Inspired by antiques: An American moon and stars quilt

Editorial Staff

This week I’m taking inspiration from a remarkable quilt that will be up for auction at Skinner’s American furniture and decorative arts sale this weekend (June 7).  Dating from the turn of the 20th century, the design of this pieced wool quilt is comprised of four-point stars set between thirty-five full circles and ten half circles—known as a “moon and stars” quilt—that creates a bold pinwheel pattern.  It strikes me as very of-the-moment, and not just because summer is around the corner (think beach balls and umbrellas), but also because folk art has been enjoying a recent renaissance at retail stores like Anthropologie and Wisteria. While a full-fledged colonial revival is probably not around the corner, I’ve noticed more than a few items that embrace the homespun look and cheerful folk motif of Skinner’s unique quilt.  Let’s take a look:

Kazaguruma pendant lamp by Kozai Designs, price on request.  This fixture, rendered in bent cedar, literally embodies the pinwheel shape, and casts unique patterns of shadows and reflections. The clear finish allows the simplicity of the design to shine.

Vintage “pinwheel” coffee table by CIMO, $2,950, from Decoratum at  Talk about an ingenious design! Together the six pieces of this mid-century Brazilian coffee table form a roughly 40-inch diameter round pinwheel; when separated they make six individual, crest-shaped side tables.  

Pinwheel wall wanging from Perch, $600. Combining matte ceramic tiles and Dakota Burl wood (made entirely of sunflower seed husks), Perch’s wall hanging plays with the quilt motif but evokes a very different folk movement, that of the 1960s.  Here flower power creates graphic impact above a sofa or headboard.

“Pinwheel” knob by Boston Silver , $20 each, available at Bellacor. Twenty dollars might seem a bit expensive for a single cabinet knob, but how often do you see one with such a refined design? 

Reproduction “folk art’ gameboards,
$229 set of four, available at Wisteria.
 Like the quilt, these reproduction game boards have a similar repeating geometry, warm color palette, and could also function as a wall hanging.  I could also see one used on a bar or coffee table.

Reproduction bowl designed by Dagobert Peche for the Wiener Werkstatte and made by Gmunder Keramic, $650, at the Neue Galerie.  This Viennese movement placed emphasis on extraordinary craftsmanship in pursuit of a gesamtkunstwerk, or “total work of art.”  Peche was one of its stars, and his airbrushed porcelain pinwheel dish is a seamless blend of form and decoration.

Gunvor fabric, $5.99/yard, available at Ikea. Ikea’s fabrics are incredibly well-priced, and this series offers a playful interpretation of our inspiration quilt (with the influence of Marimekko).  Not quite pinwheels, the organic oval shapes of this pattern flaunt folksy imperfection. 

If you’re still looking for inspiration, I suggest heading to the American Folk Art Museum to see Kaleidoscope Quilts: The Art of Paula Nadelstern. This new exhibition (on view through September 13) features a contemporary artist’s striking take on this traditional artform. What do you think?