Weather vanes were indispensable to farmers as a tool to indicate wind directions. Originally, they were made having a simple arrow shape, balanced on a pivot that had north-south directions indicated on them.
Weather vanes were typical countryside equipment often seen to be spinning above a country barn and village farms. Weather vanes were rarely made at home. Instead, skilled local wood carpenters or iron and tinsmiths used to manufacture them. They played an important role in the lives of country people in keeping with their dependence on weather in their daily life. Ancient wooden weather vanes were mostly made of carved wood and painted with natural colors. The true artistry of these vanes often went un-noticed due to this countryside association. Weather vanes gradually evolved from a practical instrument to a decorative folk art as artisans came up with intricate and innovative patterns.
Gradually by 1850s, weather vanes were produced in huge numbers from molds and artisans came up with advanced techniques to produce unique pieces. Wooden vanes perished faster due to constant exposure to elements. Iron and tin were a better alternative to make weather vanes as such materials were long lasting. Most ancient and commonly used designs for weather vanes were rooster or the cock. Apart from this, figurines of cockerel, cows, pigs and goats were also quite popular. Now, almost all animal forms are used to design weather vanes including human figures, birds, boats, vehicles and even bugs and insects. These ornament types are used to depict cultural, religious and patriotic themes through a variety of designs that could reflect country life.
Modern weather vanes are built with various other materials such as copper, brass, steel and cast aluminum to name a few. Modern weather vanes have found a place in the interiors of houses, on the walls and fireplace mantles as decorative items. Ancient weather vanes are now deemed as prized antique pieces and have been collectors’ favorites for decades.