Artist, historian embellish barn
Eric Claypoole and Patrick Donmoyer have stars in their eyes —barn stars, that is — and they have been painting them on the Schantz barn on Brookside Road in Lower Macungie Township.
The team of Claypoole, a barn star artist, and Donmoyer, Pennsylvania German historian, author and site manager for the Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center at Kutztown University, began the project Sept. 3 and completed the final touches the following weekend.
The barn is located on township-owned property, adjacent to the Lower Macungie Community Center.
The project is a result of collaboration between the township, the Lower Macungie Township Historical Society and the Dutch Hex Tour.
Historical society President Sarajane Williams commented on the project.
“Painting the barn stars, often referred to as hex signs, on the township-owned barn will carry on the centuries-old Pennsylvania folk art tradition and enhance and bring attention to the historic barn,” she said. “It will engage and promote the work of renowned and respected Pennsylvania folk artists and celebrate and promote the artistic and cultural history and heritage of the Pennsylvania Dutch in our region.”
Claypoole is one of the few remaining barn star painters in the country.
In addition to being known by barn owners throughout Pennsylvania Dutch country for his hand-painted barn stars and hex signs, his work has been featured in The New York Times, a PBS documentary “Expressions of Common Hands” and the book “Hex Signs: Tips, Tools and Techniques for Learning the Craft,” by Ivan E. Hoyt.
Regional media coverage has included features in Reading Eagle and Lancaster Farming newspapers.
He also lectures on the history of barn stars and hex signs throughout the region.
Patrick Donmoyer, author of “Hex Signs: Myth and Meaning in Pennsylvania Dutch Barn Stars,” says Claypoole’s dedication to the barn star painting tradition is “one of the single largest contributions to keeping traditional Pennsylvania folk art alive in the local landscape.”
Claypoole is carrying on a family tradition. His father, Johnny Claypoole, began painting hex signs in 1962, having learned his craft from the legendary hex sign painter Johnny Ott. The senior Claypoole’s work was featured on Charles Kuralt’s television program “On the Road” and on the game show “What’s My Line?”
“The Schantz barn adornment will provide a visual, welcoming gateway to the township’s municipal complex,” Williams said. “It is also the goal of the Lower Macungie Historical Society that this commission of barn stars will encourage and inspire other township and county barn owners, both private and public, to carry on this tradition by painting barn stars on their own structures.”