Although the subject of the 2020 Heritage Weekend Tile – the Buena Vista Barn – is not open for tours, the tile is available at the Hardy County Public Library. “We didn’t want to have a break in the series,” said Heritage Weekend Coordinator Ashley Anderson.
This year’s tile was drawn by Hardy County Tour and Craft Association Chair Kriston Strickler and was made by Conrad Crafter, Inc. of Wheeling.
“We have been doing the tiles for at least 40 years in a row, probably longer,” said Conrad Crafter’s current owner David Knight.
Jayne LeVie Butch was the artist who drew the tiles for more than 20 years. When she retired several years ago, Strickler took up the mantle and has drawn the last three tile subjects, beginning with the Paskel House in 2018.
According to Knight, Butch specialized in drawing homes for realtors. “She always enjoyed the Heritage Weekend drawing because for the architecture and uniqueness of the subjects,” Knight said.
Conrad Crafters, Inc. was formed in 1952 by four former employees of the Warwick China Company. “Charles Conrad, his sister Carolyn Conrad, Ralph Knight and Albert Lewis each brought their own individual decorating expertise to the venture,” Knight said. “Their talents included hand banding in 24k gold, glass luster application, custom designing, screen printing and hand application of kiln-fired decals.”
The company specialized in personalized gifts for weddings and anniversaries.
“One of the most popular items was a baby dish, bowl and mug set, personalized with the child’s name and birth statistics,” Knight said. “Thousands of these sets were produced over the years.”
By 1960, the primary products of Conrad Crafters were mugs, plates, tiles and ashtrays, which were sold in gift shops from Maine to Florida. These products were very successful until the mid-1970s, when inexpensive Chinese imports made competition difficult.
In 1978, Lewis passed away, the Conrads retired and Ralph Knight took over the business. His knowledge of screen printing and photography helped the company grow into graphic design. According to David, Ralph was self-taught.
When Ralph passed in 1982, David succeeded him as owner. Since then David and his wife, Nancy have continued the business, which is primarily through Internet sales and repeat customers.
The company has continued its personalized gift line and currently produce custom imprint items such as porcelain ornaments, tiles and plates which are sold to church, school and civic groups for fundraisers and commemorative gifts.
Made in West Virginia, the Heritage Weekend Tiles reflect the appreciation many feel for the history and culture of Hardy County.