(Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the March 30, 2016 edition of the Archbold Buckeye)
They are just like traditional quilt patterns, seen on quilts that have been handcrafted for decades.
Except they’re huge.
They’re barn quilts, a oneblock section of a quilt blown up to eight feet square.
Soon, all 10 of them will be hung on the sides of barns throughout the Archbold Area School District for all to enjoy as part of the Archbold
150-year Sesquicentennial celebration.
The barn quilts are a collaborative project between the Black Swamp Arts Council, Sauder Village, and several individuals.
Diane Tinsman, president of BSAC, said the barn quilts got their start in Adams County, where Donna Sue Groves, a farmer, wanted to honor her mother, a quilter.
From there, the idea spread across the United States.
Now the barn quilt idea is coming to Northwest Ohio.
“We felt like this was the perfect fit for Archbold because of our rural history, the history of quilts, and the Mennonite tradition of quilts,” Tinsman said.
“And being an arts council, we wanted to sort of make the arts accessible.
“So we talked with some people from Sauder Village– Kris Jemmott, (director of historic operations) and Linda Rufenacht, who has been the manager at the quilt store (Threads of Tradition, at Sauder Village)– and they had been talking about it for a number of years, also.
“So we kind of partnered together and then brought in other community members like Sue Hurst, Nancy Ruffer, Nancy Vershum– amazing artists– and said, ‘let’s do this in conjunction with the Sesquicentennial.’”
The group who painted the quilts ranged from professionals to talented amateurs.
Hurst is a former AHS art teacher. Ruffer is a noted muralist.
Planning for the project started in January 2015.
Sauder Village provided the supplies and labor. David Augustine and Bruce Werder built the wooden squares for the quilt blocks. Each block has two 4’-by-8’ wood panels, attached to a frame.
They’re very heavy, Tinsman said. It takes four people to move one around.
Sauder Woodworking provided some warehouse space where the painting could be done.
In addition to Hurst, Ruffer and Vershum, Tinsman helped with the painting, along with Sabrina Grisier, Bonnie Stuckey, Heidi Miller, and Linda Rufenacht.
Each 8-by-8 block was primed, then the quilt patterns were carefully measured and drawn with pencil.
From there it was like a coloring book or paint-by- numbers set, the women said. There was no tape used to make the sharp lines between the colors; it was all done freehand.
Members of the group said they enjoyed painting the quilt blocks.
Among other things, it was a chance to meet new friends and catch up with old ones.
Tinsman said the members of the committee, which included the painters and Jemmott, talked to area farmers about putting the giant quilt blocks on their barns.
“We wanted to locate barns that were strategically placed throughout the (school) district,” Tinsman said.
“We wanted barns that were going to be visible from the road.
“We met with the barn owners, and they helped pick out the patterns and the colors, so it was collaborative.”
The colors were selected by “kind of looking at what color their barn was and what style of block they wanted,” Tinsman said.
“We gave them some ideas, because you want it to be bold and visible and geometric.
“You don’t want something too detailed.”
Rufenacht, whose family owns one of the barns where a quilt block will be displayed, said people had been talking about doing barn quilts for years.
“This project with the Black Swamp Arts Council was a way to get it done,” she said.
Rufenacht said contracts with the barn owners call for the quilt blocks to remain on their barns for at least five years, “and we’re hoping they leave them up longer,” she said.
A booklet, reproduced on page 8, gives the location for each barn quilt block, creating a Barn Quilt Trail.
In a handout, the committee said, “Following the Barn Quilt Trail will establish a way for people to experience the beauty our community has to offer, as well as help preserve the cultural heritage of the area as we celebrate our town’s 150th birthday.
“Following (the) Barn Quilt Trail will provide local people and visitors an opportunity to explore back roads, to see farmland and agricultural elements in barns and farm outbuildings.
“It will provide a way for the community to celebrate the rural culture and history of the area, and encourage people to explore the countryside and understand that agriculture is a vital part of our local economy.”
“We’re hoping it will make a fun activity for visitors as well as local people,” Rufenacht said.
No one really knows for certain how many hours went into painting the quilt blocks.
“It was fun painting with each other,” Tinsman said.
When the blocks were first primed, all were the same gray color.
As the artists began painting the quilt patterns, Tinsman said, “seeing the color, they started coming to life, and it was very, very cool.”