Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Mennonite Ledger Drawings

The Mennonites, being famously frugal folk (how's THAT for alliteration?), lived by the motto of "waste not, want not".  That being the case, when their children wanted to draw and doodle, they made do with whatever scrap paper was on hand.  Oftentimes, that paper was old, previously-used ledger paper, covered with pen-and-ink script.

No matter.  The Mennonites just drew right on top of it, usually simple pictures of domestic/farm animals and wildlife.  Ironically enough, the results are self-consciously naive and old-timey: just as hipster-ish as any artwork you see listed on Etsy! That modern sensibility is what makes these pieces so fun to decorate with, if you're lucky enough to own one.

I have read that Depression-era Mennonite art was usually executed on 19th-century or early 20th-century paper, which leads me to wonder: were the Mennonites hoarders? Please advise.

I myself bought a wonderful Mennonite drawing of a deer from Carole's Country Store years back.  I am greatly saddened to see that owner and founder Carole has passed; she had impeccable taste and was no doubt a lovely person to boot.  Here are a few of the ledger drawings she sold previously:

Since paper tends not to age well, most of these drawings don't withstand the years and hence are difficult to find.  Here's a set that's currently for auction on ebay.  Although not verified as Mennonite,  they do in fact come from Pennsylvania (where many Mennonites resided) and are executed on 19th century ledger paper, although less heavily written-up:

Art Antiques Michigan offers this magnificent framed ledger bald eagle:

And J. Compton Gallery features this delightful lizard, straight from a small child's imagination:

Of course, if you're the artsy-crafty sort, you can obtain your own antique ledger paper at your local antiques mall/flea market, then add your own folksy embellishment.  Collette Copeland did this a few years back on Etsy, and with great success!: