Exploring country art through photos

Patty Van Stone puts her heart into a photographic journal of Rock County barn quilts

By Amy Cushing

Patty Van Stone with her book

(Submitted photo)
Patty Van Stone is the creative mind behind Barn Quilts Photo Journal that she complied in 2022. Her love for barn quilts prompted her to explore the area and learn the history of them with the 28 families featured in the photo book.

Ten years ago, Patty Van Stone moved to Clinton and discovered something beautiful on the way: barn quilts.
She spotted the quilts all around the area and decided to learn more about them, driving around the Evansville area by following a listing she found online.

When she realized they were more widespread than she realized, she expanded her barn quilt tour to places like Shawano, growing her love for the folk art even more in the process.

“(I) thought it was so ‘country’ and I’m deep down a county girl, inside and out,” Van Stone said. “But something told me there was more to the story behind the designs and homesteads they were hanging on.

“I mentioned to my lady friends in the Clinton Garden Club that I would like to do a photo book on barn quilts and feature the story behind each one,” she said. “Little did I know that some of the gals had a barn quilt on their property and knew many others that did, too.

Within days, Van Stone was given a list of names and addresses to contact and see if there was any interest in participating in her project.

Rock County has only been on the barn quilt bandwagon within the past 15 years, but it’s something that’s been taking place much longer in other places around the country. It’s a phenomenon that still growing.

Van Stone sent out roughly 65 letters and eventually had 35 families around Clinton, Beloit and Janesville wanting to take part in her project. She then set about interviewing the barn quilt owners and taking photos.

By the fall of 2022, she had 28 participants photographed and documented.

“I had decided the cover of the book was going to be a 36-square quilt and each square would contain a different barn quilt,” Van Stone explained. “I was able to fill all 36 spaces because some of the families had more than one barn quilt on their property. The project came together better than I ever expected.”

By the end of October, she was set to print, self-publishing her book through Shutterfly. Van Stone’s goal was to keep the cost of the book as low as possible, and add in to the cost of the book a donation to the Alzheimer’s Association.

Thanks to Shutterfly’s bulk book printing option, it was easy for her to accomplish.


Book cover

(Submitted image)
The photo journal covers barn quilts located all over in Clinton, Beloit, and Janesville. It can be purchased directly from Van Stone for those that are interested.


Once she had about 30 copies, she met with many of the families she had interview for the book to see if they were interested in their own copy. But much to her surprise – and delight – many of them wanted multiple copies, to keep and give away.

To date, Van Stone has sold more than 80 copies of her barn quilt book, and has raised an impressive $800 for the Alzheimer’s Association. Every time she gets a chance to show it off, interest in the book continues to grow.

“I wanted to meet the families and learn why they designed their barn quilt. Such as… did it have special meaning to their family and heritage,” she explained.

But when asked if she could pick a favorite quilt from her book, it wasn’t possible.

“I actually can’t pick a favorite, because the people I met have all become very special to me. They willingly shared their personal story and allowed me to complete this project. I couldn’t have done it without all of them.”
As a quilter herself, Van Stone stated she would love to expand her project to include more that she hasn’t yet featured in other Wisconsin counties. Many have tourism attractions designed around their barn quilts and she feels that having them complied into a book like hers could help promote their tourism even more, as well as providing people in those areas with family heirlooms.

As for fundraising for the Alzheimer’s Association, it’s a charity that is dear to Van Stone’s heart. She has been raising money for them for 15 year now in memory of her mother and grandmother. But her barn quilt book was a way to put a different spin on fundraising and combine it with her love of photography.

“Combining both of these things has really been fun,” she said, “and keeps me doing new and creative things with my talent.”
Patty’s Barn Quilts Photo Journal book can only be purchased directly through her, for those that are interested. Find out more information on Facebook by searching “Barn quilt photo book 2022,” or by writing her at 125 Milwaukee Rd., Clinton, WI 53525, calling 608-553-1048 or emailing littledynamo333@gmail.com.

Alzheimer’s Walks

Van Stone takes part in Alzheimer’s Association walks every year, and would like to spread the word about her group’s fundraising for it and for the charity in general. Locally, there are both Rock County and Walworth County walks, though her group currently only does the Walworth County event.

“I have done this event for the past nine years,” she proudly shares, “(and) before that I lived in Viroqua and walked and fundraised for the Coulee Region.”

If you would like to donate to the Little Dynamo’s group for their walk, please visit their group page ONLINE.

• Walworth County 2023 Walk to End Alzheimer’s
WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 16
WHERE: Library Park, 918 W. Main Street, Lake Geneva
TIME: The event opens at 8:30 a.m., ceremony starts at 9:40 a.m., the walk begins at 10 a.m.
ROUTE LENGTH: 1 mile or 3.2 miles
MORE INFORMATION: Printable forms for registration, donations, and contributions can be found HERE and mailed to:
Alzheimer’s Association, Walworth Co.
7900 West 78th Street, Suite 100
Minneapolis, MN 55439
CONTACT: Coordinator Rachel Skowronski, 414-775-7597, rlskowronski@alz.org

• Rock County 2023 Walk to End Alzheimer’s
WHEN: Saturday, Sept. 23
WHERE: Palmer Park, 2501 Palmer Drive, Janesville
TIME: The event opens at 8:30 a.m., opening ceremony starts at 10 a.m., the walk begins at 10:15 a.m.
MORE INFORMATION: Printable forms for registration, donations, and contributions can be found at HERE and mailed to:
Alzheimer’s Association: Rock County WI Walk
7900 West 78th Street, Suite 100
Minneapolis, MN 55439
CONTACT: Hanna Van, 608-203-8500 ext. 8003, hevan@alz.org