Traverse City Record-Eagle

September 22, 2013

Designer turns art into cards

BY GRETCHEN MURRAY Special to the Record-Eagle
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — A love of lines, patterns and color naturally lead Joan Hahn of Traverse City into a career in interior decorating.

Hahn, 72, has been retired for some time from her downstate career as an interior designer, but it's that keen eye for line and detail coupled with her love of the northern Michigan landscape that now inspires her style of folk art.

“I lived in Unionville for 30 years, and the farmland was very flat there,” Hahn said. “I moved to Traverse City in 2000, and my eyes loved what they saw. All my life, I’ve been a person who looks at everything. It’s just something that’s built into me.”

Hahn said she was quick to notice the curves in the area’s rolling hills, the patterns of ripples in the water, the striped fields of growing crops and the angles of Traverse City’s buildings, and she loved it all. Her mixed media art combines paint with her own ‘cut-and-paste’ technique that lets her intersperse bits of texture and even photographs that give her work a dimensional quality.

People can easily recognize Traverse City landmarks like as Wayne Hill, Grand Traverse Bay, the Sara Hardy Farm Market, the State Theatre and various roadside stands in Hahn’s artwork. Other pieces in her portfolio are collages of buildings around Traverse City, Suttons Bay and the Grand Traverse Commons.

“I love to figure out different ways to do things,” said Hahn who peruses dollar stores and local craft stores for material or fabrics and will even pour through advertising catalogs for interesting pieces of paper to add to her art. A scrap of a green kitchen scrubber can become a tuft of grass in her artwork, a plaid dress worn by a catalog model can be the perfect scale to scissor into a tiny pair of children’s overalls, and a clipped photo scene from the movie “Casablanca” becomes what’s playing on the big screen in her State Theatre painting.

Hahn estimates she has completed some 40 pieces since she began developing her art form in 2004. Her original works are mostly done on 11-by-14-inch paper and poster board, but she’s been encouraged to have some of her favorites made into notecards.

“Kathee McCafferty, the manager of the Traverse City Convention and Visitors Bureau, asked me to do that,” Hahn said.

“Joan’s so artistic, and her work is so unique,” McCafferty said. “She portrayed the area in such a wonderful way that I encouraged her to have some of her work reprinted.”

Packets of six cards and envelopes are available at the Traverse City Visitors Center, located on the corner of Union Street and Grandview Parkway, for $8.95.

“Visitors are delighted when we point out the cards to them,” McCafferty said. “Some want to take them home to frame them as a reminder of their visit.”

Hahn is hoping locals will appreciate them, too. “A part of me thinks residents will like these more than the visitors,” she said.

Joan Hahn can be reached through email at