Maine has long attracted industrious Yankee artists who have managed to couple their aesthetic impulses with mercantile practicality. On my most recent trip, I visited several artisanal enterprises, all located within a half-hour of one another along U.S. Route 1 north of Camden. This pleasant drive is an ideal diversion for those not-infrequent days when the fog rolls in.
Now in the town of Northport, Swans Island was started 20 years ago by John and Carolyn Grace on the offshore island of the same name. Their dream was to craft blankets from the wool of the hardy sheep raised there. They sold the company in 2003, and it is now located in a sturdy 1780 house that serves as workshop and showroom. In this handsome space, weavers sit at their looms crafting Shaker-elegant blankets from hand-dyed wool. Given the exacting attention to detail, these blankets (in both summer and winter weights) come at a price, with winter blankets starting at $1,050. Throws and scarves are also available. Tel. (888) 526-9526.
Driving south to Camden, about a mile north of Lincolnville Beach, you will find a small sign announcing Duck Trap Decoys, which marks a short drive to a little gambrel-roofed building. I have passed by many times, usually in a rush to get someplace else, but this time, I resolved to stop and am certainly glad I did. Inside this fascinating showroom, you will find what is reputed to be Maine's largest selection of decoys in all sizes and styles, from early hunting models to stunningly detailed artistic replicas. The efforts of Maine's most noted carvers are on display here; highlights include delightful chickadee Christmas ornaments (found on the Harper tree) and carefully wrought carvings of single feathers that make smart lapel pins. Tel. (207) 789-5363.
A very short drive south, just north of Lincolnville Beach, watch for the distinctive sign of Windsor Chairmakers, which first beckoned me many years ago when I was fortunate enough to meet the company founder, Jim Brown. Deeply taken with the superb craftsmanship of the chairs and tables in his show area, I ordered a rocking chair that remains one of my favorite spots for a comfortable evening read. In addition to the namesake Windsor chairs, Brown's company makes a full range of custom furniture including benches, dining tables in several configurations, beds, chests (the highboy is especially beautiful) and sideboards. If you have any interest in fine wooden furniture, you will spend a very pleasant and rewarding interlude here. Tel. (800) 789-5188.
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