The Quilt Square Girls, relocate to West Jefferson in a perfectly charming refurbished storefront formerly known as the "shoe shop building."
The Quilt Square Girls, have moved into West Jefferson in a perfectly charming, refurbished storefront located at 5 East 2nd. Street, formerly known as the "shoe shop building."
For artists, Syndi and Renee, it is a combination of workshop, gallery and lounging area complete with sofa and coffee table. From this peaceful, almost domestic setting, the Quilt Square Girls create the colorful painted panels one may observe decorating barns, houses and other structures throughout Ashe County. Their work, however, is just a small part of what has become a national movement, with one or more counties in at least 45 states creating “barn quilt trails” along which tourists and day-trippers may view the finest examples of the art form. In Ashe County, the Arts Council offers maps of local routes as well as guided tours that include discussion of county history.
The First Documented Barn Quilt
Donna Sue Groves created the first documented barn quilt in 2001, an Ohio woman who wanted to pay tribute to her mother, a gifted quilter. That a craft of such recent origin should now seem a permanent fixture of American life does not surprise Syndi, who sees it as a near perfect combination of public art, folk tradition and individual expression.
“Many of the patterns we use are traditional quilt patterns,” she said, “and we see it as a way to honor the contribution of rural people and the contribution of women in particular, but at the same time, quilt squares make an individual statement as well.”
A quick glance through the Quilt Square Girls’ online gallery bears this out. Added to the elaborate geometry of traditional patterns are more concrete images, anything from animals to religious symbols to images that evoke good times and easy living such as wine bottles or beach chairs. This individualization can be simple, such as using a quilt pattern from a specific geographic region, or quite complex, such as their reproduction of the U.S. Navy Submarine Service seal complete with an eagle, a three-mast sailing ship and a good deal of intricate detail.
“Public art is about self-expression, just like any other art,” Syndi explained.
Of course, when one imagines public art, one may picture a committee in a city or town commissioning a specific work to fill a community need, something such as a statue or a mural. Quilt squares, though encouraged by arts councils across the nation, are more organic in origin, arising not from a single grand scheme but rather from regional, family or personal traditions. It is this sense of tradition Syndi and Renee try to tap into as they create their work.
“Tradition and heritage are everywhere,” Syndi said. “And we see it was our job to honor that, to represent our community in the best possible light.”
The entire town is delighted that Renee and Syndi relocated downtown West Jefferson!