By Connor Lynch
ILDERTON — Cheryl Gardiner had been painting signs for more than 30 years. But five years ago a farmer asked her to paint an eight-foot strawberry on a wooden canvas for his farm.
From there, she got into painting what is known as barn quilts: Quilt-like patterns on wood. Now, that’s pretty much all she does. “It’s enough for me full-time and for my daughter part-time,” said Gardiner, who lives in Ilderton, northwest of London. Her daughter handles what Gardiner calls “the fancy stuff.”
Antique tractor collectors, for example, have gotten all kinds of old tractors done on their quilts. “Massey-Harris, Farmall, quite a few of those. Guys really gobble them up.”
Gardiner, who lives on a hobby farm, said her business has taken off since the first strawberry, and she’s sure that there’ll be some copycats to come, but so far she doesn’t know of anyone else doing barn quilts in Ontario. Commercially, that is.
Gardiner said that she’s the only one in Canada, so far as she knows, that’s making money from this.
She does all sizes of signs, but a typical barn quilt, usually around eight-feet tall, costs between $500 and $600.
For her bigger pieces, she figured interested farmers would have to come visit her, but her smaller stuff is globe-trotting. “I shipped one to Wisconsin. I have someone inquiring in Las Vegas,” and she even has a few going to England in somebody’s suitcase.
But right now the only place the barn quilts are big is in the U.S., she said. “I’m not the first to paint them, but I’m the first in Canada.”