A 75-year-old Seymour man spent the better part of his life working with tools and machinery.
When it came time to retire in 1998, Shedrick “Shade” Shutters put aside that work. That, however, left him with little to do, so he traded his tools for a paintbrush and paints and has rarely put them down since.
Shutters’ works can be found hanging in a lot of places, both locally and across the region, but you’re unlikely to find them in an art museum.
And while he’s not getting rich, Shutters has found a place for his folk art — the sides of barns from Kalamazoo, Michigan, to Asheville, North Carolina.
One of his best clients, however, lives here.
“We have 50,” Marc Sewell said of the barn quilts Shutters has painted on plywood.
That’s a fifth of Shutters’ production since he took up the hobby about 3½ years ago.
Shutters began painting the barn quilts at the request of his daughter, Shannon Bryant. He didn’t know anything about barn quilts, but he has learned a lot since that request.
“At the time, I was painting rocks and canvas and different things,” he said.
Shutters said he was painting what he called “fancied shape stones” mostly with animals.
“I was selling them, going to craft shows uptown,” he said.
He also has painted a lot of handsaws over the years.
Shutters said he traces his love of art to his high school days.
“Charlie Hunterman was the art teacher back then,” he said. “Charlie instilled in me a love of art, but I never tried doing it myself much.”
After he decided to close his business, Frontier Tool, and retire, Shutters said he needed something to do.
“My wife and I divorce, and I’m 60 years old and on my own again, and kids are all up and grown and married off,” he said.
So he took up painting. Then his daughter asked him to paint a barn quilt.
“I envisioned painting a quilt on a barn,” he said.
His daughter brought him some information about barn quilts that she had found on the Internet.
“She brought me a pattern called ‘Hunter’s Star,’ and I had no idea what it was,” Shutters said.
So he visited the Jackson County Public Library and found an encyclopedia containing 5,500 American quilt patterns, each with their own histories and names.
Then, there are millions of other quilts patterns that quilters from around the world have designed.
“And you can take any of these patterns and do them in different colors and make something totally different out of them,” Shutters said. “The sky’s the limit.”
Shutters said many of the quilt patterns are based on quilts made in the 1800s, when women had little light to work with and just basic quilting equipment.
Shutters first made a 3-by-3-foot barn quilt for his daughter and then did a 2-by-2-foot “Lincoln’s Quilt,” which is the pattern of a quilt made by Nancy Lincoln, the mother of the country’s 16th president.
It wasn’t long until other people were asking Shutters to make barn quilts.
“People just started asking me to do them,” Shutters said. He has now made 259 barn quilts.
Most of his work is sold by word of mouth, he said.
The larger barn quilts can take a couple of days to make, while the smaller ones can be made in a day. Shutters said he can be found making a barn quilt almost every day.
One of the harder barn quilt designs to make is the “Blazing Star.” It contains 1,152 individual diamonds, and each diamond has to be painted individually.
“It takes about six hours to draw it,” Shutters said.
Drawing a barn quilt pattern requires some geometry, he said.
“But the geometry part comes easy because I designed tools for 35 years or so,” Shutters said.
He said he makes about $6 in profit on the larger 4-by-4-foot barn quilts.
The first barn quilts were made by the Amish in the Pennsylvania, and they gradually made their way to Indiana over the years.
They are especially popular in parts of the state where there are larger Amish populations, including Shipshewana and Montgomery.
There’s also an area along U.S. 421 called Barn Quilt Trial in the Versailles area, and some of Shutters’ work can be found there.
He said, as far as he knows, there’s only one other person making barn quilt panels in the area, and he lives in Madison.
“I love doing them,” Shutters said.
Sewell said he met Shutters a few years back and just started buying the barn quilts to hang on the outside of the place where he and his parents live and operate the family’s car care business on East Laurel Street in Seymour.
Sewell said his mother, Linda, is suffering from terminal heart disease and post-traumatic stress disorder.
He said the barn quilts and other decorative items, including flowers and concrete statues, spread around their home and business help her.
“They give her a lot of peace,” Sewell said. “He’s done 50 for us. Plus, we have about five or six more besides that.”
Sewell said Shutters brought over 10 one day.
“And I bought all 10 of them,” he said. “Well, I love my mother, and I will do whatever she wants or needs. That’s what is going to happen.”
The Sewells also have bought several to give to charity auctions, which he said sell well.
Sewell said he likes Shutters’ work.
“How can you look at work like that and not appreciate it?” he said as he looked over a wall containing several different barn quilts. “I like folk art and things like that.”
Shutters and Sewell actually came up with a couple of their own barn quilt patterns, and they even named one “The Triple Star.”
Shutters said he doesn’t have plans to throw away his brushes anytime soon, and he’ll keep doing it.
“As long as they keep making acrylic paints,” he said.
Name: Shedrick “Shade” Shutters
Family: Children, Shade Shutters of Phoenix, Scott Shutters of Wilmington, North Carolina, and Shannon Bryant of Seymour