|Red Barn Crafts is just one of several businesses owned and operated by John and Mae Wilding. Established in 1972, the business was started to offer craft classes in ceramics, leather works, candle making, and the like. It turned out that selling supplies, like jute and wooden beads for macramé, was more lucrative than teaching classes so the Wildings focused on that aspect of the business.
Their interest in crafts date to before they were married when John was stationed at the Aberdeen Proving Ground in Maryland. "To pass the time I went to Special Services craft shops where I often bought gifts for Mae," said John. After they were married, John and Mae worked together on crafts. "That's when we decided to open up a shop of our own," he said.
They continue to sell basic artist and craft supplies at Red Barn, although it is difficult to compete with the huge hobby and craft shops found in larger communities. However, custom framing has become one of the major focuses of the shop. As far as the Wildings know, Red Barn is the only place in town to have pictures framed.
Speaking of pictures, John is a professional photographer. His love for taking pictures started in college. John's studio, which opened in 1964, is next door to the craft shop. When they are not crafting, John and Mae photograph weddings, family gatherings, and historic sites in Hermann. "We have a passion for showing local scenes during any conceivable season and weather condition, like the bridge at sunset. We also have a passion for old buildings," admitted John. Many of his photographs, framed and unframed, can be purchased at Red Barn.
Other interesting items available at the shop are old postcards dating from the turn of the century to 1950. They sell books on local history and cookbooks, and they rewire lamps. One wall of the shop is filled with antiques and giftware. You can read more about Red Barn Antiques in the July 2005 newsletter on the Hermann Hill web site.
Since 2003, the family has been making old-fashioned cardboard Christmas houses. The first eleven houses were inspired by Mae's family collection of antique Christmas houses. More recently, they started making designs of their own based on Hermann's historic buildings. The first was the Rotunda, and St. George Church will be available for Christmas 2005. They hope to add one or two local buildings each year. The Wilding's Christmas houses are original designs, not made from kits. Nothing is pre-cut. "It's fun," said John. "We always enjoy getting together as a family and working." Other family helpers include a son, Matt, and daughter, Susan Chorley, and her husband Brian, who also help at the shop.
The Christmas houses are approximately 3 ½ by 5 inches. They are created through an 18-step process using thin cardboard, covering it with layers of sand, glue and paint, and each has translucent doors and colored cellophane windows that can be illuminated by lights inserted in the back. Bottle brush trees add to the scene. The houses have become collector's items, and Mae even keeps a registry of purchases for those who buy them as gifts and don't want to duplicate one that has already been bought. The Christmas houses are available at the shop year round and also at the two Kristkindl Markts held in December and at the annual Arts & Crafts Festival in October.
Red Barn is located at 523 West 9th St. Hours are 10-5:30 Monday through Saturday. The shop is closed on Sunday, except on festival weekends. For information, call 573-486-5544 or e-mail email@example.com.