Folk Art & Craft Traditions of the Historic Amanas
The Amana Colonies were founded in the 1850’s by a mystical Christian sect (the Community of True Inspiration) which emigrated from Germany to New York in the 1840s. Often confused with the Amish, the Inspirationists have distinctive religious beliefs which include following the teachings of inspired leaders. Unlike the Amish who live independently as families, the Inspirationists shared, until 1932, a communal life which was governed by church elders. Also in contrast with the Amish, the Inspirationists have always been technologically progressive.
The arts and crafts of the Amanas were originally German in origin, functional in design, and practiced in order to help maintain the community’s self-sufficiency. Although the church elders frowned upon frivolous activities including art, practical items were often embellished with beautiful designs and color. The 20th century has brought about many changes to this community, yet today many of the traditional arts forms still exist. The Amana residents still practice woodworking, willow basketry, needlework of all kinds, quilting, blacksmithing, rug-making and weaving. The culinary arts of cooking, smoking meat, making wine, baking bread and brewing beer are other thriving traditions.
Today, as Amana artisans grow older, every effort is being made to pass on their knowledge to the next generation, so that the future will have a living past.