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Quilting is an art form with long roots in these mountains. LaVerne Anderson is helping El Tejon School 7th and 8th grade students put together quilt squares. [photo by Patric Hedlund]
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Quilt Trails of painted wood squares [like this one] are popping up on buildings across North America in a surprising folk art movement. Look around when driving through Frazier Park and Lebec. You may be surprised at what you may discover right here in the Mountain Communities. [photo by Patric Hedlund]
By Chandra Sargent Mead
Have you been noticing the painted wood quilt patterns on barns, sheds and houses around the Frazier Mountain area?
A group of local “guerrilla quilters” (who want to remain anonymous) have taken up the tradition that goes back 300 years, when many immigrants from Germany, Austria and the Netherlands came to America for religious freedom. The settlers were from Amish, Mennonite, Lutheran and other reform groups. Many settled in Pennsylvania. Quilting was part of their tradition.
Originally, barn quilts were done for decoration or as landmarks. They were painted as “hex” signs and to celebrate family heritage. The designs were also thought to protect the farm and to bring good fortune.
Most of the patterns have meanings. A star stands for good luck and a circle is the symbol for infinity, for instance.
Some say that barn quilts served to mark “safe houses” during the Underground Railroad movement for slaves seeking freedom during the Civil War period in the 1860s.
Quilt paintings rose to great prominence when paint became cheap enough in the 1830s and 1840s; then their numbers declined at the beginning of the 20th century when advertising on barns for products such as chewing tobacco and flour replaced them.
Donna Sue Groves of Adams County, Ohio is credited by many with the modern upswing in barn quilt art. In 2001 Groves painted a quilt square on her barn to honor her mother, Maxine. Other quilters in Adams County, Ohio followed suit, enough to create a Quilt Trail, much like Hollywood’s Map of the Stars.
While most local creators of Frazier Park and Lebec’s growing collection of barn quilts remain mischievously nameless, it is rumored that some are members of the Frazier Park quilt group that meets at the Frazier Mountain Park Senior Center Mondays, 12:30-4 p.m. Regulars include LaVerne Anderson, Cher Thomas, Nancy Mazone, Dawn Burns, Norma Aaland, Joyce Garrett, Linda Thomason and Diana Andrews.
Quilt trails are now in at least 43 states and two provinces of Canada. Many of the quilt trails have their own websites.
We may have enough barn quilts here in Frazier Park (12 and counting) to create our own quilt trail soon.
Chandra Mead is on the board of the Ridge Route Communities Museum & Historical Society.
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This is part of the January 3, 2014 online edition of The Mountain Enterprise.
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