For Kathy Arp, it’s been a lifetime commitment — and it shows.
“I’ve probably been doing it about 30 years,” she said. “I started with a marriage announcement for (husband) Danny and me, and I just got hooked.”
The county clerk for Floyd County just installed in her office her latest project, a delicately intricate 42-inch by 50-inch “Welcome” wall hanging that took her two years to complete. It incorporates her signature hummingbirds and a wealth of detail that can’t help but draw you in.
Personalized. Counted. Cross stitch. It’s not for sissies.
“You can get stamped patterns, and I did a few of those, but I really like starting out with a blank canvas,” Arp said. “I love it when you finish a piece and start on your back-stitching. It just brings the picture to life.”
Her office walls were stunning to visitors even before the new installation; dotted about with needleworked Victorian flower gardens and scenes from around the county. The historic Floyd County courthouse is there in a matted frame, as is Berry College’s famous Old Mill. Flitting jewel-like hummingbirds abound, tieing everything together.
Arp’s fascination with hummingbirds was solidified in 1993, when her husband bought her a bird-bedazzled music box to cheer her during a hospital stay.
“I just loved it so much I started collecting them. Now I’ve got a gazillion,” she said with a laugh.
The theme carries over into the couple’s Lyerly home, an 18-acre rural spread where wildlife can be spied through the trees and hummingbirds zip around the flower and vegetable gardens — a live-action version of the cross-stitch accents in the house.
The scenes in their yard provide Arp with inspiration and a peaceful backdrop in which to ply her various needles. She makes decorative pillows and holiday hangings for the house, gifts for family and friends and even a few pieces on commission.
“After we come home from work, have supper and feed the dog, when I sit down to relax I have a basket by my chair,” she said. “Danny is a very avid reader, and we’ll sit on the patio and watch the hummingbirds and baby foxes playing.”
Sometimes they talk of retirement, because they can, but neither is ready to give up outside work just yet. Their dream, Arp said, is to have a log cabin somewhere in the mountains, “but we’ll probably just stay here.”
Which, coincidentally, seems a lot like their dream.
“We are homebodies,” Arp admitted with a wry grin. “We just enjoy being together at home. There’s nothing like it.”