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A Conversation with Ivan Hoyt, Hexologist

Photo taken at the Belsnickel Craft Show, Boyertown, Pa, 2014

An excerpt from the book, THE BACKDOOR HEXOLOGIST, 2009 by Hunter M. Yoder

From: Hunter Yoder

Date: 2006/05/07 Sun AM 11:54:17 EDT

To: Ivan Hoyt

Subject: 8 pointed stars


I like your work.

I recently purchased several of your screened hex signs while in Lancaster county, see attached pic.,I have a background in hex signs in Berks county, where the 8 pointed star is favored on barns. Johnny Claypoole's son's were friends of mine and I am familiar with Johnny Ott's work. I am not entirely happy with the commercialization of the genre, and prefer hand painted signs. The picture of your sign has elements that I refer to as the" east.

I noticed that you favor, several things of interest to me:

1.six pointed stars

2.odd numbered leaf arrangements, particularly the number nine.

3, nine doubled on your outermost border.

I would greatly appreciate any dialogue you may have regarding this and other aspects of hexology, it seems that the language of hex signs is rarely spoken.

Hunter M. Yoder

Hello Mr. Yoder,

Thank you for purchasing several of the silk screened signs I designed. It may interest you to know the majority of my work is hand painted original designs. However, like some of my predecessors, including Johnny Ott, I design for a silkscreen manufacturer under a licensing and royalty arrangement.

I am also friends with Johnny Claypoole sons and have bartered work with Sean, Neil, and many times with Eric. Johnny and Helen were also my friends before their passing.

Don't be too unhappy with the "commercialization of the genre". In my opinion, the silk screen work of Jacob Zook, Don Greth, and others helped many people become educated or informed about this distinctively Pennsylvania Deutsch folk art. Without the volume of hex signs they sold around the world, I am afraid very few people would be aware of this genre. If you visit the Kutztown Pennsylvania German Festival this July, you will see myself, Bill Schuster, and Eric Claypoole working diligently to keep the hand painted art of hex signs alive,well, and flourishing.

You are very observant. The design basis for the sign you are holding in the photograph is called the Tree of Life and its inspiration was drawn from antique frakturs that portrayed family trees. Like all my work it is my original design done in the style and tradition of my Pennsylvania Deutsch ancestors.

The six pointed star, the basic single rosette, is the the design that I believe started the folk art of hex signs and was modified or embellished as the folk art evolved.

The number 9 in the leaf arrangements means nothing other than spontaneous artisitc license as I attempt to vary my designs. I don't believe hex signs should be a stagnant dead art but rather an evolving art. I modestly think I will make my mark on the genre the same way the initial farmer folk artists did as well as Perry Ludwig, Milton Hill, Harry Adam, Johnny Ott, Johnny Claypoole, and other craftsmen have done.

The "nine doubled" border has no symbolic meaning. Eighteen scallops each 20 degrees make a 360 degree circle.

I am currently under contract to write a "How To" boook for Stackpole Books. I hope to have it finished and ready for publication by next March.

I would appreciate it very much you would share information you have collected growing up in Berks County with the work of Johnny Ott and Johnny Claypoole or others involved with barn painting and barn decorating. This subject has fascinated me for over 30 years and my research and collecting is ongoing.


Ivan E. Hoyt

Pennsylvania German Folk Artist

Mr and Mrs Ivan Hoyt at the Kutztown Folk Festival, 2013

Ivan Hoyt with the author, Hunter M. Yoder at The Kutztown Festival, 2012 with Der Belsnickel Hex

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