These Three Wheeling Women Are The Definition of Intergenerational Creativity

Wheeling has long been known as an industrious city thanks to the people who have had the creative vision to turn their ideas into reality. We can point to leaders like Arthur Boreman and Francis Pierpont, who were instrumental in ushering West Virginia into statehood. There are also imaginative entrepreneurs that put Wheeling on the map for things like glass, nails, beer, and more! But creativity and innovation doesn’t just happen in the spotlight. Wheeling is also made up of countless everyday people who are also making their mark in smaller, more intimate ways. Today, Wheeling’s burgeoning creative economy is redefining our city. This creativity doesn’t come from just anywhere – it comes from a long line of people with a gift for bringing their visions to fruition. 

At first glance, the familial ties between this set of women are like any other.  There’s no denying their relationship with the lush curly hair, big beautiful brown eyes and infectious smiles mimicking that of their predecessor.  But their looks aren’t the only thing that this family shares.  Their special knack for creativity seems to be another family trait.

The Matriarch

Barbara Bland, the matriarch and a lifelong Warwood resident, is quite active for the young age of 87.  When asked what she prefers to be called, there was no hesitation in the reply, “Grandma Barb.” As warm,  friendly, and as much a spitfire as your own grandma.  She’s a member of the local TOPS chapter and has been participating in Handmade Holiday, Wheeling Heritage’s annual holiday shopping event, for the last few years.

This year will be her third year featured with her one-of-a-kind Christmas trees which are decorated with antique jewelry. As a lover of jewelry, she hated the thought of missing pieces going to waste and Christmas trees just made sense for Grandma Barb’s creations. With months of hard work, each piece is hand glued to the trees.  Bin after bin of jewels, which are color-sorted, make her work area look like a color wheel of jewelry.  This helps her decide where they should be placed. “I pick up a jewel and I have to figure out which tree it belongs to.” A process she describes as like putting a jigsaw puzzle together.

Grandma Barb has always liked to stay busy by creating things with her hands. When her children were young, she would make clothes for her two daughters’ baby dolls and make special ornaments for Christmas. When asked where her love of Christmas comes from, she said it was probably because she was married to Santa. For years, her husband, an iron worker at Local 549, would come home and start another job – working as old Saint Nick. He’d spend the holiday season bringing joy to families around the neighborhood.  He didn’t stop there, even making his appearance during the Wheeling Christmas parade with his two elves, Terry Jill and Sherry Lynn. His suit was made out of old velvet curtains sewn by no other than Grandma Barb.

The magic of the holidays didn’t stop there. Grandma Barb would wrap presents while her daughters were at school hiding them in the fruit cellar. The big reveal wouldn’t come until Christmas morning. Terry Jill remembers “I would go to bed on Christmas Eve and there would not be a stitch of Christmas anywhere. I’d wake up Christmas morning, the tree, all the decorations, all the gifts.  My sister and I would go up to the bed and the next morning it was just magic.”

Barbara still spreads the holiday cheer with her handmade jeweled trees at Handmade Holiday. She puts hundreds of hours into her creations and often sells out at this one-day event.

Barbara’s story reminds us that there’s no end date to expressing yourself. With such a creative spirit, it’s no surprise that her daughter, Terry Jill has leaned into her own gifts to share with our community…

The Visionary

Terry Jill Bonar is the creative entrepreneur behind Making Magic, a boutique floral shop in her home base of Warwood. “There’s a lot of impact from my mom.” Terry Jill gives credit for her love of decorating and party planning. But magic is a common theme in Terry Jill’s life, which comes from her love of Disney. She calls herself a “Disney original,” visiting the Magic Kingdom the first year it was open. Disney is much like Terry’s own work, “bigger than life, over the top—magic.” 

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A nurse for 34 years, the closing of OVMC left her with a decision on what to do next with her life. The wedding of her daughter seemed to be the catalyst. After a number of people suggested she should open up her own business, event planning and arrangements seemed to be the answer. With the support of her family and friends, she decided to open up her boutique floral shop aptly named, Making Magic, located right on Warwood Avenue. It was after that Terry Jill was given the opportunity of Show of Hands, ultimately becoming the Winter 2020 winner.

While Terry Jill suggests that she doesn’t want to be a “Pinterest fail.” What truly sets her apart is the thought that goes into each and every arrangement. Terry Jill became misty-eyed when discussing the importance of funeral arrangements. It’s an “intense feeling of doing something to tribute someone’s life. There’s a whole lot of intention in those arrangements more so than some others. That level of respect and reverence…of being given that honor. It’s very personal.”

Like mother, like daughter Terry Jill instilled a creative, caring and entrepreneurial spirit to her daughter Riley, who is also making her mark on the Friendly City one photo at a time.

The Enthusiast

“My mom still continues to amaze me, but just in different ways now that I’m older,” says riley. Growing up with all the magic her mom and grandma created in holidays and birthday parties, there’s no doubt Riley embraced that magic. A new mom herself, Riley is a Kindergarten teacher at Woodsdale Elementary School. A career she has had since graduating from West Liberty University with a degree in Elementary Education.

She is the definition of everything you’d want a teacher to be: genuine, caring, kind, and bubbly. A real-life Miss Honey, Roald Dahl’s beloved character in Matilda, she has the special ability to see the best in all her students. A quality that bleeds seamlessly into her photography business. Not only does her feel-good personality make it easy to get in front of her camera, but she sees the best in her clients.

Riley purchased her first camera after a favor for a friend grew organically. From there, a photography business began. Specializing in “whatever season of life you’re in right now,” there’s no denying Riley is a people person. More than that is her ability to capture the best of people. “I like people…seeing the best in people even when they struggle to see the best in themselves.”

Riley considers herself to be nostalgic knowing the importance of the little moments. Her Instagram is filled with countless special moments from “I do’s,” first birthdays, senior portraits, and baby announcements. She takes pride in capturing the beauty in everyone.

Wheeling Entrepreneurs

It’s clear that these women aren’t just gifted, they are entrepreneurial. Terry Jill and Riley’s respective businesses have some overlap to them. Their choice to create as an avenue to share and bring joy to fellow community members. Weddings have a unique opportunity for the mom and daughter, Riley saying, “we love to work together!” 

Both ladies are graduates of CO.STARTERS, an entrepreneur-training program that gave them the tools they needed to build successful businesses. The program taught them a lot, but “the bottom line…is that we love our hometown. We love to see growth in our hometown….[being] an active participant in [our] community,” Terry expresses her love for Wheeling.

On being an entrepreneur, Riley suggests not getting caught up, “in a world where social media is a constant comparison contest.”  And no surprise coming from the teacher,  “what[ever] creative outlet you are pursuing, practice, practice practice.”

If you want to see these three creatives in action, you can catch Barbara this Saturday at Handmade Holiday. You can also learn more about Making Magic and Riley Lynn Photography by visiting them online!

How do you express your creativity? Who has influenced your creative spirit throughout your life? Share with us by commenting below!

Molly Sovich, a New Jersey native, found her way to the Ohio Valley when she attended West Liberty University. After graduating in 2014 with a B.A. in English, she stayed in Wheeling to work in the legal field. Currently, she works as legal assistant for a Wheeling firm handling bankruptcy and criminal cases. A self-proclaimed “hot mess” momma, she lives across the river in Shadyside, Ohio with her husband Anthony and two daughters, Stella and Spencer.