by lyle e davis
Those amongst us who are artistic are different from you and me. Where we see ordinary objects, they see a canvas upon which to paint or sketch a scene.
Such was the case with Betty Taylor. For 17 years Betty was the wife of Randy Taylor, the genial long-time owner and operator of The Escondido Mattress Factory. Betty passed away.
Betty and Randy were living in Escondido but Betty had a son living in Oregon. He worked in a lumber mill and, while visiting, Betty saw a popular form of artistic expression in Oregon and many parts of the great Northwest . . . the painting of scenes on giant lumber mill sawblades, and decided to take it up as a hobby.
Betty had trouble sleeping at night so she painted. She never had any formal lessons. In fact, it was Randy, her husband, who indirectly caused Betty to take up painting.
She had begun to paint, on canvases at first. She never had any formal art lessons and was pretty much self taught. She did manage to watch an art show on television featuring Ben Alexander and a young protege named Ross. She suggested to Randy that he, too, take up painting. To encourage him, Betty signed Randy up for five art lessons which he dutifully attended. She then went to the art supplies store and bought about $200 worth of art supplies. Oils, brushes, canvases, all the fixin’s.
Randy began to paint and painted three very attractive scenes. Randy did have some artistic talent; the problem was, Randy had an allergy to the oils in the paints and had to give it up. So Betty jumped in with both feet . . . or, hands, as it were, and became even more active in painting.
She would paint from photographs, paint from memory, occasionally doing plein air (painting out doors).
She also started doing Bunka . . a Japanese artistic expression where images were created with threads. Today there is a magnificent eagle Bunka display at the office of Escondido Mattress Factory. But, Betty kept seeing all the brushes and paints, and she just started painting. Before long she could paint a mountain just like the artists on tv did.
One day, a fella who lived out in the boonies of North San Diego County found an old, discarded canteen. He asked Betty to paint a scenr on it; she did, he loved it. Some other guy came by with a saw blade, Randy bought it for $10 and gave it to Betty. Betty painted a beautiful scene and she took it from there. Soon, word spread, and everyone began to bring saw blades around.
The saw blade above, our featured piece of Betty’s art work is on a 42” saw blade from an Oregon lumber mill. In time, Randy began to accumulate saw mill saw blades and Betty just kept on painting.
Before long, Randy had about 100 painted saw blades. “It never failed,” he said,“I would say, ‘that’s my favorite one.’ Betty’d say, ‘I painted them for the kids and you won’t let them have them.’ So Betty would paint another one and, sure enough, that one would now become Randy’s favorite.
After Betty died, Randy distributed a lot of the painted saw blades to the kids. “I just let all the kids select the big and little saw blade paintings as well. I brought a lot of them into the store and put them up . . . lots of people have come into the store to see them, and they’ve brought their family and friends as well. Betty died in 1992 and since then portions of our store have taken on an almost museum like quality. I enjoy sharing them. I really don’t know what I’m gong to do with them. I think they should go into a museum but she was an unknown artist. I gave one to a friend and he had an apparaiser look at it. He said the large one was probably worth around $5000. But that’s been a few years ago. I reckon they’ve gone up in value.
I’ve had people offer to buy them but I really wasn’t anxious to sell them. They are still a link between me and Betty, and they are unique, one of a kind, each of them. Just to give you an idea of how demanding Betty was, I remember one day watching her paint a saw blade. It was beautiful and I told her so. I went about my business and came back awhile later and saw the sawblade had been all washed off.
‘What happened?’ I asked her.
‘Wasn’t right,” she said. And she started over. She was that much of a perfectionist.”
Seven years after Betty passed away, Randy remarried in November 1999. He married a lovely lady, Rufina, and together they are proud to give tours of the Escondido Mattress Factory. The tours usually start out as a tour for customers of the Mattress Factory but, invariably, the customers attention is drawn to the many colorful, mounted saw blades that adorn the walls of the building. Rufina knows the story almost as well as Randy and is happy to explain the background.
If you would like to visit the Escondido Mattress Factory and view this beautiful collection of Lumbermill saw blades and the beautiful scenic paintings, you’re invited to visit the Escondido Mattress Factory, at 1281 Simpson Way, Escondido. They’re open Monday through Friday from 8am to 4:30pm, Saturdays from 8am to 3pm, and closed Sundays. If you wish to call ahead, try 760.745 5336.
Incidentally, while you’re there to see the many works of art on the walls of the store, take a look around. You’ll find other works of art in the magnificent display of mattresses of all sizes and shapes. If you’re lucky, you’ll get to watch an artist in residence, Raul Villapando, as he builds a mattress from the very beginning. Both Randy and Raul know their craft and are pleased to demonstrate it. Kind of a one-stop art museum!
In a tribute to his artistry, his late wife Betty created the sawblade located above left, showing Randy building a mattress. It’s just inside the front door, near his office. Regular customers often gaze at it, then Randy, then chuckle.
Randy looks at it often, gives off that trade mark smile of his and says, “that one will never be for sale.”
More examples of the beautiful art work painted on common lumber mill saw blades by the late Betty Taylor.
All paintings in this story and on this page are available to view at the Escondido Mattress Factory, Escondido.