“People will come up to my daughter and go, ‘Your mom is that barn quilt lady,’ ” said barn quilt artist Melissa Moore Drury.
A week ago, Friday, I sat in the basement of a house in downtown Lawrenceburg. Surrounding me were cans of paint and half-finished barn quilts. Sitting in front of me, Melissa Moore Drury was telling the story behind this basement studio where she became a barn quilt artist.
Drury has been crafting for years, and she originally began selling crafts because of her daughter, Claire Eichhorn. “We have a type one diabetic child, and…there was a time period where it was very expensive for us to be able to get an insulin pump for her or to be able to get her…continuous glucose monitor, anything like that.”
Drury found that selling crafts was a way she could help cover the medical expenses. Specifically, Drury got into weaving potholders to sell. Not only did the craft help pay for Claire’s medical needs, but it also became something that Claire and Drury could work on together as mother and daughter.
However, as Claire got older, Drury had a dream to try her hand at making barn quilts. “I just kept on thinking I want to make a barn quilt,” said Drury, “and it was like where in the world did that even come from. We don’t live on property. We don’t have a barn. At that time, [I] wouldn’t have thought of anywhere else that you could actually begin to display outside artwork.”
Even though they didn’t own property or have a barn, Drury made her first barn quilt in 2020. “And, I knew it was not what I wanted, and I’m the kind of person that I’m going to continue to work at things until I can really perfect it.” Having made her first quilt, Drury began work on perfecting the art. It didn’t take long for her work to pay off, and that same year in 2020, Drury opened her home business, Barn Quilts by Mel.
Since opening the business in 2020, Drury and Claire have pretty much switched from making potholders together to doing the barn quilts together. Now as a thriving home business, Barn Quilts by Mel helps to cover Claire’s medical expenses.
Interestingly enough, Drury did not consider herself as very artistic before she got into making barn quilts. “I could not draw a stick person,” said Drury, “but I have always been very mathematically inclined.” Fortunately, making barn quilts tends to rely on angles and math more than one’s ability to draw. “It’s all based on angles,” said Drury. To achieve these patterns and angles, she uses rulers, protractors, and compasses.
However, Drury has had some customers ask her to free-hand paint more complicated designs on the quilts. “As people began to reach out to me to say, ‘Hey, can you paint a rooster?’ It’s like, oh my word, maybe I need to find somebody different, but then I did it, and it turned out phenomenal.”
To top it off, Drury was chosen to be one of the artists to participate in the Whiskey Wall of Wonder in Lexington this past December. The wall is a program where artists get to decorate two whiskey bottles. The bottles are then displayed and auctioned off. When she applied for the program, Drury didn’t think much of it. “I submitted it and honestly did not think another thing about it. Just was like, ‘This isn’t ever going to happen,’ ” said Drury.
However, one day she got an email saying that she had been selected. “And, I felt very intimidated by it,” said Drury. As she explained, “I just kept on…saying to myself, ‘They chose me because I am a barn quilt artist.’ ” During the program, they put one hundred of the bottles up for sale at Keeneland and one hundred were put up on their online auction. One of Drury’s bottles went through the online auction and was actually one of 47 bottles to be sold prior to the horse auction.
Finally, Drury explained the process that goes into making the quilts. First, Drury cuts aluminum to use as the base. She then has a process for cleaning the aluminum so that the aluminum doesn’t interact with the paint. After this, she applies a primer, draws out her design, and starts painting with exterior house paint. Later, she seals the project with a sealant.
Drury’s process helps ensure that the quilts can hold up to the weather; however, according to Drury, you can put them inside, outside, on the front of a house, on a garage, or anywhere else you want. “You don’t have to have a barn to have a barn quilt,” said Drury.
If you want to buy a barn quilt or get in touch with her, you can find her on Facebook at Barn Quilts by Mel.