Painting

Hex Signs and Barn Quilt Making Guide

The history of the Barn Quilt or Barn Paintings in Appalachia can be traced back over 220 hundred years. If we consider Hex Sign painting, Under Ground Rail Road Quilts  and Barn Quilts all as part of the larger history of using large symbolistic language in folk art.

So if this is true then I have unknowingly blessed communities with my Barn Quilt Murals for years. Meaning, that I am a modern folk artist who uses my  Barn Quilt or Quilt Block murals to educated, bless, and protect families, animals and whole cities.

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Traditional star Hex Sign for good luck on  Lancaster Pa. barn.

Last year I was lucky enough to attend a lecture in Elkins, W.V. about Applachin Folklore in West Virginia. The author of the book “Signs, Cures &Witchery” Gerald C. Milnes included in his book information about the creation of Hex Signs and Barn Paintings as part of the spiritual folk language of the Germanic settlers of our mountain region. It was suggested that Barn Paintings were used as symbols that were thought to bless or protect the barn or farm from witches. Witches were not the mythic creatures of our modern-day imagination but working spiritual powers that could devastate a farm or the community. Witch curses were thought to cause wide ranging problems from fires to cows that would not produce milk. So in this way,  Hex Signs, Barn Quilts, or just large barn paintings were used to ward off evil and protect a family’s source of income.

Milnes states in his book,”Some of the first recorded Hex Signs motifs in West Virginia were the double eagle, star, moon, lilies, compass, hearts, and the tree of life”. With women working with their hands inside the home many of the patterns also were incorporated into utilitarian objects they used every day. Pottery, quilts, wall hangings were also covered with these images of blessings and protection. It is not surprising to think that if you wanted to protect and bless your children a mother would create quilts with these motifs.

As I researched more about the link between the motifs sewn into Southern and Appalachian quilts, the more I understood about the Quaker, Dunkard and the Pennsylvania Dutch communities in and North of West Virginia. With large bodies of evidence, It is amazing to see that the symbolic motifs of ( Hex Signs and folk art) quilts were again used as a device for communication and blessings during the  Civil War ( 1861 -1865). If a West Virginia family was sympathetic with the Union and freedom from slavery they could use quilts hung on porches, fences, and clotheslines as ways to lead escaping slaves across borders to freedom. Many Quaker and Dunkard families made Under Ground Rail Road Quilts helping direct slaves to homes or locations that were safe for them during their escape to the North.  Often the individual blocks on the quilt would tell a story. Often a star pattern would let an escaping slave know to keep traveling North, a boat or train track next on the quilt would be read to mean that a water crossing or train crossing was coming up next on the route. A house or cabin image could mean a safe place to stop. The number of symbolic patterns was used widely and I have included some that we still see today.

Quilt Code

The use of Barn Hex signs then fell out of favor in my region. The formalizing of the local Christian Church system slowly changed worship in the rural mountains. As more people depended on the formal church for their spiritual beliefs and blessings. You see less and less folk art in homes and barns. Although the quilt remained a warm and practical way to decorate and reuse materials. The patterns that were used were often the same or like those from the first homesteaders. These important images passed from generation to generation.

From those pattens came some of the first Barn Quilt Murals. The family that sparked the reintrodution of painting quilt blocks on barns is from Ohio.

“The first official quilt trail was begun in 2001 in Adams County, Ohio. Donna Sue Groves wanted to honor her mother, Maxine, a noted quilter, with a painted quilt square on the family’s barn in Manchester, Ohio”. found on Wikipedia 

From their first Barn Quilt trail, regional trails have sprung up all over the eastern United States. Some are based on traditional patterns and others have included more contemporary images and designs.

I am now in the process of painting my 17th Quilt Block Mural. The reason I do not call them Barn Quilts is they are rarely located on a barn. My Quilt Block Murals hang in more urban areas, not farms. Most have come from the traditional images on Appalanchin quilts often the same as the Underground Rail Road Quilts. They are also often paid for as part of downtown revitalization and are seen as a reintroduction of our culture back into the modern cityscape in the towns of West Virginia.  In this way, my Quilt Block Murals are reintroducing the folk art  back into a culture that had generally forgotten about the traditions of Hex Signs, the Under Ground Rail Road Quilts and barn painting in general.

Barn Quilt and Quilt Block Murals in urban locations and the creation of the trails around them, have unknowingly brought back exactly the things that Hex Signs were once used for over 200 years ago. The tourist dollars that are spent traveling the trails, the community that has been built around them with families creating them, and the beauty of art back in the community are all blessings to the rural towns that have them. I like to think that my creations are a larger blessing to my community where they hang.

So I continue to paint them.  Today I am working on one for my very own home after years of painting them for others. It is a much more contemporary pattern then my normal murals. It is my way of blessing my family and my home. I hope that I can continue to be able to be a Hex Sign Painter/ Barn Quilt Muralist/ Quilt Block painter for many more years to come. As I paint the images I hope that they will continue bring beauty, hope, joy and blessings those who see them.

If you are interested I have attached a link to a helpful website that I used when I was first starting out making the Barn Quilt murals. I have also included a list of alternative supplies that I am now using and a tip on pattern making. So please enjoy making your own Barn Quilts or Quilt Block Murals.

This is an excellent site for the process of making and painting your own murals.

The Helderberg Quilt Barn Trail website

The only addition I would like to make to these instructions is you do not have to use wood for the Barn Quilts unless you want to. I have now begun to use a PVC siding product for my murals. The main reason being the weight of the sign grade MDO plywood. MDO plywood is dense particleboard made with glue and is very heavy at the 8’x 8′ size around 250 pounds, even the smaller 4’X4′ is around 125 lbs. This makes painting and moving the boards very difficult. So I tried and have found success with a thin 1/4 inch PVC siding product and a plastic bonding primer framed with PVC trim. PVC can be much more expensive if you are unable to find the MDO Plywood. In my case almost twice the cost, but it was so much nicer being able to move the murals by myself and so much easier to install. If you chose to use PVC you must use a bonding primer. It will adhere to the plastic and allow a good bond to the paint. The cost is the same as a regular primer.

Also when doing a design for your murals think about location as part of the planning. Size Matters! If you have a mural that hangs 15 feet from the ground don’t plan much detail in the mural. The details of small patterns  get lost and people driving by will have no idea what the image is supposed to be. In reverse it is possible to get great detail in smaller indoor patterns. My current project is in my home on a half door measuring only 28×28 inches. The pattern I have chosen is a complex over and under optical illusion of stripes. I looks good placed where it is viewed close up.

Here is the design guide image and the final image panted on the door to my art studio in Buckhannon, WV. As I paint the pattern changed a few things. As you can see I used the traditional colors of West Virginia with the Navy Blue and Gold with a little contrast with white and blue gray. It is a reflection of the complexity of our state and our people.

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Basic pattern for my home “over-under square” Pattern

 

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Finished Barn Quilt  or Quilt Block in our home. I call it “Over and Under Squares”  JoLynn Powers of Buckhannon WV.The photo doesn’t show the color navey blue very well but you get the idea. 

Just as informal project cost for making a small panel similar to this one.  The painting is 28X28the panel is 36×42.

1 half a sheet of 1/2 plywood                                                                        $16.00 dollars

2  1x2x8 foot boards for front and back trim  these were not furring strips but milled boards                                                                                                               $ 8.00 dollars

a box of wood screws  2 1/4 inches                                                               $ 8.00

1 gallon white interior latex paint used as primer and paint (2) Coats   $18.00 dollars

3 quarts interior latex paint, 1 navy, 1bright yellow 1 blue gray   3×23   $69.00

( I mixed the navy with white to get light blue)

1 roll frogg tape  2inch wide                                                                                $9.00

 

Total just for supplies if you did not have this on hand.  about 128.00 dollars plus paper and pens and time, lots of time~ So now you will have left over paint and maybe some scrap wood that could be used to make smaller ones for free!!

 

 

 

 

Categories: Appalachian Mountains, Barns, Civil War, DIY projects, Folk Art, Hex Signs, home remodeling, murals, Painting, Quilt Trails, quilts, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

The MLK Public Art Project, Charleston, W.V.

I love to paint, I love murals and I love Dr. Martin Luther King and his message of equality. So, when I found the Facebook post about an open to the public mural painting in our Capital City of Charleston, I knew Christopher and I were going to be there to paint too.

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Painting of Dr. Marting Luther King Jr. 

scale image of the MLK mural

Jeff Peirson Scaling the painting to size on the wall. Photo from The Office of Public Art Charleston WV Facebook page. 

This event was so wonderful as an Artist, a Mother, and West Virginian. I am so proud that the work of 60 volunteers will grace the skyline of Charleston for the next couple of decades and will remind people of the ongoing work we have to do in this world to fight for Beauty, Fairness, Love, and Equality.

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Christopher and I work on a section of Martin Luther King’s eye and nose. 

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Some of the volunteers that came to help with the mural and the man who I got paint all over. 

The mural was painted by volunteers in about 4 or 5 hours at the Martin Luther King  Jr. Community Center in downtown Charleston. The image will represent our diversity. The image uses diverse colors, is painted by diverse age groups, colors, shapes, and sexes of people from our state. It will rest on the roof of the community center and display the faces of 1000 diverse individuals in the background.  Each face is a self-portrait of one volunteer that helped to make it come to life.

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Jeff Peirson Director of The Office for Public Art explains how the project will be constructed. 

Under the direction of Jeff Peirson the director of  The Office for Public Art in Charleston, West Virginia. A painting of Dr. King has been blown up and traced onto large sheets of plastic canvas for volunteers to paint on. Using special paint the volunteers filled in numbers sections of the mural, much like a paint by number, but on a huge scale.  Christopher and I painted light purple and some orange over the course of the afternoon. It was amazing to paint an eyeball that was the size of a basketball and a nose that was almost as big as Christopher is tall.

image of MLK mural being put together

pieces of the mural displayed together to dry and adding the final coats of paint. From The Office of Public Art Charleston, WV Facebook page. 

 

Then when the sections were left to dry we were encouraged to paint a self-portrait in monochrome shades of purple. Each volunteer tried to paint what they thought they looked like. Christopher was quite unhappy with my drawing and said it looked nothing like me. He explained later that my hair was not right in the drawing or painting.  I did have my hair up and the only hair I had was waving wildly aroung my face, So it only showed part of my hair.

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My pencil self-portrait with hair up. Christopher says it needs more hair.   

Then that evening the large pieces were assembled and the overall look started to come together. There will be a blending of the colors with more paint next. Then about 800 school children will make a self-portrait on the canvas like material to create the background before the final installation is put up in late Aug. The mural should last about 15 years with no need for repairs.

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Christopher with his new friend Mayor of Charleston Amy Shuler Goodwin. 

While Christopher and I  painted we had the pleasure of working on the mural with the Mayor of Charleston, Amy Shuler Goodwin, who spent quite a while talking with Christopher about our state and why we drove 2 hours just to be part of the event. She told me she was so happy to have us come and help make our capital city a more beautiful place.

I loved meeting the people from the community and the Mayor, some were families, some were single men and women, and some were children but most lived nearby.  I even accidentally painted a man’s hand as we crisscrossed the canvas with our brushes and we laughed for several minutes. Christopher made instant friends and played and visited with about 6 other kids his age. It is my hope that sharing these kinds of experiences with him will encourage him to want to be part of a creative community when he grows up.

As the painting time ended we headed back to my car for a picknick near the MLK Jr. Community Center. We talked about how much fun we had and how important it is to share time with new people and how important Dr. King was to all Americans. This day was what Dr. King was teach us all those years ago. A day where all colors and ages come together to share in the joy of being American and creating a better place for us all.

On Aug 21st I am looking forward to the drive down I-64 to finally see our hard work come to life from way above the community center. It was a day I will not forget anytime soon and I hope Christopher has wonderful memories of our painting Dr. King together.

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Categories: Charleston West Virginia, Community Art, community service, Creative Place Making, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., family fun, family memories, Martin Luther King Jr., murals, Painting, The Office of Public Art, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

Bathroom Update is a Mix of Old and New.

Every summer I plain a home improvement project, some large,some small, this one was the most frustrating to finish. The updated 1/2 bath was very challenging but with worth the effort. Even if we did not get all of the pipe issues resolved this summer.

To start with let me share with you some of the photos of the bathroom that we started with. To our best guess we are looking at a 80’s update with fixtures from the 60’s. The wall paper is slate blue, mauve and purple textured wall paper with floral trim vintage 1980’s. The mirror is 1″x 1″ tiles stuck to the drywall, the counter is white with gold glitter and is over 7 feet long with only one sink guessing 1965. The hot water tank is hidden in what should have been a linen closet. The wooden box you see near the floor is our exposed water lines in and out of the hot water tank.  The cabinet over the toilet is hand-made but without shelves to store smaller things. But my least favorite feature of the bath is the powder blue sink with a water pressure problem.

So an update of everything was needed. Since my taste is more rustic and historical then the former owner. We are going with a more casual look with wooden accents with bead board paneling and

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bathroom counter with tile mirrors

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Below counter is empty space and blind raised shows water heater and wood box to cover exposed water lines.

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recycled shutter cabinet over toilet

The idea for the remodel all came together from Tom wanting to use recycled crates as shelving in the bathroom. We found this crate while out shopping at a local antique store and the ideas were set in motion in my head.

Tom had to have the crate, he loved it and wanted people to see the Blasting Cap label so where and how we used it was up in the air. After a few minutes of talking at the antique store Tom thought we would create a wall of crates to hold towels, soaps, lotions maybe with a couple of baskets. So the hunt was on for crates that worked in our space. I ended up with four different sized and we planned to stack them so they form a pyramid. Here is the dry fit run of the crates. Attaching each crate to the crate below making one large crate shelving unit. We are not attaching the crates to the wall but you could if you wanted to get them off the floor. We even talked about adding legs but I am pretty happy with what we have here.

stacked crates

stacked crates, bottom is a citrus crate, a seed potato crate, an unknown crate and the blasting cap crate on top

Tom was also able to recycle some old barn wood and a mirror from a 80’s head-board to make me a nice make up mirror for the bathroom. I think it added to the antique feel of the room. I also found a school-house light fixture that was in the salvaged section of an antique shop. The light was tough to install. We had no problem rewiring it, but the base was about 1 1/2 ” larger than any standard electric box and wider then any of the mounting screws we had. So I had to order one that adjusted and would still fit the screws in the electric box. We sealed the rusted base and shortened the chain.

Completed bathroom project sink view

modern drape covers hot water tank and shows off the new vanity and mirror

completed bathroom project toilet veiw

This bathroom never had a medicine cabinet so we added one over the toilet

completed bathroom project crates

crates assembled and ready for towels, tissues, perfume bottles.

The flooring is a non-slip vinyl that looks like hardwood. We had hoped that the hardwood floors in the rest of the house had extended to the bathroom, but what we found was just participial sub-floor and we chose to just try to get a close match to the rest of the floors in the house. I am happy with it for a bathroom location. The toilet is a taller than standard and I love it. We will one day replace the full bathrooms toilet with this also. Makes it easier for you to stand up and fits better with my tall family.

Over all about 5 weekends to complete and a few days to demo the mess. The lesson learned here was 1960’s people plumed our bathroom is such a terrible way that we had to moved all the water pipes to the sink to hide them in the walls( not that we had planned to open up two walls but we did). We still have pipes that were never placed correctly and we will soon replace the hot water tank with a tank-less model and should be able to place a door where my curtain is now and rid the bath of all the other exposed pipes. But that is another project for a time when I plan to have no water for a couple of days.

So as fall sets in and my friends and family are getting ready to visit I am happy to have this project finished with all the improvement we were able to make. I am most excited about having a sink with the correct water pressure and my crate shelves. A shout out of gratitude goes out to my hardworking husband who can take my ideas and help me make them into reality.

 

 

Categories: antique, Barnwood, Bathroom update, DIY projects, nostalgic, Painting, Rustic | Tags: , , , , , | 3 Comments

The Joy of CreatingCommunity Art

When I graduated from college with a degree in art, I never thought that I would be a public art advocate or a muralist. Of course, I never thought I would be on TV or an AmeriCorps Service Member either. Today working on community art projects is one of the things that gives me the most joy.

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AmeriCorps Volunteer murals start to appear in the windows of the Golden Rule Building, Belington, WV

Art has always been a passion of mine but taking my skills to the size and scale of murals to be displayed in public spaces is new. I have always used art as a tool for my personal  expression, never thinking about doing art for the public. Now as a mature artist, I am sharing the feelings and passions of communities, programs, and groups of people. The change is fundamentally new to my understanding of what it means to create and to be a creator. I see my work now as a tool for positive change in a community. A gift that will have lasting effects in many of the small rural towns where I live and work.

 

Over the last month, two more quilt panels that I was the project manager for and head artist have been installed, 6 window murals have been installed that I helped to create with volunteers, and the beginnings of an office mural, that I am personally painting, is ready for paint application. I am also on the board of an Art organization called Mountain Arts District that is in the process of installing a collection of student art work  in a city park in June. It is over whelming when I stop and look at the amount of people and projects that have passed through my life in the last 3 years.  Yet, this is not my main job and I only do what I can for non-profits who rarely have the funds to pay for such projects. I am doing most of this work as a part of my AmeriCorps service but also as an educational experience to those around me. Public art is a niche skill just like any other field and the leaders of our communities rarely understand or feel comfortable talking with arts, I aim to change that.

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line drawing on the wall of my new office Barbour County Development Authority, Philippi, WV

 

I often paint with non-artist volunteers and spend much of my time helping and teaching interested community members skills that they can use to make community art themselves. It is a joy to share in the process of watching an idea come to life, then see people learning to make art, then watch the pride that comes to their faces when they walk through a downtown seeing art that they have helped to make. It is sometimes the only real change that they can point to and say “I did that” in their community.

Community art is best when people who live and love a place take part in the creation of their culture. That could mean painting murals,  taking part in community dances, attending festivals of live music or creation of community gardens. It is when people begin to see that they have the power to create positive change that things begin to thrive.

Even if I never planned to be doing this kind of work and I am surprised everyday that I get paid to create these images, I am thankful to AmeriCorps for allowing me to share my skills.I am fortunate to work at sites that have allowed me the time away from the “office” to work on these up lifting projects and I will have the best memories of my service time.  It is my final wish that as I leave AmeriCorps next spring that I can continue to make a difference in my community with art in some way. I know that it has changed me for the better and I hope it is always part of who I am.

instillation of Quilt block at YMCA 2017

installation of one of the 8 panels I helped to create for the Elkins Main Street project 2017

 

Categories: About me, AmeriCorps, Art, Barbour County, Community Art, Elkins Main Street, murals, Painting, Quilt Trails | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

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