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Evelyn Voorhees makes art from Flexible Flyer business

  • A portion of Paul Fleuriel's collection of sleds rest in his garage in Whately Wednesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    A portion of Paul Fleuriel's collection of sleds rest in his garage in Whately Wednesday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Evelyn Voorhees, left, of Haydenville, and Paul Fleuriel, of Whately, lift a vintage Flexible Flyer sled onto a workbench at Fleuriel's workshop Wednesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Evelyn Voorhees, left, of Haydenville, and Paul Fleuriel, of Whately, lift a vintage Flexible Flyer sled onto a workbench at Fleuriel's workshop Wednesday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Evelyn Voorhees, of Haydenville, moves a Flexible Flyer sled at Paul Flueriel's workshop in Whately Wednesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Evelyn Voorhees, of Haydenville, moves a Flexible Flyer sled at Paul Flueriel's workshop in Whately Wednesday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • A painting by Easthampton artist Alan James Robinson that will be attached to a Flexible Flyer sled rests in Paul Fleuriel's workshop in Whately Wednesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    A painting by Easthampton artist Alan James Robinson that will be attached to a Flexible Flyer sled rests in Paul Fleuriel's workshop in Whately Wednesday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Paul Fleuriel moves Flexible Flyer sleds at his workshop in Whately Wednesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Paul Fleuriel moves Flexible Flyer sleds at his workshop in Whately Wednesday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Evelyn Voorhees, of Haydenville, stands beside her inventory of vintage  Flexible Flyer sleds at Paul Flueriel's garage in Whately Wednesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Evelyn Voorhees, of Haydenville, stands beside her inventory of vintage Flexible Flyer sleds at Paul Flueriel's garage in Whately Wednesday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Evelyn Voorhees, left, of Haydenville, and Paul Fleuriel, of Whately, lift a vintage Flexible Flyer sled onto a workbench at Fleuriel's workshop Wednesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Evelyn Voorhees, left, of Haydenville, and Paul Fleuriel, of Whately, lift a vintage Flexible Flyer sled onto a workbench at Fleuriel's workshop Wednesday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Evelyn Voorhees, of Haydenville, moves a Flexible Flyer sled at Paul Flueriel's workshop in Whately Wednesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Evelyn Voorhees, of Haydenville, moves a Flexible Flyer sled at Paul Flueriel's workshop in Whately Wednesday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Evelyn Voorhees, left, of Haydenville, and Paul Fleuriel, of Whately, lift a vintage Flexible Flyer sled onto a workbench at Fleuriel's workshop Wednesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Evelyn Voorhees, left, of Haydenville, and Paul Fleuriel, of Whately, lift a vintage Flexible Flyer sled onto a workbench at Fleuriel's workshop Wednesday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Evelyn Voorhees, of Haydenville, moves a Flexible Flyer sled at Paul Flueriel's workshop in Whately Wednesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Evelyn Voorhees, of Haydenville, moves a Flexible Flyer sled at Paul Flueriel's workshop in Whately Wednesday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • Evelyn Voorhees, of Haydenville, moves a Flexible Flyer sled at Paul Flueriel's workshop in Whately Wednesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

    Evelyn Voorhees, of Haydenville, moves a Flexible Flyer sled at Paul Flueriel's workshop in Whately Wednesday.
    JERREY ROBERTS Purchase photo reprints »

  • A portion of Paul Fleuriel's collection of sleds rest in his garage in Whately Wednesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Evelyn Voorhees, left, of Haydenville, and Paul Fleuriel, of Whately, lift a vintage Flexible Flyer sled onto a workbench at Fleuriel's workshop Wednesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Evelyn Voorhees, of Haydenville, moves a Flexible Flyer sled at Paul Flueriel's workshop in Whately Wednesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • A painting by Easthampton artist Alan James Robinson that will be attached to a Flexible Flyer sled rests in Paul Fleuriel's workshop in Whately Wednesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Paul Fleuriel moves Flexible Flyer sleds at his workshop in Whately Wednesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Evelyn Voorhees, of Haydenville, stands beside her inventory of vintage  Flexible Flyer sleds at Paul Flueriel's garage in Whately Wednesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Evelyn Voorhees, left, of Haydenville, and Paul Fleuriel, of Whately, lift a vintage Flexible Flyer sled onto a workbench at Fleuriel's workshop Wednesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Evelyn Voorhees, of Haydenville, moves a Flexible Flyer sled at Paul Flueriel's workshop in Whately Wednesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Evelyn Voorhees, left, of Haydenville, and Paul Fleuriel, of Whately, lift a vintage Flexible Flyer sled onto a workbench at Fleuriel's workshop Wednesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Evelyn Voorhees, of Haydenville, moves a Flexible Flyer sled at Paul Flueriel's workshop in Whately Wednesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS
  • Evelyn Voorhees, of Haydenville, moves a Flexible Flyer sled at Paul Flueriel's workshop in Whately Wednesday.<br/>JERREY ROBERTS

— Evelyn Voorhees is an entrepreneur who wears many different business hats, but the one that she finds the most fitting, is her latest endeavor which connects family history, art, and the rehabilitation of a true American icon.

Before the plastic discs, snow tubes and snow boards were around, the Flexible Flyer that reined supreme when it came to whizzing down snow-covered hills. This popular sled topped gift lists for over 80 years, making it one of the most sought after items for children.

Though still in production today, the Flexible Flyer is now produced by the Maine based Paricon Co. and its popularity as a winter staple has given way to more modern designs.

Voorhees, however is bringing the memorable sled back into the limelight. A descendant of one of the two original Flexible Flyer partners, Voorhees is recycling and revamping original sleds, turning them into furniture and pieces of art.

“My great, great grandfather, William H. Roberts, was the business partner of Samuel Leeds Allen, the actual inventor of the Flexible Flyer,” Voorhees said. “These sleds were huge in our family, so this is really a project from the heart,” she said.

According to Joan Palicia’s book “Flexible Flyer and Other Great Sleds” the sled really picked up business in 1915, when at one point almost 10,000 Flexible Flyers were sold in one day.

Voorhees says the sled’s charm is not as a rare collectable, but one of nostalgia that brings back memories to generations who spent hours on the popular sled.

To Voorhees, the sleds are an important and tangible connection to her family history, and each time she finds a new one its like finding a long lost family friend.

“I buy them wherever I find them and I also have people that call me about where I might find one,” Voorhees said. “Luckily, they made so many of them that I don’t think I will run out,” she said.

With so many sleds, Voorhees had to get creative with storing them and began using them as decorations.

“I have used them as tables, pot racks, walls hangings and anything else I could think of,” Voorhees said. “But now I live in an 1,100 square foot house in Haydenville and it was filling up with sleds, so I had to figure out what to do with them,” she said.

That’s where Easthampton based custom map-maker, artist and naturalist Alan James Robinson came in.

“We used to own a farm together in Worthington together and that is where the marriage of art and sled first began,” Robinson said. “Now Eve brings the sleds to me and I paint right on them in acrylics.” he said.

Voorhees said it was like a “light bulb” moment when she thought of actually selling the sleds as recycled and repurposed pieces of art.

Using only the original Flexible Flyers with the S.L. Allen stamp on the back, Voorhees’ first step is to clean up the sleds getting rid of years of wear and tear.

To do all the prep work Voorhees enlisted to semi-retired woodworker Paul Fleuriel of Whately to create a clean pallet. She affectionately calls him her “sled elf.”

“I clean the runners, clean up the woodwork, and fix any damages,” Fleuriel said.

“I enjoy it immensely, it is something different and something that I have never done before.”

Once the sled is prepared, Robinson gets to work on the art, painting everything from wildlife, pet portraits, and natural scenery, to welcome signs, house numbers or complete restorations returning the sled to its original look.

“Seeing the finished product, I think they are beautiful and the type of thing that people will cherish for years,” Fleuriel said.

Robinson said the business has started out slowly which is good for him as the work is very time consuming.

“The time it takes to create depends on the size and nature of the piece,” Robinson said. “The first one of the loons took about 20 hours to finish.”

Created in October, this was Voorhees first commissioned piece that was done for a silent auction at Squam Lake Loon Preservation Committee in Moultonborough, NH.

“Most of the publicity has been just word of mouth but recently I have started taking pieces to the home shows and sport shows that I go to and there has been quite a bit of interest,” Robinson said.

Prices for the refurbished sleds start at around $750.

“No two sleds are alike and there are a variety of sizes to choose from,” Voorhees said.

Voorhees, 52, is a New Jersey native who says she has spent her professional life as a self-made entrepreneur. She has been a professional horse trainer for 35 years, a caterer, and currently owns her own medical billing service. She has also been a member of the Valleys local women’s comedy troupe the Ha-Ha Sisterhood.

“I have done a lot of different things and really, I have had very little formal education,” she said. “But this project, I love it, this is my guilty pleasure,” For more information on Renaissance Sleds visit www.renaissancesleds.com

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