Making Merry: Prairie Dance

By Denise DePaolo

Images by Elizabeth Lucille Photography

Prairie Dance started on a whim. While on vacation 19 years ago, Terri Schuver and a friend were inspired to create beautiful, durable metal decor. To make sure it actually happened, they took a leap of faith. As soon as they returned home, and before a single piece was made, they signed up for the Washington Pavilion’s Sidewalk Arts Festival.

The next several months were full of research and design. A local company was employed to laser cut sheets of steel, and the husbands helped with the initial welding. But when it came time to give their creations the signature rust they were looking for, something wasn’t right. It was a hot, sticky August evening. The solution wasn’t working, so they called it a night.

The morning was a different story. Deep orange swirls and subtle greens greeted the friends from the floor of the warehouse space. The artful rust was then sealed with polyurethane to protect it from further oxidation, and a company was born.  

“It took us a few months to figure out what had happened, and to recreate the same effect,” Schuver remembered.

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Among the first designs were tabletop pine trees and angels, which remain highly successful parts of the repertoire. But over the years, the line has grown to include roughly 100 items, including cookbook holders, garden stakes, and decorative signage.

Within a year, Schuver was pursuing Prairie Dance on her own, selling her wares at regional arts fairs. After a few seasons of promising sales at the local level, she was approached by a wholesale buyer; an encounter that would change the business’s trajectory. He encouraged her to think bigger.

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Read the full story and meet the other makers in the December issue, or click here