As a reporter for a local newspaper, I often cover lobstering stories in Maine and occasionally come across some very cool things that Maine crafters and artists are making around the lobster theme. I really strive to put a spotlight on the creatives. Here is my 2020 Shop Local Gift Guide for the person in your life who loves Maine lobster and our beautiful state.
The original Lobstah Beer Caddy and Dog Food Station
Joe Hamilton is the artist behind these lobster trap creations and the first in the state to create the lobster trap caddy, perfect for six of Maine's best craft beers. You can find these on Etsy for $39.99 The pet stand, also made from the same galvanized wire that lobstermen use to construct traps are custom made. Made for small, medium and large dogs ($60/$85/$150). Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for orders.
Maine Snowflake Ornaments
Tenley is a self-taught jewlery designer who also once worked as a sternman on her boyfriend's lobster boat, (now husband!) Hating to see lobster shells thrown away after consumption, she got the idea to make beautiful ornaments and jewelry from discarded shells from lobsters, mussels and oysters--and tell the back story to each one as it related to area lobstermen. To find her creations ($25/ornaments and vibrant red jewelry visit her Etsy store, Lobster Designs.
Rugged Lives of Female Lobstermen
Camden author Ali Farell's second book, showcases the strength of Maine’s female fishermen, titled Pretty Rugged: True Stories From Women of the Sea. “Fishing is a lifestyle, not a job,” Farrell commented in a Penobscot Bay Pilot article. “To be a successful fisherman, you must devote your life to working extremely hard in very dangerous conditions.”
The book is finally available for preorder on Amazon ($32.99) with shipments anticipated in time for Christmas. FMI: Facebook.
Gourmet Lobster Crackers
In 2012, Pat Havener and her husband, Friendship lobsterman Greg Havener, were trying to brainstorm ways to make up lost income from the plummeting price of lobster. They came up with two ideas: lobster crackers for dogs and lobster crackers for people. The crackers, which are the only type of its kind in the U.S., were named “Best New Product—Specialty Food” in spring of 2015 at the New England Made Giftware Specialty Food Show. See my story on at Penobscot Bay Pilot
You can buy a box ($10) on their website
Note, I wrote this story for Penobscot Bay Pilot.
APPLETON— In most paintings of Maine islands, conspicuously absent is the debris and junk that regularly washes up onto its shorelines. A lot of it tends to be ghost gear— lobster traps that have been smashed apart by the weather and have drifted to shore in mangled pieces.
Appleton artist Abbie Read, whose family owns property on Matinicus Island, noticed the junk along the shoreline and decided to haul piece by piece back to the mainland. No, not to the dump, to her studio.
“I spend a lot of time on Matinicus and for years, I’ve been collecting these little pieces of broken, rusted traps and all of the parts,” she said.
Read said she’d haul back the unsightly debris from the island to the mainland and store them in her studio, unsure of what would become of it.
“I always had it in the back of my mind I’d make something with the pieces,” she said. “Then, last spring when Waterfall Arts held a call for artists on the theme of Intertidal Zones, I began to assemble all of the pieces into an installation. For me, all of the junk that gets washed up on Matinicus was perfect for that theme.”
After the Waterfall Arts show concluded, the community arts center allowed Read to hang the installation on the second floor wall by the stairway, where it now resides indefinitely. Only those familiar with the lobster industry will notice some of the details in the rigging. Woven throughout the pieced-together grids of the wire traps are discarded bait bags, nylon netting, a plastic escape hatch, old frayed warp. Broken and lost gear is an economic hardship lobster fishermen know only too well. These unglamorous workaday pieces of fishing gear have now transformed into a tribute to the many unknown generations of lobstermen.
But, there is one more layer to this installation; and one has to know Abbie Read’s particular style of work to catch it. Within the rigging, which is patched up like a crazy quilt from various broken traps, are subtle grids made from linen thread that Read has constructed, which mimic the gridwork of the broken traps and blends right into the exhibit. These handmade nets also lace across her multimedia collages, which often incorporate altered books, maps, found objects and natural materials such as stone.
Read isn’t done with the piece.
“I stopped working on it because I ran out of materials,” she said. “But, I still plan of adding to it, it’s just a matter of being able to haul this stuff back from the island. I call it an ongoing project because it will get bigger. It no longer fits in my studio.”
For now the piece can be seen at Waterfall Arts.
For more information visit: Abbie Read and Waterfall Arts
Columns and news about the subculture of Maine lobstering.