A knack for neckties
CHRISTIANSBURG — Constantly tugged on, occasionally stained, and often put on display only out of a sense of obligation, the life of a necktie is far from the most glamorous of existences.
Kim Horne recognized this and for the past four years has been giving these hard-working garments a second lease on life by reincarnating them into beloved people such as Albert Einstein, Marilyn Monroe and even Darth Vader.
Horne is the founder of Beulah Arts, a studio she runs out of her Christiansburg home and where she specializes in crafting quilts and pictures made out of used neckties.
“I love the ones that around the neck are worn completely out,” Horne said. “Those are the ones I always try to use … to give it a new life because if it’s gone through that much of somebody’s work, then it deserves to be shown.”
The 38-year-old’s self-described “sick obsession” with ties isn’t just a hobby but is rooted deeply in her relationship with her father, Boyce Foster. Foster was required to wear a tie each day for his job as a district manager of CVS drugstores.
Horne said her mother, Pam Foster, always insisted her husband wear “proper” ties, meaning no cartoon characters or comical ties. But if Horne’s father received one as a gift, he was always allowed to wear it.
Having found a loophole, Horne said she and her siblings soon began a collection of outrageous ties for their father. In 2006, Horne decided to sew some of the ties into a quilt for him.
Boyce Foster died in 2008, leaving Pam Foster with a collection of ties she gave to Horne, along with a request that she make a quilt for herself out of them.
Instead, Horne decided she wanted each of her four brothers and sister to have a piece of her father and created each of them something to represent their individual connection to him. Her efforts produced three of the first tie pictures Horne ever created, including James Bond art, which would soon serve as the vehicle to opening her eyes to her works’ widespread appeal.
Horne said she was at her brother’s house one day and overheard one of his friends commenting about the James Bond picture.
“He said, ‘I can’t believe how someone can take an ugly tie and make it into a picture,’ and I thought, ‘I can do that,’ ” Horne said.
Horne’s original pictures were completely sewn and placed in 27-by-40-inch frames, but to increase their affordability, she sought a more efficient way. Today, Horne mounts the majority of her works on a 16-by-20-inch canvas. After the ties are washed and dyed, Horne removes the padding, irons each tie, and then uses a special combination of glues to attach it to the canvas.
Horne said she uses four to five lighter-colored ties as the background and often has to call on her children Allen and Samantha Horne for help picking the correct shades because of her color blindness, which prevents her from seeing different shades of colors.
To create the silhouettes, Horne traces royalty-free patterns onto freezer paper and then attaches them to darker tie fabric using an iron.
Horne said the freezer paper provides the perfect amount of stiffness needed to cut out the extremely detailed patterns without affecting the color of the tie.
With the pattern cut out, Horne backlights the silhouette’s pattern on the previously laid background, which serves as a guide while she attaches it to the canvas. She then uses 3D fabric paint to seal the image and prevent the edges from fraying.
Though much faster than sewing, Horne said each picture still takes about four hours of work from start to finish.
In 2011, Horne debuted 10 pictures at her stand at Blacksburg’s Steppin’ Out festival and sold six of them. She returned to the annual festival in July with 26 pictures and left with only two.
Horne said that while her pictures often catch the eyes of passers-by, it is when they read her sign, “All pictures are made with men’s old ties,” that their interests perk up.
Allen Horne, who accompanied his mom at this year’s festival, said he often saw people stop, look at the pictures and walk away only to return later and purchase one. The 18-year-old said he believes it took them a while to realize they weren’t going to find anything cooler at the festival.
Horne said she enjoys selling her work, but what’s an even greater joy to her is knowing it is hanging on someone’s wall, and she often asks buyers to send her a photo of their new pictures on display.
Horne said one particular buyer at Steppin’ Out went as far as to bring her a photo during her day job at Walmart so she would know her work was being enjoyed. She said she didn’t know the gentleman’s name but that he purchased her entire collection of superhero pictures and wanted her to see them on display in his Blacksburg office.
Horne admitted not everyone falls in love with her work to that extent. Some people have told her they flat out hate it. Negative reactions don’t seem to dampen her spirits, partly because for Horne, the practice of tie art has become about much more than pretty pictures.
“The ties have become more of a way I can honor him [Boyce Foster], but still have fun at the time. It’s become a fun obsession,” Horne said.
Horne’s pictures range in price from $45 to $95. She can be contacted at BeulahArts@hotmail.com or by searching for “Beulah Arts” on Facebook.
The Roanoke Times | 381-1643