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A piece of the country

Heather Snipes turns her love of art into a successful side business
Heather Snipes of Solon stands in front of a few of her painted barn quilts. (photo by Jen Moore)

SOLON– One of Heather Snipes’s favorite things to do is to get on her Harley Davidson motorcycle and just drive.
Her trips often lead her down quiet country roads, where she takes in the scenic farmlands and landscapes. It was during one of these rides when she first became entranced by the beauty and intricacy of the quilt paintings hanging on area barns.
“When you see those old barns out there with those beautiful designs on the sides of them, I thought, ‘you know, I could do that,’” Snipes said.
Snipes has had an artistic side for as long as she could remember, and that love of all things creative manifested itself into multiple ventures throughout the years. She painted decorative rocks and wooden blocks for both herself and Solon community members. Later she began looking for something new to satisfy her creative side and decided painting barn quilts would be her next endeavor.
Snipes began making them just for herself and her family last fall, and as she painted and designed, she documented her work through photos on Facebook. Soon after, she began to receive requests from community members interested in getting their own personalized quilts.
With the holiday season things took off for Snipes; many people came to her looking for thoughtful presents for hard-to-buy-for loved ones and Snipes found herself working long hours to make deadlines.
“I was lucky that I did all my shopping early,” she joked. “But it was a labor of love.”
She has no problem with being creative and coming up with her own designs, but she especially enjoys when people come to her with a clear idea of what they want in their heads. Her main focus is ensuring that customers get exactly what they want and that they are happy with the finished project.
Jennifer Meehan was one of those who approached Snipes, last winter, with a quilt idea to give to her parents, Patti and Rich, for Christmas.
“She came to me and said ‘I need something with their last name, Hawkeyes, and Irish details,” Snipes recalled.
Patti Meehan was thrilled when she opened up the present and, almost immediately, called Snipes to thank her.
“It was perfect,” Meehan said. “Just a great gift idea. She did an amazing job and it’s just very special to us.”
Snipes’ studio has now taken over what was once an area for her two daughters, who are both in college. But now, it’s hard to see past the large table with current projects, various finished works and her large collection of art supplies.
The small, somewhat chaotic room has turned into Snipes’ own little sanctuary where she is able to take time for herself and simply relax.
When she paints she likes to listen to the radio or scripture passages while her English Bulldog, Meaty, sleeps next to her feet.
“It’s therapy for me,” Snipes said. “I’m just concentrating, listening, and relaxing.”
Barn quilts are known for their geometric designs, symmetry and bold colors. Creating one is a long and arduous process; a four-by-four-foot painting often takes Snipes over 40 hours of work. Her current project, which is almost double that, will probably take several months. Snipes puts in these hours along with taking care of her family and her day job as an account manager in the trucking industry.
“It’s something that doesn’t take away from family time,” Snipes said. “I do it on my downtime.”
She begins by creating a grid on a piece of scratch paper, on which she will sketch whatever design she plans on painting. Once she has a basic idea of what the quilt will look like, she then transfers that design onto a piece of wood, the size of which will vary depending on how big her quilt will be.
Sketching out the grid is a painstaking process that has to be 100 percent accurate; even a quarter of an inch can throw the entire painting off.
Her eraser and ruler have become her best friends because of that.
“That’s why I started out just doing them for myself,” Snipes said. “When I started doing them, I really made some mistakes with that.”
The fun part comes when Snipes finally begins to paint. She does each color individually, rotating the quilt until she is back to where she began so she can move onto the next color. The whole time, she is referring to her sketchpad, which shows her exactly which squares need to be painted.
And when your quilt has over 500 of them, that sketchpad turns into a lifesaver.
“This [paper] is what keeps me sane,” Snipes said.
Snipes sometimes becomes so engrossed with painting each section that it’s hard for her to visualize the finished product until she takes a photo of it.
“You don’t see it when you’re hunched over painting,” Snipes said. “Then you step back and realize how amazing it looks.”
Snipes’s barn quilts range in cost from approximately $100 to $200, depending on the size of the quilt. Those interested in having one made can contact Snipes at 319-360-6130.