‘Discovery Tour’ showcases breadth of handcrafted artistry in St. George

David Talley table

David Talley table

When Amy Barstow of Monhegan Boat Line volunteered to chair the Columbus Day Weekend Event committee for the St. George Business Alliance, her thought was to organize a “discovery tour” that would tie into Maine Craft Weekend by showcasing the breadth of St. George’s creative life. “There are so many talented people here in St. George,” she says, “I thought something like an artists’ open studio tour could be fun.”

Barstow’s committee, consisting of Betsy Welch, Peggy Crockett, Darlene Cocke and Julie Wortman, worked with Barstow’s idea for several months, eventually settling on a 16-venue self-guided “Discovery Tour” called “Handcrafted in St. George” that embraces an intriguing cross-section of the remarkable handcrafted work being produced on this peninsula. Judy Brogden, Rockland Market Manager of Machias Savings Bank, got wind of the idea and pledged the bank’s financial support. “Machias Savings Bank has a rich history as a Maine-based community bank in providing support for exceptional events like the ‘Handcrafted in St. George’ tour,’” Brogden explains. “We believe this event will connect artists, craftspeople and businesses with customers who are eager to learn about and patronize the high-quality work represented.”

It may sound cliché, but there really is something for everybody to enjoy and learn at the “Handcrafted in St. George: A Discovery Tour” event on Saturday, October 11. Consider this spectrum of tour venues:

Fire Gold, the studio of Peter Achorn (627 Wallston Road)
Achorn has a national reputation for his shaded gold decoration restoration painting on antique American fire engines and other apparatus. His knowledge spans Colonial times to the present.

Ridge Forge, the workshop of Noah Bly (249 Ridge Road, Turkey Cove)
Bly completed his stone-and-wood forge building in 2012 and has been producing custom railings, andirons, latches firescreens and other unique metalwork there ever since. He especially likes making blades of all kinds.

Craignair Inn, hosting Maurice Klapfish, Angie Hritz and Dave Talley (the end of Clark Island Road)
Frequenting the transfer station in search of parts he could use in his lamp repair business led Klapfish to begin creating an imaginative, often humorous, array of “lamp art” out of junk. Also quirkily imaginative, Hritz’s handcrafted creations take their inspiration from materials gathered from the natural world. In contrast, Talley’s dramatic and sleek furniture designs are, as he says, essentially “functional sculpture.” Some of his furniture will also be on display at True Hall Realty/Real Finds Consignment in Tenants Harbor.

Marshall Point Lighthouse, hosting John Shea
Shea took up basketmaking in retirement, inspired by the exacting craft of the baskets created by the crews who manned the Nantucket Lightships. He loves “the romance,” he says, of those men making baskets during long months at sea.

True Hall Real Estate/Real Finds Consignment Shop, hosting Dave Talley and Gayle Bedigian (13 Mechanic St., Tenants Harbor)
Some of Talley’s sculptural furniture will be on display along with Bedigian’s custom ceramic art which, she says, is “about memories.” Her unique watercolor-like dinnerware pieces are inspired by the image or sentiment a client wants to celebrate. She will be taking orders during the tour.

Kevin Solsten workshop (15 Juniper St., Tenants Harbor)
Solsten is a master cabinetmaker whose latest passion is fine hand-planed finishes. Visitors to his workshop will get the chance to try hand planing for themselves.

Mars Hall Gallery, wide range of media (621 Port Clyde Road)
There is a generous and appealing range of work in all media at the Mars Hall Gallery, but tour participants will be especially intrigued by the work of outsider artist Elaine Niemi, who makes captivating assemblages out of wood, old tires, paint brushes and whatever else she can find. Her paintings, too, are full of the unexpected. Soaps and honey products by Stone House Road Apiary (located across the road from the gallery) will also be on hand.

Marvon Hupper workshop and gallery (376 Glenmere Road)
Hupper is a woodworker who has recently begun making wood coffins suitable for green funerals. His gallery is also full of his own paintings.

Jen Derbyshire studio (85 Main St., Tenants Harbor)
Artist Jen Derbyshire, a former potter turned painter, is now focusing on the art of painting silk scarves. Plaids, stripes and botanical themes abound. She will be providing a demonstration of her painting techniques from 2-4pm.

STONEFISH, Anne Klapfish (38 Main St., Tenants Harbor)
In addition to masterminding a store that is itself an intriguing collage of vintage, modern  and unusual goods and clothing, Klapfish herself is a creator of little, quirky works of art using paper, shells and thread.

Jim Parker workshop (829 River Road)
Parker has been repairing and building wood boats since 1978. He participated in the renovation of Monhegan Boat Line’s Laura B in 2012 and 2013 and has a reputation for restoring hopeless-seeming old boats to seaworthy beauty.

Blue Tulip, Rosemary Limmen (Barter Hill Road)
Limmen’s shop has a strong focus on goods handcrafted in Maine, with several vendors from the St. George area, including Anne Solley (knitted hats), Sylvia Murdock (baskets), Karen Stickney (woven dish towels) and Pat Towle (painted containers). Limmen herself makes knitted and quilted items—from baby hats and bath mitts to table runners, coasters, wine bags and napkins.

First Light Gallery, Lucinda Talbot paintings and mixed media (1174 River Road)
Talbot’s gallery displays paintings in pastel, egg tempera, acrylic inks and collage. She also produces cards, prints, glass cutting boards, tiles, decorative boxes, collage kits and a collection of hearts.

Sea Star Shop, hosting Randy Elwell and Jeremy Davis (at Monhegan Boat Line, Port Clyde)
Wildlife is often the theme of Elwell’s captivating metal sculptures. Davis makes well-crafted custom cutting boards, some with feet that make it possible to also use the board as a serving tray.

Hedgerow, Anne Cox hooked rugs and rustic furniture (8 Ridge Road, Martinsville)
Cox is an award-winning rug hooker whose original designs are inspired by the natural world around her. Her distinctive rustic furniture often has an unconventional, somewhat whimsical flavor.

Pond House Gallery, Darlene Cocke (41 Port Clyde Road, Tenants Harbor)
Cocke’s work includes charming watercolors and mixed media works featuring Maine lighthouses, shorebirds and songbirds.

St. George’s chefs are also showcasing their culinary skills as part of the “Handcrafted in St. George” event. Chef Chris Chadwick of the Black Harpoon in Port Clyde will be offering his famous dish of hand raked mussels sauteed with shallots, herbs, garlic, white wine, Dijon and a touch of cream with some bread for dipping (bar opens at 4:30pm). The East Wind Inn’s Chef Colin Hatfield is concocting a special fresh dark chocolate mousse on a crisp double chocolate biscotti finished with an orange-infused sugar dusting (dining room 5-8pm). The Craignair Inn will be serving smoked haddock chowder with homemade ciabatta bread from 11-2pm.  Chef Jessica Beal of The Point in Tenants Harbor is preparing a lunch special of lobster tacos and a dinner special of salmon en croute (11-4pm, 4-9pm). The Port Clyde General Store will be offering samples of rotisseries chicken, the Tenants Harbor General Store will have samples of Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine Maple Syrup, the Dip Net will offer samples of fish chowder and a special end-of-season menu (12-9pm) and The Barn at the Seaside Inn will offer samples of blueberry barbecue wings (4-8pm). Village Ice Cream in Port Clyde will be open 12-8pm and the Happy Clam in Tenants Harbor will be open for lunch and dinner.—JW

Download a pdf of the map.

Marshall Point1

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Hoping to protect a wild colony from collapse

The wild hive in the treeSMOne day in late September a neighbor dropped by the home of Glad Farm Road resident Alexandra Merrill to report that there was a large hive of bees in a tree that bordered a large field on Merrill’s property.

“I keep a path mown in that field for walking,” she explains. “My neighbors walk their dogs there, I use it, my brother’s family uses it.” She was pleased to see the hive, but concerned.
“I wanted to know what was the right thing to do to protect the hive—I’ve been very aware of colony collapse disorder.” So she asked a friend who has kept bees, Hugo Heriz-Smith, to come take a look. He brought another bee-keeper friend with him.

The two men studied the situation. With winter coming on, they wanted to provide the wild hive with protection by relocating it into an enclosed box hive.  “They pointed out that the bees had chosen a south-facing location next to a field free of pesticides with a stream running down the far side,” Merrill says. “So they advised that the best thing to do was to honor their choice of location and simply bring the wild hive down from the tree into a box placed beneath it on the ground.”

Bee rescue 5 peopleSMThe operation involved five people (the two beekeepers plus three members of Merrill’s extended family) working for two hours to create a pulley system to hold the weight of the branch, saw the branch and settle the hive onto the new box. One comb dropped off in the process, but the rest were saved. The fallen comb proved to be full of brood, from which the beekeepers detected that one new baby bee had emerged.

“The bees actually settled down quite quickly in the box,” says Merrill, adding, “It was as if they were willing to accept the idea of a winter residence up in the field under their summer cottage.”

Since bringing the hive down, Merrill’s bee-keeper friends have determined that, instead of breaking the combs off the branch, it would be better to keep them attached to it. So they are now awaiting delivery of a box large enough to accommodate both branch and combs. The new box will also contain additional honeycomb to aid the bees’ winter survival.

Whether these efforts will have a successful conclusion, of course, remains to be seen. But Merrill and her beekeeper friends are committed to trying.

“I’m just very aware that bees and humans are interdependent,” Merrill reflects. “And I’d like to help.” —JW


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Blacksmith shop

Blacksmith copySMThis photograph is from the David Lowell Collection from the photography archives at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, Maine. PMM’s photography collection consists of more than 140,000 photographic images from all over Maine, New England and beyond. More than 60,000 photos are available in PMM’s online database with more being added each week. Fine art prints are available. Visit www.PenobscotMarineMuseum.org today!

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Pruning at the right time

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis beautiful fall weather is making me itch to get out there and prune the shrubs I’ve been ignoring. In some places, I have some radical rejuvenation work to do. But by and large, this is a bad idea. I need to focus my outside cleaning and tidying tasks on the herbaceous plants, cutting back the perennial beds, cleaning out the vegetable gardens, putting everything to bed.

Here’s how I understand the problem with  pruning woody plants (shrubs, vines, trees) right now. The weather is still mild enough for the plants to send out new growth, which is the response to pruning. So the plant is using up some of its energy that it should be storing through the winter for next spring, potentially stunting some of its spring growth. Additionally, the tender new shoots will not have a time to harden off before winter’s freezing temperatures, and they will probably die, weakening the plant.

The best time to prune many plants is in late winter or early spring (I tend toward early spring as late winter is sometimes still too cold for me to want to be tramping through ancient snow and ice.) The deal is that the plants are so dormant at this time they don’t know that you are cutting them. Then when they do begin to wake up, when the sap starts flowing in the spring, they are able to heal the wounds from the cuts easily. So I plan on doing the great pruning extravaganza sometime in March or April.

But there are some plants that shouldn’t be pruned at that time, as they tend to have a lot of sap flowing already, so much that they “bleed.” These would be maples, birches, grapes, hardy kiwis. These should definitely be tackled in the dead of winter, or much later in the spring.
That’s the advice I have learned and the advice I have generally followed.

There are exceptions, of course. The first is that any time I see dead and diseased wood, I try to cut that out. And I have begun to tackle pruning established rugosa rose hedges in the fall. I have not had any problems doing this (as long as they are established hedges) so fall tends to be when I have the time to take on this prickly task.

And that’s the trick. Sometimes the best time to prune is when you have the time.
—Anne Cox (Cox is co-owner of Hedgerow in Martinsville.)

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Achieving a level of quality that you can feel

Kevin Solsten demonstrates a sharp hand plane

Kevin Solsten demonstrates a sharp hand plane

Right now cabinetmaker Kevin Solsten is working on building some doors in his Juniper Street workshop in Tenants Harbor. The clients are two carpenters he’s known for a long time, both of whom happen to be building their own homes. Asked why, beyond friendship, these men have asked a cabinetmaker to build custom entry doors for their homes, Solsten seems a little startled.  After a moment’s reflection he ventures, “I think they came to me because they’ve seen it all. For themselves they want a truly tight fit, they want a door that closes perfectly, a door that feels solid and good to the touch. The quality is something you experience, something you feel.”

Solsten is not only making his friends’ doors. He ‘ll be installing them as well, adding the special weatherstripping he favors and making sure the fit is exact. It is a degree of care and attention to detail that comes with the territory when a person takes up cabinetry, something Solsten has been doing full time since 1986.

His interest in joinery began in the late 1970s, when he and his wife lived in Somerville, Mass. “There  was an antique craze going on then and we would go to shows. I was interested in how the old furniture and cabinets were made, but we couldn’t afford most of it.” The couple began walking around Somerville on garbage  night, looking for old furniture and pieces like mantles that they could fix up and use to furnish their apartment. Then Solsten  began experimenting.
“I got some old pear crates, took them apart for the wood and started practicing making corners. Eventually I made some cabinets that looked like the antiques we wanted.” He adds with a laugh, “They weren’t very good.”

Meanwhile, Solsten’s day job involved working with autistic students, something that required a cast of mind capable of methodically dissecting all the steps required if the students were to successfully learn how to perform particular tasks. This ability to think things through step by step would prove invaluable to the future cabinetmaker’s need to thoughtfully translate each client’s goals into concrete, user-friendly solutions.

After getting a graduate degree in special education, in 1981 Solsten landed a job as special education director at the vocational technology school in Rockland. He continued with woodworking on his own time.

“When I left the school to take up woodworking full time I had to learn a lot fast—you can’t stay mediocre very long and earn a living. So I learned what I could from other woodworkers. Through the Maine Woodworkers Association I was able to visit other people’s workshops, which taught me a lot. The quality of my work began to improve.”

Solsten says another factor that helped hone his skills were the tools he began to acquire. “I bought tools that I thought would last all my life. You become good because you’re using good tools.”

The next boost toward becoming a high-quality cabinetmaker, he points out, was the procession of woodworkers who came to him looking for short-term employment. “Each one brought their experience and offered new ideas. Working with one carpenter, for example, I was led to spend time concentrating on improving how the insides of cabinets should work. I learned a lot from him.”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe backbone of Solsten’s woodworking career has been the construction of kitchen cabinetry. These projects require an uncompromising attention to detail, both in terms of how specific people use kitchens, and in terms of the quality of the joinery, hardware and finishes. “My best kitchens are a collaboration between the person who does most of the cooking and me,” Solsten states simply.

Finally, while ease of use has been an abiding concern in all of Solsten’s cabinetry work—which has also included building entertainment centers, bathroom cabinetry, storage units and furniture—a current passion has been for hand planing, rather than sanding, wood surfaces. For this method of finishing to work, he says, it is essential that his planing tools are kept sharp. “I am planing off shavings that are one thousandth of an inch thick, so I’m doing a lot of sharpening these days.”

The improvement the planing brings to the air quality in his workshop has been dramatic. But even more important to Solsten is the difference the hand planing makes to the finished piece. As always with Solsten’s work, it is a difference in quality that people like his carpenter friends and other clients will be able to feel. —JW

Kevin Solsten will be participating in the “Handcrafted in St. George: A Discovery Tour” event sponsored by the St. George Business Alliance on the Saturday of Columbus Day Weekend. His shop will be open that day from 10am to 4pm.

PHOTOS: Julie Wortman

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The pleasure of making art that becomes part of you

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAIt is only a little more than a year since Jen Derbyshire took a weekend class on silk painting at Rockland’s Farnsworth Museum with textile artist Fiona Washburn of Rockport, but Derbyshire now paints silk scarves like a master. “I’ve wanted to paint on silk all my life,” she says today with passion. “The colors are so free, so bright! I love color—and I love design.”

Derbyshire came to St. George to live full time 17 years ago after making her  livelihood as a potter in New York City. She’d been coming to Port Clyde to spend the summer since childhood. “It was a shared summer family compound in Port Clyde. The first people I remember there were my great aunts, Margaret and Grace Howe, who came up from Connecticut in the summers and stayed in a little barn building at the top of the property. Aunts, uncles, cousins and friends used to come and meet up in the summer and go sailing and play cards and just relax and have fun.”

That summer tradition continued into adulthood and parenthood, when Derbyshire and her then husband brought their children here, too. So the decision  to live in St. George year round was more of a homecoming than anything else.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA“I came wanting to shift from pottery to painting. I had a lot to learn, so I joined a group of painters—the Monday Night Group. It was first organized by John Dehlinger and Rick Barnhart more than 20 years ago. It was a group of artists who met one evening a week and brought their work for feedback from other working artists. The principle behind the idea of the group was to be helpful to each other and provide an encouraging and learning atmosphere rather than a critical one. We talked over vision and method in painting and I have to say the generosity of the people in that group for all those years was remarkable and it’s hard to imagine what my painting life would have become without it.”

The Farnsworth course presented the opportunity to explore painting on silk, something she found exhilarating. “Around Christmas my son built me a frame I could use to stretch the silk fabric taut so I could paint on it.”

The scarves Derbyshire uses are made of Chinese habotai silk and silk charmeuse. Her colors are dyes made by Sennelier, the famous French color maker. Her designs range from plaids and stripes to flowers. “I especially like plaids because you are constantly mixing colors—you almost can’t make a mistake.”

Derbyshire says she paints her scarves in series. “I get interested in a certain pattern or in a certain palette of colors. Then I explore that pattern or palette in a succession of scarves. In one series, for example, I mixed all the colors with gray.”
Taking a look around her well-lit studio—a converted garage at the back of her house, which sits across the road from Ripley Creek in Tenants Harbor—Derbyshire pauses to reflect on what the paintings and scarves say about her life. “I just want to do art,” she says. “I love the lifestyle—the independence, especially.”

Another aspect of the artistic life that she enjoys is taking the next step in developing her work. “I am constantly in competition with myself,” she admits. “As soon as I finish a scarf or a painting I am thinking about how to surpass it, how to move forward. There is always the next excitement.”

Although some people insist on making a distinction between craft and “fine art,” Derbyshire, who is a graduate of the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts, says “there is no difference between art and craft. I love craft and I love painting in oil.”

In the case of her scarves she especially likes that, unlike with her paintings, these imaginative painted creations can be worn. “They become part of you—they add color, they add something nice.” —JW

Jen Derbyshire’s scarves are for sale at the Blue Tulip. Her studio will also be open Sunday afternoons starting in October until Christmas. She will be participating in the “Handcrafted in St. George: A Discovery Tour” event sponsored by the St. George Business Alliance on the Saturday of Columbus Day Weekend. Her studio will be open that day from 10am to 4pm. She will offer a demonstration of silk scarf painting from 2 to 4pm.

PHOTOS: Julie Wortman

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Old time working waterfront, St. George

waterfront copySMThis undated photograph is from the St. George Historical Society Collection from the photography archives at the Penobscot Marine Museum in Searsport, Maine. PMM’s photography collection consists of more than 140,000 photographic images from all over Maine, New England and beyond. More than 60,000 photos are available in PMM’s online database with more being added each week. Fine art prints are available. Visit www.PenobscotMarineMuseum.org today!

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Lauds of Dawn
by Janet Shea

This morning I witnessed
a procession of wild
turkeys in my yard —
heading into the
woods out back.

A large extended family:
parents, toddlers, babies,
aunts and uncles,

they yelped in delight,
parading with fanfare
into a new, late-
summer day.

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A place where people really do look out for one another

DSC00569_edited-1SMThe benefit dinner and auction for 9 year-old Lydia Meyers, who is battling leukemia, held at the St. George School on September 13 was by all reports a huge success, with more than 500 people participating. “The family was truly amazed by the turnout,” says Lydia’s grandmother, Elaine Beam. “We are so proud to live in a place like this, where people really do look out for one another.” Lydia, Beam says, was “glowing,” as this photo from the event shows. Donations to the Lydia Meyers Donation fund can still be made by check and sent to Midcoast Federal Credit Union or to Elaine Beam, 156 Long Cove Road, Tenants Harbor, ME 04860.

PHOTO: Rosemary Cushman

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Hazelnut harvest

hazelnutsSMI knew it was time to start picking the hazelnuts when Maggie, the young poodle, came bounding into the house with a small prize in her mouth. When I finally pried it away from her I saw that she had a hazelnut: They were starting to drop.

Last year was the first year of any sort of harvest and it was scant, but the nuts were quite tasty. I have four plants, and for some reason this year two had no nuts, one had just a few, and then the one closest to the house (and at the edge of the dog yard) was laden. With little work I filled a peck basket. These are American Hazelnuts, Corylus americana, with 1/2” nuts, which are smaller than those that tend to be available commercially. Those are probably European hazelnuts. And I am hoping to try a new hybrid hazel that is a cross between the American hazelnut, beaked hazelnut (C. cornuta) and the European (C. avellana). The nuts from these are supposed to be larger than mine. FEDCO Trees is currently trialling these in central Maine, so I am hoping they prove hardy and productive.

The shrubs are quite showy in the spring with long, dangly catkins quite early. Most of the year it is just a nice dense thicket about eight to ten feet high, as it has a suckering habit. And as I recall the fall foliage is a  pleasant patchwork of reds, yellows, oranges and greens. This year the Japanese beetles found the upper leaves late in the season and turned them to filigree, but the damage wasn’t bad.

hazelnut closeupSMThe nuts form in nifty little husks that look like folded over leaves, and they hang from the underside of the branches, so finding them is a bit of a treasure hunt. Sometimes they are singles, but often they are in clusters of up to five. I am letting the  nuts cure in their husks for a couple of weeks, then they will just slip out. There is no need to do anything to them other than shell them and pop them into your mouth. This year I think I will have enough of a harvest to actually make something out of the nuts—like the hazelnut ricotta torte I have been dreaming about. But if not, I will certainly have enough for eating out of hand.

—Anne E. Cox (Cox is co-owner of Hedgerow in Martinsville.)

PHOTOS: Anne Cox

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