Erin Butler turns junk into artistic creations


  • Antler rings, a cake stand, pens and a barn quilt are among the creations made by Erin Butler. (Callie Jones/Sterling Journal-Advocate)

  • A charcuterie board is one of the newest creations from artist Erin Butler. She also makes wine stoppers and mason jars with wood turned lids. (Callie Jones/Sterling Journal-Advocate)

  • Paintings, a mason har with a wood turned lid and wood turned pens are just some of the creations made by Erin Butler, Sterling Creatives featured artist for September. (Callie Jones/Sterling Journal-Advocate)



What some might consider junk, Erin Butler sees as a treasure just waiting to be turned into an artistic creation.

Sterling Creatives featured artist for September is a self-taught artist, who enjoys making many art projects with non-typical “canvas.” From painting an old shovel, to making an old rake into a wine bottle and glass holder, to collecting wood from the back yard and making it into a beautiful wine glass stem, pen or wine stopper, there isn’t much she can’t turn into something beautiful and useful.

“We don’t just stick with one thing; it’s whatever we feel like making at that time,” Butler said about the creations she makes with her husband.

When doing paintings she’s found that pallet wood makes a great canvas to work with. Her painting mediums are acrylic, watercolor and gouache (sounds like squash but with a “G”).

Some of the newest items in her collection are charcuterie boards hand-cut and sanded into beautiful pieces of art, and barn quilts, which is a painting on wood that looks like a single quilt block. Butler grew up in rural Pennsylvania where barn quilts were a common sight, and she has always wanted to make them but never did. Now that she’s started doing them, she can’t seem to stop.

“It’s very relaxing. It’s a type of stress reliever for me as I am creating,” Butler said. “The patterns are so mesmerizing.”

She is often asked where she and her husband get their inspiration for their projects.

“We just like to create. I guess that’s our inspiration, is to create and make it a challenge to make something different,” Butler said.

They have a wealth of items in their “project shed,” all just waiting to be used for some creation. Sometimes they find the items themselves, but they often come from other people too. For example, an old shovel was given to Butler by a neighbor who wondered if they could do something with it, and like always, she was able to find a use, painting a flower on it and turning it into a welcome sign.

“You can’t say no, it’s fun junk,” Butler said.

She ended up entering her shovel creation into the open class contest at this year’s Logan County Fair and it won first place in its category.

The Butlers are passing their creative talents on to their two children as well. Daughter, Emma also won first place for her painting entered into the fine arts youth division in the open class contest at the fair and son Wyatt made wood turned pens for his 4-H project this year.

In addition to the items mentioned above, Butler’s latest display for Sterling Creatives also includes mason jars for soap with wooden lids that were turned by Butler, a wood turned cake stand and game calls for all the hunters out there.

“Creating is my favorite thing to do. The finished product is so rewarding and motivating to continue to create,” she said.

Butler has been a member at the artist co-operative since 2017, when it first opened. Right now, Sterling Creatives has 11 member artists, plus a visiting artist. They are always looking for new artists to join.

“It’s neat to be involved. We’re always trying to find ways to get publicity and people in. It’s fun trying to figure out what avenues work,” she said.

One of the new features they recently added to try to attract new artists is a Community Corner. Anyone age 20 and under or 70 and older can display a piece of art for 60 days and if their piece sells they get 80% of the sale without having to be a member.

They came up with the idea as a way to give the elderly something to do while COVID-19 restrictions were in place and to provide students an opportunity to show their work.

Butler is proud of what Sterling Creatives has been able to accomplish since it opened.

“Obviously we’re growing. I feel like all of us are always improving on our showcases, thinking about now what do we make, how do we display it?” she said.

Those interested in supporting the artist co-operative can join Sterling Creatives on Patreon. For a donation of $3 to $30 a month you can be entered for door prizes co-operatives events, get discounts on gallery items, gift certificates, mugs and t-shirts.  Plus, you’ll get a sneak peek at new items arriving at the gallery.

Butler’s creations will be on display throughout September. You can see her work and meet the artist at the First Friday Open House on Sept. 3 from 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. There will be door prizes, refreshments, demonstrations and live music by Alex Noell.

Sterling Creatives, 129 N. Third St. Suite 8, is open from Tuesday through Saturday, from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.

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