Artist crafts the old into new
Michael Kutch is an artistic individual who stays busy at his business, Barn Bridge Hill Salvage Art.
Originally from Michigan, Kutch moved to the area when he took the call to serve at St. Paul’s Lutheran Church and School in Fairmont, where he is the music director. He plays the organ at church, directs the choir, and teaches music and art at the school.
He also serves on the board of directors at Red Rock Center for the Arts in Fairmont.
Kutch majored in elementary education and minored in music at Concordia University in Wisconsin, which is where he met his wife, Melissa. The pair moved to Fairmont and both took teaching jobs, but art has been a hobby of his for a long time. He began making wooden signs out of salvaged wood and other recycled materials early on in college.
“I kind of made my first one by accident,” he said. “I had a bunch of old wood that I had bought at an auction and I made the letters for the word ‘love’ and I put it on a big blue board that I had and it sold to a dealer the day before an antique show. So the sign thing happened by accident and I stuck with it.”
Kutch said some of his work has been on sale at Weathered and Worn, 14 N. State Street, for more than two years. He also has some work on display at Fairmont Awards. Several months ago, Sterling Drug in Fairmont bought about 25 of Kutch’s pieces and has been selling them since.
While Kutch has many pieces that are already done, he is always taking custom orders. Some businesses in town that have purchased signs from him include the Channel Inn and Graffiti Corner.
“This is kind of my ‘job’ in the summer,” he said. “I do a couple of art shows too.”
He recently appeared at an art fair in St. Cloud and will go to an art show in September in Marine on St. Croix, just north of Stillwater.
Since he was in college, Kutch has been going to many art shows, craft shows and vendor markets. He will pack up a van with a bunch of his pieces and set up a booth to display and sell his work.
As for where Kutch finds his materials, he said they typically come from auctions and garage sales, but occasionally people will bring him items.
“I think screws and nails are the only thing I buy new,” he noted.
Kutch uses unique and interesting items as letters. These include old rulers, horseshoes, copper pipes, C clamps, salvaged wood and other old tools. He is always on the lookout for materials.
“I’m a really visual person, so if I see something that jumps out at me, I can envision how I would use it,” Kutch said.
Even though his pieces have a lot of color in them, he does not use paint, but uses the materials just as he finds them, which requires a creative eye.
Kutch has a workplace in his basement, where all of the items he uses are categorized by letters in wire baskets. Some items are interchangeable because a horseshoe could be used as a C or a U. The wood he uses for signs are from salvaged buildings.
Kutch has made hundreds of signs over the years, but you will not find a duplicate in any of his pieces.
“If I find a style the sells really well, I’ll try to match the colors on signs in the future, but I’ve never made the exact same thing,” he said. “Usually the materials are pretty limited to one sign. It keeps me on my toes.”
In addition to the wood signs he makes, Kutch works with recycled tin to make decorative flowers and other plants in vases.
Kutch believes most people hear of his work through word of mouth, but he does have Facebook and Instagram pages for his business, Barn Bridge Hill, where he posts pictures.
The signs can be hung indoors or outdoors, as Kutch said most of the materials already have been outside for a long time anyway.
Some of the signs have hooks on them, making them good for hanging coats and hats. Kutch also can make signs that have last names or phrases.
“I made a ‘Minnesota nice’ sign that was about 7 1/2 feet long and it had a giant ski going underneath it and that was pretty neat. That was probably the longest,” he said.
Kutch is working on new designs year round and appreciates how successful his hobby has become.
“It’s kind of what I do to relax,” he said. “I have a hard time sitting and reading a book or watching TV. I like to work with my hands.”