Folk Artist Marta Urban's frakturs express the traditional Pennsylvania German love for color and decoration and the idea that useful things can be just as useful when they are made beautiful.

She has held a fascination with art and hand lettering from an early age and even worked as a commercial artist while in high school. Although not pursuing art in college, she knew that her interest in art would continue to grow and evolve. In the early 1980's, during a familiar trip to the local art museum, she viewed her first fraktur and the desire to learn more about these illuminated documents was born.

After ending a career in social services to raise her family, she was able to devote more time to the art form that expresses her love of lettering, folk art and early Pennsylvania history. Being a self-taught artist, her research led her to Lancaster, Pennsylvania in the heart of "Pennsylvania Dutch" country.

She has been creating frakturs since 1987 and still remains a one-person operation. Her appreciation of the art form and desire to create authentic folk art led her to the methods that are essentially the same as when the originals were made from 1750 to 1850. Traditional verses are chosen and the words inspire the layout and design. The frakturs are made by hand one at a time, and include museum quality preservation and framing.

A lifelong resident of Western Pennsylvania, Marta lives with her husband and sons in a rural farmhouse and travels to sell her work at historical art fairs and folks art shows. Custom orders also account for a large number of her one of a kind pieces. Her frakturs can also be found at several galleries and select shops. Marta is listed among the country's "200 Best Traditional Craftsmen" published by Early American Life magazine.

What is Fraktur?

They are hand drawn and decorated documents of the Pennsylvania Germans used to record births, baptisms, marriages, and other family information.

When did it flourish?

Its most productive years were from 1750 to 1850 and was produced mainly by schoolmasters and clergymen.

Why was it made?

Since no printing presses were available, information was documented by hand. Fraktur represented the Pennsylvania German culture by symbolizing the ties that joined family, church and school.

Marta Urban
Post Office Box 144
United, Pennsylvania 15689
Telephone/Facsimile: (724) 424-2380

© 2014 Marta Urban
All text and photographs on this site are the property of Marta Urban
and may not be reproduced without permission.