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Vintage logo tells story of Vashon’s rural past
In 1999, a month after Duane Dietz and his wife Pat Kane moved to a farm on Young’s Corner — where Cemetery Road curves south and becomes 87th Avenue S.W. — their barn simply fell over.
Granted, it was 80 years old, but its collapse left a stark place where a barn ought to have stood — next to the rows of strawberries, pumpkins, corn and tomatoes, and just yards from the couple’s one-story farmhouse.
Four years ago, the family erected a new barn in that footprint.
And ever since, the pair have been working to reflect Vashon’s past there, and in so doing, perhaps secure the barn’s place in that history too.
On Saturday, before a small crowd of family and friends, they unveiled their biggest monument yet to the Island’s past — a huge glossy yellow, white and blue mural on the side of their red barn, painted by a lifelong Islander and artist.
The mural’s enormous script reads “Vashon Chickens” in bright blue and is overlaid on a map of the Island. Complementing it, of course, is a bright yellow chick.
The logo’s design is adapted from a 1920s advertisement for “Vashon Chicks,” embossed on a thermometer, Dietz said. Apparently, thermometers were then given out free much like pens or keychains are today. The company was a cooperative of Vashon chicken farmers more than 70 years ago.
Dietz felt an immediate connection with the design when he saw it earlier this year, and it’s no wonder. Though Dietz has no chickens — or eggs — on the property, he calls it Yellow Chicken Farm, in honor of its agricultural history. The 3.5-acre plot was once part of a 40-acre chicken farm that spanned the entire square block west from Beall Road, east to the bend of Cemetery and 87th and south to S.W. 198th Street, Dietz said.
The new mural is the centerpiece of a chicken motif they’d already woven throughout the farm, said Kane, Dietz’s wife.
“This is one way to get people talking about Island history,” said Dietz, a landscape architect and former Vashon Allied Arts trustee.
He and his wife hope people who were involved in the chicken cooperative decades ago will come forward, he said, so he can learn more about the company whose logo is now emblazoned on his red barn.
Annie Brulé, 26, an illustrator and graphic designer, painted the circular mural in a week, completing it just hours before it was unveiled under Saturday’s sunny skies.
“When everybody’s down and the economy’s crashing, we really need some sunny, happy art,” she said she and Dietz joked while creating the mural.
He was already a fan of her work, having admired a colored-pencil map of Puget Sound displayed in the Vashon Island Coffee Roasterie just two blocks from his farm, he said. Prints of the map are available at the Roasterie, Essentials 4 and Vashon Print and Design, Brulé said.
But at more than six feet tall, the barnside painting is by far the largest work she’s created, she said.
“This was a cool blend between house painting and graphic design,” she said, a project she undertook by “gridding” — dividing the illustration into sections, then filling in each square with oil-based paint.
Brulé, a recent graduate of Lewis & Clark University, runs her graphic design business, Brulé Illustration, from a studio at the Beall Greenhouses.
“I’m a complete beneficiary of this Island art community,” said Brulé, who took art classes at Blue Heron throughout her youth. “I’ve studied with some of the best artists here, and I just feel so lucky to have grown up here.”
She’s been illustrating since she was 15 and created a coloring book for the Island’s Pirate Camp. Today, she is a map design consultant for the Vashon Greenmap Project — “a fabulous way to integrate graphic design with some of the needs of the community,” she said.
On the same east-facing wall as her painting are the decades-old signs that started it all, advertisements for everything from orange juice to seeds to fertilizers. Dietz began collecting the metal placards after he raised his new barn and wanted to give it a vintage look; adding a mural was a natural progression.
He also began collecting old tractors after moving to Vashon from Northgate, he said. He has 13 today, two of which were part of this year’s Strawberry Festival parade and many of which are housed in his barn.
Even before the mural went up, people who knew that Dietz and Kane’s spread was once a thriving chicken farm would often stop and ask if they have eggs for sale. It’s now likely that even more passersby, seeing what appears to be an advertisement for chickens, will stop by Young’s Corner, Kane said.
Indeed, only one day after the mural’s debut, a young man pulled up in a limousine hoping to buy eggs.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever seen a stretch limousine on the Island,” Dietz said.
A friend suggested the couple put up a sign saying, “No chickens today,” and leave it up permanently, Kane said, chuckling.
On Saturday, after pulling a tarp off the gleaming new poultry painting and admiring it with family and friends, Dietz fired up the barbecue.
“Who wants chicken?” he asked.