Laura Dean Bennett
There are some people who not only have more than their share of talent, but also have a great sense of humor.
Cheryl Beverage is one of them.
A hairdresser, who had a successful shop of her own, Beverage decided to turn her focus and talents to crafts several years ago. She is well-known among her friends and neighbors as “a very crafty lady,” but, as it turns out, she was also a very crafty child.
“I guess I come from a crafty family,” Beverage said.
She and her sisters, Sue and Marie, do handwork, an interest and skill they probably inherited from their mom – because Dessie McLaughlin “could make anything.”
“Mom made our clothes, and she was really good at it,” Beverage said. “She could just lay an item of clothing down and cut a pattern from it.
“She made lots of things. She made us giant stuffed animals out of used stockings,” Beverage said, smiling at the memory of a teddy bear that was nearly the size of a real bear.
Beverage learned a little bit from everyone – Jo Ann Gardener taught her to knit when she was 10 years old, and her niece, Jane Hunter Wilson, taught her to crochet when she was in sixth grade.
And that, as they say, was that.
Beverage took to knitting and crocheting like a duck to water.
“Maybe I was an unusual child, but I couldn’t wait to get home from school to knit and crochet every day,” she said.
And the tradition continues. The art gene has been passed down to her daughter, Kelsey.
“Kelsey also makes jewelry – really beautiful leather earrings,” Beverage said. “Yes, we’re a pretty crafty bunch.”
Beverage has three children, Katelyn, who is 26, and 30 year old twins, Kelsey and Cole.
“And, I have two granddaughters, Charley and Harper,” she adds.
Her husband, Danny, is in the concrete business, and the couple also farms.
“We have cows,” Beverage said. “We butcher our own beef, and we have lots of chickens.
“I love my chickens. We have all kinds. They’re just beautiful, and they lay eggs in so many colors.
“We have a high tunnel, and we always raise a big garden. So, of course, I can a lot.
“We could probably go six months without having to go to the grocery store. I really like raising our own food.
“I’d love it if we could be completely self-sufficient.”
Beverage even stays productive when she’s away from home – her handwork travels with her everywhere. She’s never without it, no matter where she goes.
“I’ve always crocheted everywhere,” she said. “When my kids were little, I’d take my crocheting to their ball games. I’d be sitting up in the bleachers crocheting, and it would embarrass them.
“They’d roll their eyes and say ‘Mom! Nobody else’s mom is doing that!’”
But, Beverage has no plans to change.
“My whole life, it’s been like this,” she said. “Every day, I can’t wait to get home so I can sit down and knit or crochet.
“It’s like a zen thing – it just relaxes me. I could spend all day doing this – but I usually only have a couple of hours in the evening. Except Sundays. On Sundays I can knit and crochet all day.”
We’re learning from healthcare professionals that it’s true – consistently practicing handwork like knitting and crocheting helps to relieve stress, allows us to better cope with illness and can result in a decreased risk of cognitive impairment.
But when you’ve been working at it as long and as hard as Beverage has, it can sometimes take a toll on your hands.
“I work ’til my hands hurt and my shoulder aches,” Beverage admits.
“I’ve had surgery on my right thumb and shots in my left thumb. But that’s not gonna stop me.
“I use a lot of essential oils. I rub them on my hands to ease the arthritis.”
It might be hard on her hands, but Beverage says that has never outweighed the pleasure she gets from doing it.
“I just can’t quit,” she said.
“I do get eye strain. I have to work under real good light.”
Besides painful hands and tired eyes, another result of her decades-long passion is a reputation for making beautiful and high quality crafts.
And although she’s been doing handwork all her life, Beverage has only been selling her crafts for about 20 years.
“I started doing craft shows when the kids were little, and they’d come along with me and ‘help,’” Beverage laughs.
She makes felted purses with crazy quilt stitching.
She also makes knitted hats, crocheted scarves and ponchos, sterling silver and beaded jewelry, leather earrings and gorgeous baskets.
Her reed baskets, basket purses, egg baskets and market baskets are always in demand.
And her basket-making started when she took a class at the library.
“Margie Sparks and I took a class at the Green Bank Library and that’s where I learned,” Beverage said.
“I don’t use a pattern. I gave a talk about basket making one time, and everyone was surprised that I don’t use patterns. But I’ve always been like that – I don’t use a pattern for much of anything.
“I find it’s easier not to, and when I do use a pattern, I usually change it anyway.”
Each of her lines of crafts require a wide variety of materials and supplies, which Beverage enjoys collecting.
“I guess I’m kind of a hoarder,” she admitted. “I have loads of fabric, antique buttons, embroidery thread, and all kinds of odds and ends. My house is full of craft stuff and things I’m working on.
“I save everything. I try to reuse and repurpose all kind of materials. I save old clothes and fabric from things like tea towels to cut up and use in my crafts. Nothing goes to waste.
“Are you OCD?” Cheryl asks mischievously as she opens an antique suitcase.
“If you are, this will kill you,” she said, laughing and displaying a huge cache of colored thread.
“The suitcase is filled to the brim with every conceivable color of embroidery thread, tangled and packed in like a ball of snakes.
“It’s actually better to keep it like this – you can see which colors work best together!” she said with a playful smile.
“I always have a lot of projects going at one time. I have a house full of them.
“In fact, Jane Hunter and I have a pact.
“Whichever one of us goes first, the other one will go to her house and round up the unfinished craft projects before the husband or kids can throw them away.”
Beverage has been a member of the Artisans Co-op for about 10 years.
Her work is on display at both the 4th Avenue Gallery in the Depot at Marlinton, and at the Leatherbark Gallery at Cass.
As a member of the co-op, Beverage works one day a month at each of the galleries.
“I love my work here in Marlinton and at Cass,” she said. “I just wish we had more room.
“We have 30-some artists, and they all have so much beautiful art to display, there’s just not enough room for everything.
“I really like working at Cass. I love seeing the train come in and watching the tourists come through. And it’s fun talking to them about life in Pocahontas County.
“They’re always incredulous that we can live here without cell phones and Walmart,” she laughs.
“But I love working at the gallery in Marlinton, too, because I love being in the old depot. It’s such a beautiful building and I enjoy being in town and seeing people I know.”
With her busy family life and all the work she has at home, Beverage doesn’t have too much time for selling her crafts elsewhere.
“I do the annual Christmas Bazaar at the Opera House every year, and last year I went to the Renaissance Fair in Greenbrier County.
“It was really interesting, and I’m looking forward to going back again this year.”
She says most of her customers are local residents, who buy her things for themselves or for gifts.
“I make a little money, and I may even break even,” she said, “but really, this is mostly just a hobby.
“I do it because I love it.”