By Maria Allen, Photos by Julie Ryan Photography
Outside Kimberly Butler’s Milton home, a one-of-a-kind flag waves in the breeze. Artfully assembled using long strips of red and white Gingham and a rectangular patch of blue fabric with white stars, this “rag flag” is both beautiful and meaningful to its creator.
A dental hygienist by trade, Butler has always enjoyed being crafty. Her first flag was a project she and her youngest daughter completed three years ago. Rather than using a sewing machine, the duo tied bits of ribbon and fabric strips to a long piece of driftwood and allowed the free ends to hang down vertically. Upon hanging their completed flag, Butler’s neighbor immediately took notice and asked if she could get one for her home.
Last year, while the world was grappling with the COVID-19 pandemic, Butler experienced several tragic personal losses and found herself looking for a creative outlet. Her neighbor suggested that she should post a photo of her flag on social media to see if anyone would be interested in buying one. The response to her post was overwhelmingly positive and she soon had numerous orders.
“I didn’t realize how quickly it would take off,” says Butler, who found the process of making flags to be very therapeutic. She started out by making red, white, and blue “American” flags, but gradually diversified her designs as she received custom orders. One buyer asked for a flag with sunflowers in memory of her grandfather who passed away, while another person requested orange, green and white fabric to show off her Irish pride. Butler has also made flags with a Boston theme as well as flags honoring important causes, such as autism awareness and LGBT pride.
Butler named her creative side-hustle Flag Therapy and launched an Instagram page to display her creations. Each flag hangs off a piece of driftwood or another type of reclaimed wood, which Butler seasons before use. With their boho-chic aesthetic, the flags can be displayed in various ways, either hung on a wall like a piece of art or used to decorate a bay window, front door or porch.
For Butler, making flags has become a labor of love as well as a therapeutic activity that has helped her heart to heal. “I love being able to recognize important causes in a creative way,” she says. “The outpouring of love from my community has been incredible.”