photo credit: Natalya DeSena

Kristan Vermeulen has been at the forefront of linking the sciences of behavior to the field of communications for over 9 years. Her signature is to link behavioral strategy with the design and delivery of creative public relations, influencer marketing, and social media tactics to consistently burst through today’s information clutter and fuel a new sense of urgency to act on client messages.

She started a podcast called Makers of Maine at the peak of the pandemic in June of 2020 that showcases stories of makers of all types including fashion designers, woodworkers, blacksmiths, artists, photographers, musicians and so much more. She wanted to find a way to give back to this community as many were struggling to stay afloat. Her podcast has grown to over 3,000 downloads and her social media has a following of more than 2,000 people. She was recently featured on Good Morning America as she discussed how she pivoted her full-time publicist business to establishing a podcast that gives back to the local community. Kristan lives in Cumberland, Maine with her husband (Kipp), two children (Elayna and Krew), and Chesapeake Bay Retriever (Porter). You can find her out sailing with her family in the summertime or on the road interviewing makers of all sorts across Maine.

What Maine Craft Means to Me

by Kristan Vermeulen

“Embrace your journey and those who come across your path. Be gracious in your endeavors. Focus on your craft. Those who support your dreams now and feel your sincere humility and gratitude will be there many years from now, padding your old bones and time-worn, weary soul.”  – Ann Marie Frohoff

I first started to understand the impact of making and craft in Maine when I stepped into my father-in-law, Dick Vermeulen’s boat shop. I witnessed his craftsmanship and dedication through sweat, tears, blood and passion in every corner of the shop and the boats and molds it contains. I also observed the endless quilts my mother-in-law hangs and stacks, filling a quilt room and bringing back tactile memories of my grandmother’s quilt room.

When I first traveled to Maine from Annapolis, Maryland with my now husband, I was taken by the amount of beauty I found here. The beauty in the land, the sea, the historic buildings, the food, and the people was new and unexpected. I decided to move here three years ago, a place my family has lived and worked for almost 50 years, and I am just stepping into the Maine craft world. I became a resident, made my home, business and family here, and I have been introduced to Maine craft traditions – a layer of Maine’s culture and lifestyle that continues to amaze me.

My father-in-law’s story of building his business opened my eyes and my interest in each maker’s journey. He began building his first boat over twenty years ago in his garage and has now completed many power and sail catamarans of various scales. He has a national customer base and his boats have traveled the world. His love of his craft, the sea and family continue as he teaches his grandchildren to sail – a maker storyline found throughout Maine, but unique in the world.

Growing up in Maryland I was surrounded by corporate businesses and the government-industry, I didn’t experience a makers lifestyle. But my parents instilled an appreciation for handmade items and the arts, we visited craft shows and I entered my work into 4H fairs; perhaps just the glimpse I needed to build the curiosity that now drives me to explore the extensive depths of Maine craft lifestyle. Through my family connections, exploration of craft and now my podcast, Makers of Maine, I’ve learned that the journey, community and life of a studio craft artist is as interesting as the craft objects themselves. I have had truly remarkable, genuine and innovative conversations surrounding the inspiration and vision of Maine makers both in their studio practices and in the Maine way of life.

This year, the journey of each maker is more challenging, but the stories are no less fascinating. Makers make use of creativity, their most valuable resource, to pivot with phenomenal results and generosity. Makers give back to the community as they tread water themselves and makers forge ahead in the studio as their business models are completely disrupted. It is inspiring to witness the drive of Maine makers to create, adapt and support one another and the greater community.

Keep on your creative path and share your entrepreneurial journey, people love to hear your story and support you, including me.

What Maine Craft Means to Me Essay Series invites you to explore the many intersections and layers of craft, people and time in Maine through the words of those with deep connections to our state and our field.

The Maine Crafts Association is a 501(c)(3) non-profit arts organization supporting craft artists by providing educational, marketing and retail opportunities. Our ability to accomplish our mission and help artists thrive is reliant on individual contributions.