By Jenny Wallace, Arts & Entertainment Editor
Donovan Levine, Editor-In-Chief
According to the Glencairn Museum, hex signs are an art filled with “sacred and celestial symbolism.” Originating from the Pennsylvania Dutch, these hex signs contain geometric, starlike designs that are uniquely and individually crafted, similar to mother nature’s snowflakes.
Local artist Ivan E. Hoyt created his own “Folk Hearts and Flowers” hex sign. Unexpectedly, he was contacted by Eighties New York LLC who wanted to use his artwork for the upcoming show Bridge and Tunnel.
Hoyt’s Hex designs are showcased at the Kutztown Folk Festival alongside the work of several other Pennsylvania German folk artists, and his appearance on TV will bring a promising amount of attention to the Pennsylvania tradition and the significance of barn stars as a whole.
Eric Claypoole—long time Hex sign artist like his father, Johnny Claypoole, in the 60s—insists upon the “mystic significance of Hex signs” and “the geometry, almost like sacred geometry” from the stars. He also said they have representative values such as good luck (5-pointed star), marriage and fertility (8-pointed star) or prosperity (16-pointed star).
According to Claypoole, the value of Hex signs has only gone up, even in this COVID-19 era, “because of the historical significance.” Bill Schuster, another folk artist who passed away 10 years ago, had one of his designs sold for over $5,000.
Patrick Donmoyer, the director of KU’s Pennsylvania German Cultural Heritage Center, interviewed Claypoole frequently and has published several books regarding the traditional art and most recently published Hex Signs: Myths and Meaning in Pennsylvania Dutch Barn Stars, which details the art of Milton Hill, another famous Kutztown Folk Festival artist and painter.
Claypoole works full time as a carpenter, but he still gets many requests for carving and painting his own Hex signs at his studio in Lenhartsville. Claypoole said Hoyt used to come to his studio when coming up with designs for the Hawk Mountain art tours.
Hoyt’s original design was created in 1996, which he then licensed to be screen printed. The hand painted hex, however, will be the one appearing on the 2021 TV series.
You can see Hoyt and his artwork in the Kutztown Folk Festival and read more about him here. To view more hex sign artwork, visit KU’s German Heritage Center.