Why butterflies?

Matthew and I have both been fascinated by butterflies and moths since we were children.  I have fond memories of rescuing "woollybear" caterpillars (which become Isabella Tiger moths, Pyrrharctia isabella) as they crossed the road in droves every autumn.  Matthew loved finding cocoons and chrysalises and seeing what would emerge. 

Most people are fascinated by the metamorphosis that lepidoptera (that's the scientific order that includes butterflies and moths) go through -- the radical transformation from a chubby, sturdy-looking "worm" with tiny, but functional legs, into a delicate, graceful miracle of flight with willowy legs and antennae.  Butterflies represent a living metaphor for transformations in our own lives.  

But most people don't take that fascination to the level of a hobby, let alone a business.  So why did we?

The first ten years of our marriage was relatively insect-free.  Occasionally, Matthew would have cocoons hatching in the house and, as we added two curious little boys to our family, more "bugs" made their way into our home.  While working as a high school science teacher, Matthew participated in an optics program at the University of Arizona in Tucson.  For his individual project, he examined butterfly wings -- the incredible way their scales reflect different wavelengths on the color spectrum, appearing to have vivid colors when, in fact, they contain no pigment.  

Around that time, a friend gave us some butterfly eggs for our pre-school age boys to raise through the life cycle.  Those first tiny caterpillars didn't do very well on the food plant we gave them, but by then, the family was hooked.  Matthew researched our local species, joined on-line lepidopterist groups, bought butterfly nets, pop-up tents, and vellum envelopes that won't damage delicate wings.  He supplied local elementary teachers, the library, and children's museum with caterpillars, cocoons, and chrysalises so that other children could experience the "amazingness." 

Meeting other amateur lepidopterists on-line and in-person, Matthew realized that many of them store their specimens in drawers, where they can't be easily seen and enjoyed.  We had two framed butterfly collections that we'd purchased years before -- one at a chain boutique, another at a local farmers market.  Both contained a variety of butterflies and moths, all a bit crammed into a lower quality frame, which didn't do justice to the beauty of the actual insects.  Matthew set out to make frames worthy of their contents, acquiring a whole new set of skills along the way: pinning, woodworking, etc.  

Along the way, some specimens didn't make it into a frame.  Soon, Matthew had a recycled candy tin of wings too gorgeous to simply discard.  That was when I decided to make them into jewelry.  It was my turn to learn new skills and perfect methods of preserving the beauty of each wing.  

As we began selling our creations at our town's farmers market, then at a local boutique and craft fairs, people's reactions have been the best part -- their joy at the beauty of the butterflies and moths and their curiosity about life cycles and that amazing metamorphosis.  One question that comes up over and over is, "why butterflies?"  And now you know.