Mary Lucy Bivins creates heritage Fraktur folk art.

Featured Artisan – Mary Lucy Bivins

Featured Artisan – Mary Lucy BivinsMary Lucy Bivins has been creating Fraktur since the 1970s.

Fraktur, from the German lettering of the same name, is also the folk art form of manuscript illumination brought to America by the Pennsylvania German settlers.  This cultural tradition, from its origins in Germany, continued to thrive here in the 18th and 19th centuries.

Bivins said, “Thanks to scholars and museum collections of this art, Fraktur became an important part of American cultural heritage, as well.”

Fraktur is a combination of calligraphy and ink and water color drawings.  Ministers and laymen documented births, baptisms and marriages.  German parochial school teachers used Fraktur to teach reading, writing, religion and art. Working within their traditional motifs, colors, lettering and many decorative forms, the early artists developed and became known by their own style.

Bivins said her love of history, calligraphy and drawing lead to an intensive study and practice of this early art, while living in the Moravian settlement of Old Salem in Winston-Salem, NC, after college.  Her study included, taking German at her alma mater, Salem College, amassing a library of books on the subject and travels to study early collections in this country and Europe.  After much hands on practice, she eventually, like the early artists, developed her own style, while remaining faithful to the tradition.

“The practice of this art gives me joy.” Bivins said.

Mary Lucy Bivins creates heritage Fraktur folk art pieces.

She enjoys producing all of the traditional forms including, house blessings, rewards of merit,  color designs, letters of the alphabet, valentines and book marks.  Birth and Marriage Certificates in German or English became a business.  Her work as a contemporary Fraktur artist was validated by the inclusion of her work In the permanent Fraktur collection of the Philadelphia Free Library, which houses the largest collection of early Fraktur in the country.

Bivins, who is also a professional actor at Barter Theatre, said she is very grateful for her acceptance as a member of the Round the Mountain Artisan Network at the Southwest Virginia Cultural Center & Marketplace.   She has a variety of Fraktur forms on display and for sale there.  Commissioned pieces, such as birth and marriage certificates, are also available by contacting Mary Lucy at