It's no secret that over at Lodestars Anthology HQ we are obsessed with fine print, beautiful words and exceptional photography - if we can find all this in a single publication (one that celebrates creativity, community and the landscape), then our adoration is going to be next level. So, not surprisingly, we were delighted to discover Handcrafted Maine, a new coffee table book that profiles 22 craftspeople, producers and creatives who call Maine home. Focussing on the stunning natural setting as much as their featured personalities, the book is a wonderful inducement to travel, consider the land and possibly even get your own project up and running. Handcrafted Maine is written by Katy Kelleher - who, as a writer and editor, specialises in stories about creators, culture and food sustainability - and photographed by Greta Rybus, who hail from Buxton and Portland respectively. The tones are soothing, workspaces brim with colour and detail, the coastline, farms and woodland entice, and even the coldest of winter scenes will have you yearning to venture to this unique, north-east pocket of the US. The writing is honest and insightful (it's wonderful to come across pieces that look at the challenges associated with creative living, as well as the unparalleled joys), and the entire publication is something you want to savour over copious pots of tea. To understand more about Handcrafted Maine we had a chat to Greta and, as you can imagine, fell even more in love with this stunning project (and those it features).
What inspired you to create this book?
The editor of the book, Jan Cigliano Hartman, had the idea for the book and began working with publishers at Princeton Architectural Press. She called me about the project several years ago and I immediately wanted to be a part of it. I had recently moved to Maine from the west, and I was really struck by Maine’s culture of creativity and resilience. Jan brought writer Katy Kelleher on to the team, and she is an exceptional storyteller. Together, we spent a year or two planning, developing, researching, and refining the concept of the book. We broadened the idea of 'craftsman' from just artists to other producers and creators, including farmers, wilderness guides, chefs, and fishermen. We wanted to include people who use creative mindsets to work with the land or the sea as well. We then spent a little over a year visiting people around the state, Katy writing and researching as I took the photographs. The book was released in July 2017 and it’s been really heartening to see the welcoming and enthusiastic response to the book.
Do you have a particularly memorable shooting experience from this project?
Working on this book was a beautiful adventure and like all good adventures, it left me with some great stories. Maine is an enormous state; we drove hundreds of kilometres and spent entire days in the car to reach the more remote locations. Sometimes we’d pull over during a long late-summer drive to pick wild blueberries on the side of the road. We both got seasick while going out to sea in extreme January waves while documenting lobstermen at work. Wilderness guide Jen Brophy of Red River Camps taught us how to correctly paddle a canoe and I went ice-skating with the beer makers on the pond at Oxbow Brewery after photographing the brewing process.
What do you enjoy most about shooting in Maine?
Maine is a place with four very distinct seasons. The winters are harsh and long, the spring is bright and verdant, the summer is mild and savoured by both tourists and locals and the autumn is brilliant with colour. The extremity of our seasons requires a certain mentality: this challenging place rewards grit and resilience and a responsiveness to land, sea and weather. In my work as a photographer in Maine I often document strong connections between humans and the natural world. People either make their livelihoods around the environment or find inspiration in the landscape. Like a lot of people in Maine, my own work is really informed by the natural world, but it’s also really informed by the people in my local community. I am able to survive as a photographer here because there are so many people in Maine who are doing innovative and interesting work - and I often get assigned to photograph them!
Has working on this book changed how you view Maine and its creatives?
Working on this book deepened my appreciation for Maine and the people that work here. I also got to understand how special the creative economy is in Maine. This state has a deep connection to art that is woven throughout its history: writers like E.B. White and Edna St. Vincent Millay, painters like Winslow Homer and Marsden Harltey, and entrepreneurs like L.L. Bean all based their creative enterprises in Maine. Those traditions have never left Maine and it’s a part of everyday life here. Painters still flock to Monhegan island to paint en plein air. You can buy lobsters directly from the lobstermen on coastal wharves. You can walk into any bookstore and see entire shelves filled with books by Maine writers. Most Maine highways, like Route 1, are dotted with art studios open to the public.
The book gave us an opportunity to have deeper conversations with the people that continue these traditions, while forging new innovative paths within their craft or field. We wanted to create a book with a lot of substance, so we made sure to [capture] both the beauty and struggle of creative work. We talked about the freedom of being self employed and financial burden of operating creative business. We discussed the how racism and sexism can impact artists. We documented the satisfaction an artist feels when making something truly unique, and the joy of creating in a landscape like Maine’s.
"Creativity isn't just about painting or building or writing ... creativity is forging new pathways. It's coming at a problem from a new direction. It's building bridges where you see chasms. A creative is someone who conceives of a new solution. A maker is someone who turns that solution into a physical reality." Katy Kelleher, p. 22.