What Maine Craft Means to Me
by Julie Richard
My relationship with fine craft in Maine began long before I became the Executive Director of the Maine Arts Commission.
About two years before I was married, I spent a week on Islesboro Island with my then boyfriend, Ed. We had a fantastic time exploring the island and the inland towns close to the ferry – specifically Camden. While strolling around town, we wandered into a jewelry shop down one of the side streets. The work in the window caught my eye and I was immediately drawn to the beautiful rings – brushed gold with tiny colored diamonds all over. I think I may have mentioned to Ed that if we were to ever get married, I wanted that ring to be my wedding ring – hint, hint!
Ed popped the question about a year later – with a ring from that jeweler! The artist was Etienne Perret and he went on to sell his work through Tiffany & Co. Incidentally, we purchased Ed’s ring through Etienne as well – just not as many diamonds.
Fast forward to 2012 when I became the Executive Director of the Maine Arts Commission. I spent about six weeks on my own here while Ed packed up our house in Arizona. One of my very first outings was to the Common Ground Fair in Unity, where I met artists Terrill Waldman and Charlie Jenkins of Tandem Glass. I was drawn to their beautiful multi-colored glasswork and their friendly and engaging personalities. I’ve purchased many things from them over the years and will always cherish those items. And I will always admire Terrill and Charlie’s commitment to their craft.
Since that time, I’ve met so many wonderful craft artists from all over the state it is impossible to mention them all. But a few special outings with my staff are worth mentioning – a glass ornament blowing expedition with Linda and Ken Perrin at Atlantic Art Glass in Ellsworth was a little scary but highly satisfying. If you haven’t done this I highly recommend it!
We participated in a ceramics class with Malley Webber at Hallowell Clay Works in Hallowell. I discovered that I have a knack for ceramics that I haven’t had time to explore further. But we all came away with lovely bowls and a better understanding of the craft. And last year, we took a bookbinding class with Abbie Read which was very fun!
I was involved with Maine Crafts Guild and the Maine Crafts Association in their initial talks several years ago and I urged them to keep the doors open for a future coming together which happened just about a year ago.
And I was highly supportive of my Visual Art Director Julie Horn’s idea of creating a Craft Apprenticeship program in partnership with the Maine Crafts Association back in 2016. CAP is now beginning its 6th year and has received recognition from the National Endowment for the Arts and has been featured at conferences in the US and Canada. It is truly a game-changer for craft artists in Maine and their ability to pass down their knowledge to a new generation of fine craft makers.
My passion for fine craft in Maine would not be complete without mentioning the incredible indigenous basketmakers that I have come to know and watch explode on to the national Indian art scene. From Jeremy Frey, Sarah Sockbeson, Geo Neptune, and Gabriel Frey to Molly Neptune Parker (may she rest in peace) and Theresa Secord – two National Heritage Fellows – and many, many more. Their work is remarkable and while I only possess one basket (made by Sarah), I hope to connect with these artists on their travels to Arizona and the Heard Indian Market in the future.
Thanks to the Maine Crafts Association for lifting up the work of all craft artists in Maine. These artist-entrepreneurs are part of the economic lifeblood of this state. Now is the time to buy Maine craft items.
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.