WEST JEFFERSON-Who knew barn quilts could be big business?
Just months after opening on the second floor of the old West Jefferson Hotel, Talara Parrish’s tiny barn quilt studio will expand again.
Parrish’s Barn Quilt Headquarters of the Blue Ridge is now offering customers the opportunity to churn out their own custom works of art – with just a little help from Parrish and company. And this week, the studio will host an Ashe County Chamber of Commerce ribbon cutting to show off what’s new at the old hotel. Here’s what you need to know.
How did barn quilts become a thing?
Though their designs convey an old time heritage connection, barn quilts are a relatively modern creation. In 2001, Donna Sue Groves made good on her desire to spruce up an old tobacco barn on her Adams County, Ohio property by painting a giant, patchwork quilt on its side, that was envisioned as a tribute to her late mother Maxine’s love of quilting, and her Appalachian heritage. Two years later, Groves helped create another barn quilt in Adams County, the second in what she hoped would become a 20 barn “sampler,” according to author of Barn Quilts and The American Quilt Trail Movement Suzi Parron, that she hoped would become a driving trail.
Barn quilts are big in Ashe County
Fourteen years later, similar barn quilts dot rural communities across the United States, including here in Ashe County. The Ashe County Arts Council has long sponsored barn quilt tours – along six separate routes – to help visitors take in the county’s more than 150 barn quilts, but the creation and selling of barn quilts is becoming big business for artists across the country. Parrish and others, including West Jefferson’s Quilt Square Girls studio, have cashed in on that trend.
That’s the number of barn quilts Parrish said she expects to create this year. A long-time quilter – you know, the fabric and thread kind – Parrish first started working on barn quilts after founding West Jefferson’s Everything Has a Story, but exploding demand for the custom creations in recent years forced her to focus solely on barn quilts.
It’s distinctive Appalachian-style art
That’s the appeal of barn quilts, according to Cherye and Tom Pace, who recently dropped by Parrish’s studio to place an order for a barn quilt. Their motivation? Using the beautiful artwork to hide a propane tank cover on their Watauga County property. “We knew this is the style that we wanted – you see them everywhere now,” Cherye Pace said. “And we sought out Parrish because of her reputation.”
It’s a fancy ‘paint by numbers’ production
That’s how Parrish describes the way she creates her barn quilts. It takes creativity – buyers pick out the designs and color patterns they like – but the actual creation of the barn quilts is a heavily regimented process. She creates online design proofs her buyers have full control over. Parrish then lays out and paints the geometric designs in a prescribed order.
But there’s only so much she can do
With customer demand this high, Parish said she’ll now help customers create their own barn quilts in her downtown studio. And she swears she won’t touch up any of the artwork her customers churn out. “The whole goal is to help meet what is turning out to be growing customer demand,” Parrish said. “So what they turn out is what they turn out. I’ll be able to help them with a little advice, but their work is their own.”
For more information, call 336-620-6220 or visit ww.barnquiltheadquarters.com. Reach Adam Orr at 336-489-3058 or Twitter.com/AdamROrr.