Originally published in The Weekly Packet, July 26, 2012
Annual Blue Hill fine crafts show blends high-quality goods with local charm
Nisa Smiley of Blue Hill displayed her nature-inspired jewelry at the Blue Hill Fine Crafts Show last weekend. Her gallery, Nisa Jewelry, is located in Ellsworth.
by Gigi DeJoy
Last weekend, for the fourth year in a row, the Blue Hill Consolidated School was host to a congregation of craftspeople showing their wares at the Blue Hill Fine Craft Show. The 45 artists showed goods ranging from gold and rock jewelry to textiles, felting, pottery, handmade furniture, and more.
The exclusively invitational show has been organized every year by Stuart Loten of Montville. A craftsperson himself, Loten knows many of the artists he handpicks from other shows or from the Maine Crafts Guild. “We all sort of run together,” admitted Nisa Smiley of Nisa Jewelry, who has been in the show from the beginning. Loten explained, “since I’m a craftsman, I do shows and meet people there. I invite people based on quality.”
This focus on quality was reflected in the diversity of crafts represented at the show. In fact, between Pamela Hitchcock’s delicate, bejeweled goldsmithing and the pastoral functionality of Sebago Furniture, it would seem as if quality and a base in Maine were the only things every artist had in common. Not only was the range of merchandise extensive, but the philosophies and motivations behind each artist were varied too.
Nanne Kennedy of Seacolors wool products in Washington, for one, has an exceptional focus on the sustainable and the local. She is her product, from raising and shearing the sheep to solar-dying the yarn in chemical-free seawater. “I am a farmer, and that is a critical piece of making the components,” Kennedy said. “It’s sustainable agriculture and sun and seawater.”
Melody Lewis-Kane, on the other hand, whose pottery studio Clay Forms is located in Sedgwick, infuses her statement visually into the final product rather than the process. One of her lines of tableware which she calls “The Grass Isn’t Greener” is glazed in earth tones with waving grass etched onto it. Lewis-Kane said this line was meant as a message to older men who leave their wives.
Two other craftspeople, Wayne Hall and Smiley, find more of an aspect of nostalgia in their work. Both were born outside of Maine but now live locally, in Bucksport and Blue Hill, respectively. Hall, who crafts rustic furniture, tries to leave the shape and integrity of the branches he uses in his work. “I like having the woods in the house with me,” he said. Indeed, one of his products which is part-sculpture, part-furniture, and coatrack-esque, is called a “Hall Tree.”
Alternatively, it is the natural art of the beach, not the woods, that Smiley is interested in maintaining in her jewelry. She collects the mussel shells and seaglass that is incorporated into her earrings, necklaces, and more. “I try to set them the way I found them. It’s the way it presented itself to me,” she said. “It’s a nice way to give people a little piece of Maine.”
Loten said he chose Blue Hill as the place to bring together all these craftspeople because there was already such a well-established art community here. “Prior to the show, it was a destination for people who love art, so it made sense to have it here,” he said. Next year you can look forward to the show’s return and count on its functional art to once again challenge the popsicle sticks-and-Elmer’s-glue presumptions that go with the word “craft.”