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Crafting For the Critters
by Christian Marnon
Big ideas are sometimes cultivated in the subtlest of circumstances.
Linda Butcher was preparing spaghetti sauce when her big idea arrived.
Butcher, a Chicago-native and current Benton resident, said that simple act triggered warm memories of an old hobby.
“I was making spaghetti sauce one day and I told my husband I used to craft and turn spaghetti jars into candles,” Butcher said. “I said ‘gee, I wonder if I can do that again.’ One thing led to another and I had ten to twelve spaghetti and pickle jars. Then I said, we have to do something with this because I’m hooked again. I said to my husband, ‘we need a cause.'"
Those early ruminations for a cause would soon evolve into Crafting for the Critters, a collaborative humanitarian project between Butcher, and her husband, Les.
The purpose of Crafting for the Critters matches the moniker. Utilizing recycled materials and found objects, Mr. and Mrs. Butcher create, then sell functional art and home décor. Once the hand-fashioned items are sold, 20 percent of the profits are donated to the Humane Society of Marshall County.
“I’m crossing my fingers that after all is said and done, there’s just enough[money] to keep the hobby going,” she said. “That’s how I price the items—just enough to cover the item and pay for the materials to make another one.”
Hand-painted birdhouses made from coffee containers, spaghetti jars transformed into votives, and decoupage wine bottles are few among many items Mr. and Mrs. Butcher create.
“I call him my laborer,” said Butcher of her husband. “I’m the creative, the painter. He does all the cutting on the bird houses and puts all the hardware on them. He cuts the wood and he’ll help me assemble [items] before the decorative part.”
Natives of South Chicago Heights, Mr. and Mrs. Butcher moved to Benton four years ago. Both are retirees from their respective careers—Les a former elevator repairman in downtown Chicago for 40 years; Linda a real estate agent of 16 years.
The early years of their move to Kentucky were difficult, Butcher said. Mr. Butcher took ill and spent a year and a half in three different hospitals.
“I almost lost him,” Butcher said. “Then he got well and everything’s been perfect since—we’re living the dream.”
Despite the rocky start in Kentucky, Butcher said the community has lent their help not only during her husband’s convalescence, but also with Crafting for the Critters.
As news of her project spread, neighbors, friends and children have saved, and collected materials for Butcher. Sometimes, complete strangers rise to the occasion, Butcher said.
“One day we hear a car pull up the driveway, but no one is coming to visit. You go out and look in front of the garage and there’s another bag in front of the door. [Whether] they’re on their way to work or on their way home, our neighbors have been supporting us through this whole thing.”
Local antique and craft stores have also made efforts to accommodate Butcher’s creations. Hodge Podge Gifts & More, Sister’s Closet and Antiques Et Cetera “made room when there was no room to be made,” Butcher said. On June 17, Butcher was able to open a vending space for her items at Antiques Et Cetera.
Butcher said her items benefit multiple parties.
“If [people] come in and just open up their heart, they’re going to get a beautiful gift for themselves and their friends. Every time they look at it, they’re going to know they helped. In a world like we live in today, where we have war, children being abused, animals being abused, somewhere along the line humanity has to step in. This is supposed to open up people’s hearts and bring them back to simpler times, when we did neighborly things and gave—and that’s all we’re trying to do.”