Married 42 years, Matt and Marsha Elfrink still enjoy crafting together

Monday, April 2, 2012
---- Matthew Elfrink painted this mural for his wife, Marsha in the couples kitchen. They met in an art class at Southeast Missouri State and are still active in a variety of artistic pursuits (ADAM VOGLER)

It's 1970, and Matt Elfrink is sitting in the back row of his art class at Southeast Missouri State University, just like he always does. It's business as usual until Marsha, the girl who always sits in the front row, spills an entire bottle of Gesso on the desks and floor.

The next day, someone else is in Marsha's seat when she gets to class, so she takes the only empty seat left -- next to Matt. When a classmate invites Marsha to a party that weekend she replies, "I don't go places like that by myself." So, she turns to Matt and invites him, to which he replies: "I don't go places like that by myself." They decide to go to the party together, but they never get around to it.

---- Marsha Elfrink wears a necklace made from a key. Marsha and her husband met in an art class at Southeast Missouri State and are still active in a variety of artistic pursuits including these arrowheads made by Matthew. (ADAM VOGLER)

Instead, they ended up dating for five years, getting married, having two children and, now, three grandchildren. It's been 42 years since that day in art class, and Matt and Marsha Elfrink are still happily married and making various kinds of art together.

Matt's creativity comes in the form of fishing, hunting, gardening, cooking, painting murals, and carving arrowheads, knives and walking sticks.

"I always wondered how Indians actually made the arrowheads, so I tried my hand at it and was successful," he says. In fact, he's perfected the art enough to give demonstrations for the Missouri Department of Conservation.

Matt took art classes through high school and college, but never had professional training. It's hard for him to describe how the ideas and talent come to him. Instead, he says, most of his art is created when someone asks if he can do something and he gives it a try. Marsha feels the same way.

"I think it's something you either have or you don't," she says. "It's a shame if you have it and don't use it."

Marsha has done everything from painting barrettes to designing jewelry to making clothing. Currently she's focusing on "Tree of Life" wire necklaces, and jewelry made from old keys that she's embellished.

"I can't just go to the store and buy something," says Marsha. It's cheaper -- and much more fun -- to make her own things, she says.

Another thing the couple agree on is that they've always wanted their art to remain a hobby.

"The business end scares me ... and then it becomes work. Neither of us wants to 'work' at this stage of our lives," says Marsha.

While they do sell some small things at craft fairs and local boutiques, most of what the Elfrinks create remains in their home or is given to friends and family -- or anyone who likes it! Marsha makes microfleece shawls for nursing home residents and once sold a necklace she was wearing. Matt's been known to give away so many of his creations that "he has nothing to show for himself," says Marsha.

But when it comes down to it, it's not the actual goods that matter -- it's doing their hobbies as a couple and enjoying the process of creativity, from start to finish.

"We're constantly looking for supplies at garage sales," says Matt.

"It's something to talk about -- the projects we're working on," adds Marsha. "We are so blessed to share our love for creativity. So many couples say they are worried about being bored when they retire. There aren't enough hours in the day to do all we want to do."

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