Birds, bats, bugs, butterflies and beyond

-A A +A

Lacy and Brenda Thomas make houses for backyard critters

By Robert Villanueva

Elizabethtown residents Lacy and Brenda Thomas are homebuilders, and their house hunters are birds, bats, bugs and butterflies, not to mention gnomes and fairies.


“I make fairy furniture, too,” Lacy said.

The whimsical homes for the mythological creatures are made from fallen limbs, branches and other wood pieces.

“He’s a big recycler,” Brenda said.

Brenda’s artistic contribution mainly comes in the form of painted quilt blocks used to decorate mailboxes, another of the couples’ crafts. Painting artwork on the birdhouses Lacy decorates with faces, figures and animals is a different story, as far as Brenda is concerned.

Though she helps paint the birdhouses, her assistance does not include drawing.

“I can paint within the lines,” she said, laughing.

Aside from the whimsical homes, Lacy makes birdhouses, a craft he picked up while living in Alabama. He learned how building a birdhouse was more than nailing together boards.

Without the correct specifications, a bluebird house, for example, will attract other species of birds and will be snubbed by bluebirds, Lacy said.

“Not all birds nest in boxes,” he said.

Some guidelines exist for any garden house construction aimed at attracting specific occupants.

For example, floor size, box depth, entrance height, entrance diameter and box height will have specific dimensions and measurements, depending on what type of birds you want to attract. The entrance height is the height of the entrance from the nest box floor.

“You don’t ever want to paint the inside of the box,” Lacy said. That’s because birds need a rough surface to attach waste removed from the nest and also because the paint is toxic, he said.

The outside is a whole different matter.

Lacy has painted wildcats, cardinals, cows, dogs, vintage cars and even Abraham Lincoln on the outside of birdhouses. They don’t seem to deter the intended inhabitants, he said.

“Birds have no taste,” Lacy said.

The artist and craftsman wants to get a special birdhouse with a portrait of Oprah Winfrey as a child painted on it into the hands of the TV icon’s friend, Gayle King. At least that’s his plan.

“I’m betting she’ll be intrigued enough that she’ll say ‘I need to talk to this guy,’” Lacy said.

Bat houses, ladybug houses and butterfly houses are among the other homes the couple builds. In fact, other than the bluebird houses, Lacy’s involvement with the other houses and artwork began only a year ago, he said.

The practical aspect of the houses is to attract nature and benefit a garden. Bats, for instance, eat mosquitoes, and lady bugs eat aphids and other garden pests.

On the other hand, Lacy rolls his eyes and winks when describing how he responds when asked if his butterfly houses actually work. He considers the homes more decorative than anything.

Lacy also incorporates the quilt block designs onto some of the birdhouses.

Then there are the fairy and gnome homes.

Brenda is largely responsible for inspiring the fairy homes, because she collected related items.

“My first fairy house I made for her,” Lacy said.

Building that fanciful abode, complete with acorn furniture, among other things, led to gnome home construction.

The crafting of such houses allows the couple to “embellish” a little, Brenda said.

“We just experiment with them sometimes,” she said.

The Thomas’ offer their work on their website, www.coopsdvillas.com.
For about a year the couple has been selling their crafts at festivals, fairs and craft shows. Garden shows typically have the best sales, Brenda said.

“You’re selling to a specific clientele,” she said.

Lacy held no illusions about making a fortune off his work. In fact, he said, counting labor, he’s not making much money on his crafts.

In a day’s time, Lacy can construct 20 bluebird boxes. Then he paints the exteriors.

“Mine are generally double-primed,” he said.

Then it’s just a matter of deciding what to paint on the outside. Sometimes he custom paints the houses, such as a portrait he copied from a photograph of a spaniel.

“That was hard,” Lacy said. “It took me forever.”

Lacy is willing to try anything when it comes to painting the outside of the houses, from Kokopelli, the American Indian icon, to portraits of Abraham Lincoln.

Brenda said her husband seems to enjoy the challenge.

“He can do ’em,” she said.

Robert Villanueva can be reached at (270) 505-1743.