She has a keen eye for the whimsical, and sees possibilities just about everywhere. For instance, she can take a prosaic plastic drinking cup and turn it into a droll mountain craft.
Inspiration comes easy to Sherri Knapp, who’s an administrative assistant senior in the Classics Department. She loves taking unexpected objects and putting her own spin on them. For example, take what she terms, tongue firmly planted in cheek, her “West Virginia wineglasses,” pint Mason jars, logo prominently displayed, nestled on elegant crystal bases. They’re big sellers at the various craft shows she frequents, as well as in shops that specialize in arts and crafts. She doesn’t take full credit for this idea, having seen similar ones on a trip through the South and ditto for her popular Solo creation. Toby Keith has a hit song out about a red Solo brand cup so of course she’s attached a big red plastic cup to yet another crystal base. An instant hit for this creative crafter. “It’s a big seller. People really like them,” she says.
Crafts and working with her hands come easy for her. She had a good role model in her mother, a gifted seamstress who not only sewed for the family but made intricate clothing for others, including exquisite wedding gowns. Knapp literally learned to sew sitting at the knees of her mother, Peggy. “I would sit on the floor by her feet and watch her work and then try to copy her by making outfits for my Barbie dolls,” she reminisces. Today her mother’s sewing has been curtailed by arthritis, but through the lessons so well learned, Sherri’s hands can still turn out finely crafted items when she has the time or the inclination. She especially likes turning out themed items in Marshall green and white, everything from fringed throws, blankets, floral arrangements and key rings to hair bows and fuzzy ribbon flip-flops which are a particular favorite. Much of her work can be seen at the Red Caboose, a shop in downtown Huntington which carries the work of local artisans. and where, until recently, she worked part time.
She’s been at Marshall for almost 11 years now, after several years working at a variety of jobs—bookkeeping, clerical and retail, among others—both in this area and in the Raleigh, N.C., area, where she lived for several years. She returned home in 1995 and continued building her craft business while holding down full-time jobs. Her first job at Marshall was in the medical school and later she spent time in the art and political science departments and facilities scheduling before finally moving to Classics, where she’s been for almost a year.
“I love working here.” she says. “In addition to Classics, there’s Religious Studies and Philosophy. I do anything that needs to be done; I take care of the budgets, order books for the faculty, just whatever needs to be done. They are a really good group to work with.”
And a really big event happened on Aug. 4---she and her fiancé, Thomas Cremeans, slipped off to Kentucky and got married in a private ceremony. It was a low-key and relaxed affair which fits the couple's lifestyle just fine, she says ... no fuss, no muss. There’ll be a honeymoon later when they can take more time and they’ve even picked out the site. They’re planning on heading south to one of their favorite spots, Isle of Palms in South Carolina, staying at the Palms Hotel. When they can, they’ll undoubtedly fit in some weekend getaways, traveling in style in their big roomy camper. “We travel a lot; we love to camp and we go mostly in West Virginia and Kentucky. I’m not good at roughing it,” she says frankly. “I like being in air conditioning. I don’t want to be outdoors with the bugs and the bears.” And chances are they’ll be traveling with her dog, Cecelia LaRue, who loves traveling and rules the camper, a canny canine that has a fascinating story of her own to tell.
Now nine years old, Cecelia was the product of “a neighborhood indiscretion,” as Knapp tactfully puts it. She came to live with Knapp one Mother’s Day after Knapp’s father, Garland, paid her owner $5 to get the small puppy out of an abusive home. One day, just as a lark, Knapp dressed her up in a cute little outfit and unwittingly unleashed a doggie fashionista. “From the time I put that first dress on her, she absolutely loved it,” said the somewhat surprised Knapp. She had innocently created a canine runway wannabe. “She was so cute I started making outfits and then I began buying them on the internet and her collection just grew and grew with all kinds of accessories. She not only likes being dressed up, she insists on it!”
The little terrier mix wears clothes all the time and today she has a fashion collection that could rival the Kardashians. There’s something for every occasion, running the gamut from casual wear for those long lazy afternoons curled up in the “Bark-O-Lounger” to the rain outfit complete with hat and boots for splashy showery strolls, to the sparkly get-ups just right for a night at the “Alpo Arms” ... if she were permitted to go out of the house, that is. And did this couture-loving canine break out the bathing suit and summer togs during this summer’s brutal heat wave? No, it was so hot she just streaked, Knapp says, laughing.
And with the marriage they became a blended family, a kind of doggy Brady bunch, but the couple doesn’t anticipate any “sibling rivalry.” That’s because Thomas’ two good-natured labs, Byron and Buddy, big and lumbering, just figuratively shake their heads in wonder at the prancing little pooch in the fancy duds.
To celebrate their marriage the couple recently purchased a house that they painted and freshened up, but there was never any doubt as to how it would be decorated. Sherri’s long been an admirer and collector of everything Victorian. She loves the look of the furniture of that era, with its tassels, gracefully curved legs, marble-topped tables and tufted velvet upholstery. She haunts antique shops and other places where collectors gather to fill out her large collection of pink depression glass and old linens—she loves coming upon old aprons, hankies, and table and decorative linens of all sorts. “I collect tableware of all kinds; I’ve been collecting for years. I love my old stuff, I guess you could say I’m sentimental. I should have lived a 100 years ago,” she sighs. In fact, she’s collected enough antiques over the years to pretty much furnish their new home. But still the thrill of the treasure hunt can’t be denied, so she’ll continue to turn up at selected estate sales and browse some of her favorite shops tucked away in Fayetteville and Lewisburg.
As she’s settling into a new phase of her life,
some things won’t change. She’ll always be on the lookout for new ideas for the
crafts she so skillfully turns out. It’s a welcome bonus that working with her
hands is relaxing ... a stress reliever, she says. And creating an object that
is beautiful and unique—often from unexpected materials—that people like is a
thrill. She’s relieved that her parents are doing well and especially that her
father, who suffered a heart attack and a stoke last February is now, in his
80s, doing so well he’s back riding his adult tricycle regularly.
“During my father’s illness, the people here were wonderful; I can’t say enough about them. Everyone was so understanding and concerned. They’re a great bunch; this is a good place to work.”
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