation wore. So, today I post these quilts as a tribute to Doug Tompkins, and also Julie and Susie. I hope the media will pick up on this important part of Doug's legacy.


  1. Find this post very interesting. Always like hearing about people that have made collecting quilts their ambition. These two quilts are wonderful.

  2. Bill, did you happen to notice that the first quilt above contains Pantone's 2016 colors of the year??

  3. You wrote: There is something modern about Amish quilts. I have to wonder why it is not; something Amish about modern quilts.

    I enjoyed the Esprit quilts as a group back when and was sad when the collection was broken up. As my neighbor reminds is progress. I know the two quilts in your possession will be well taken care of and SHOWN.