Local woman's handmade ornaments bring home-spun charm to Ned Smith center
Inside a little girl's playhouse emerged a lifelong love of nature's art.
As Faye Arleen Kopp recalls, it was the place where her own fascination with patterns of color took flight.
"When I was younger, my father built me a playhouse. I caught butterflies and pinned them to the walls," said Kopp, 89, of Klingerstown. "I also pinned some to the tops of the curtains."
Today, that appreciation for detailed beauty can be seen in Kopp's intricate, glass-beaded handiwork she donated to the Ned Smith Center for Nature & Art, Millersburg, Dauphin County.
Many of the 100 Christmas ornaments Kopp created started as satin-covered, foam balls. She also made some ornaments using single-crocheted strands of yarn and glued the strands in layers around a foam base. She hand-stitched or glued fabric, glass beads, lace, ribbon or sequins onto each one, crafting a one-of-a-kind Christmas decoration.
Kopp said she never used a ruler to measure out a specific distance for her geometric designs, but instead relied on her "good vision" to estimate where each bead should be placed.
She said she got ideas from kits and crafting magazines and used inspiration from her years of raising caterpillars and collecting moths and butterflies to design a pattern for several of her felt creations.
Most of the decorations were made in the 1960s, Kopp said, and took one night to complete. She said she'd work on the ornaments in the evenings because that was the only time she "was free." Until last year, she had kept the ornaments safely wrapped up with tissue paper and organized into cardboard boxes she stored inside her home.
"I wanted to put them somewhere where I knew they'd stay," Kopp said, noting she decided to donate all 100 ornaments to the center last year. They are on display in the lobby of the center through the end of January.
"They are so special to our center," said Carmen Villarose, office coordinator, who arranged the ornament collection on a Christmas tree. When the Christmas season ends, the ornaments will go back into storage in the archival, climate-controlled room where the valuable Ned Smith original artwork is also kept.
"We're keeping them in a good spot for you," Villarose told Kopp, when she visited the facility Dec. 12 to see her collection on display.
Kopp's good friends and neighbors, Patricia Dietz and Karen Gorrie, brought her to the center for a "Ladies Day" out and a tour of the center's galleries.
"I like to read, go for walks with my neighbors and celebrate birthdays with friends," said Kopp. She said she used to decorate the inside and outside of her home every year for Christmas, but no longer does.
"I gave that up," she said.
While at the center, Kopp visited with the center staff, including Villarose; John Laskowski, also known as "The Mothman," board member and education chair; and Beth Sanders, the center's education director
Kopp said she's known Laskowski since the 1970s. He was a good friend of Lawrence Joseph Kopp, her late brother, and for years, they were all members of the Lepidoptera Society. Her brother wrote articles on trapping and the outdoors for PA Game News and was also a friend of the center's namesake, the late Ned Smith.
Faye and Lawrence's parents were the late Joseph Grant Kopp, Gowen City, and Minnie Wehry Kopp, Rough and Ready. Faye still lives in Rough and Ready in the house where her grandfather, James Monroe Wehry, was born. She has a Klingerstown address.
Her aptitude for art was apparent early on.
"They wanted to send me in eighth grade to Bloomsburg University. I was always a good art student," she said, noting, however, that her family's wishes were for her to remain close to home at that time. Eventually, she did earn a master arts diploma through the International Correspondence School in Scranton.
From the 1950s to the 1980s, Faye and her brother raised caterpillars on their 125-acre farm. While in the pupae stage, their Cecropia moths were sent to universities around the world for research purposes.
According to information presented alongside Kopp's ornament exhibit, the siblings "gained fame among scientific circles for their cultivation of Lepidoptera specimens for major research universities and their preservation of these near-perfect specimens from around the globe.
"The Kopp Collection is widely significant, as it features many rare species, including grandfathered specimens that are no longer available due to international collecting restrictions."
A decorative mount that Faye Kopp designed is pictured with the exhibit information.
The Faye Arleen and Lawrence Joseph Kopp Collection of Butterflies and Moths was generously donated to the Ned Smith Center in 2008. It features more than 30,000 worldwide, exotic species.
The handcrafted ornaments are Kopp's most recent contribution and one more way to share her artistic passion.
Visitors entering the northern Dauphin County center are often struck by the intricate details of Kopp's handiwork.
"They say, 'Who made these? Are they handmade? They're amazing.' They can see the time it took for each one," Villarose said. She said she sometimes opens up the ornament exhibit case, so admirers can get a closer look.
"They usually go away feeling happy and inspired," Sanders added.
More information on Faye Kopp can be found at the center's website at www.nedsmithcenter.org. There's also a link to "Taking Wing," part one and part two, a video documentary on the Kopps produced by Brother Johannes Zinzendorf, Pitman.