8 Maine Artisans I’m Supporting This Holiday Season – Artfull Gifts Show 2013

text by Jess Smith

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Hello, my name is Jess Smith and I am a craft show widow.

For the past few weeks my husband has been living in his studio (which, luckily, is at our house) in preparation for the Artfull Gifts holiday craft show. It’s an annual, weekend-long show featuring 50 high-end Maine artisans and this was his first year doing it. I had to work the first day of the show but I thought I ought to tag along Sunday to lend a helping hand.

What I’m learning about helping my husband at craft shows is this: more often than not, less is more.

So there I was in Northport for six hours with little to do except force Austin to take the occasional leg-stretching break. I brought a veritable Mary Poppins bag of things to entertain me – knitting, two new library books, my sketchbook and coloring pencils, but mostly what I ended up doing all day was shopping and chatting with the other vendors. I wanted to share some of my favorite picks from the show.

1. Guapa Leather
Guapa is a wife and husband duo based in Belfast. Our neighbors to the right, these two create a line of hand-sewn leather bags, wallets and other accessories. Their strap wallets really spoke to me and at $42 for locally hand-made leather I could have easily gotten one in each color, but trying to be good and not undo too much of the success Austin was having next-door I opted for a chic, simple leather snap bracelet at $13.

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2. Dulse & Rugosa
For holiday secrecy reasons I can’t tell you what I bought from Dulse & Rugosa, a mother-daughter team from Gotts Island. Suffice it to say, it was really hard to choose. Everything at their booth smelled so wonderful. They make their line of bath and body products using hand-picked botanicals from their small island garden, and supplementing what they can’t grow with ingredients harvested from their natural surroundings – the woods, shore and meadows.

I was really excited to learn about their “Taste, Make & Take” evenings at Breakwater Vineyards in Rockland. It’s the last Sunday of every month and for $15 you get to try four local wines, and create and take home your very own spa products.

Side note: Carly from Dulse & Rugosa wins the Artfull Gifts “Friendliest” superlative.

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3. Luksin
I first came across Luksin at the Common Ground Fair this past September, where Daria’s modern designs, sumptuous dyes, and earth-and-ethics-conscious fabric choices stood out from the crowd. This weekend I fell in love with a beautiful chambray denim tunic shirt and a gorgeous dark navy organic cotton scarf. Have dropped hints to Aust for birthday and Christmas…

Two-layer organic cotton gauze scarf by Luksin

I would wear this scarf EVERY DAY

4. Bixby Bars
I have to admit I’ve seen these bars around and have been hesitant to try them because of the whole “healthy chocolate” thing. It can’t be that good, right? Wrong. One of the great things about a show like Artfull Gifts is FREE SAMPLES. I tried the To The Nines white chocolate, Goji berry, pistachio and cardamom bar and it was amazing. All of their bars are certified gluten-free, and they have a number of vegan offerings as well. But don’t let that fool you. These bars don’t taste like squirrel food, they taste like a gourmet dessert.

Creator Kate McAleer’s website is really worth a peruse. I especially liked her blog post linking to this video about a shared-use kitchen which allows local food producers like Bixby to create their product in a USDA approved environment, when they might not be able to afford to do so on their own.

To The Nines white chocolate bar by Bixby & Co.

Small Gift Crate by Bixby & Co.

5. Sisters Soap
Sisters Soap owner Megan Owen Caferatta creates a fantastically fragrant line of soaps using her sister Caitlin Hunter’s (Appleton Creamery) goats milk. Scents range from Rainbow Sherbet (which was spot on, and brought me back to my childhood) to Bergamot & Seaweed, and everything in between.

Lavender Loofah Goats Milk Soap by Sisters Soap

Sea Salt Goats Milk Soap by Sisters Soap

6. Jeweled Horizons
Northport-based Maureen O’Keefe travels around the world collecting unique beads, which she brings back and sells here in Maine. I was immediately drawn to a no-frills strand of brass beads on string which Maureen tells me are from Ethiopia. Maureen also is the mastermind behind these pearl necklace cat collars. I was tempted to buy one for June, but Bear would have been jealous.

Lapis and Ethiopian Brass bead necklace from Jeweled Horizons

Leather cuff from Guapa, Ethiopian brass beads from Jeweled Horizons.

7. Alec Hartman Photography
Our across-the-way neighbor was a young photographer from Vassalboro. I loved his whimsical animal portraits and was particularly taken with a photo of a bear cub who seemed to be causally strolling down a rural road on his hind legs. “Look at that bear walking down the road!” I said to Aust. “You mean look at that bear running down the road, at the photographer?” he replied. Good point, I thought. In fact, a lot of Alec’s shots have this “how did he do that” quality – especially his series of chipmunks in staged settings, like eating at a miniature picnic table.

Notecards by Alec Hartman Photography

8. Abby’s Cabs
Lisa Lord from Old Town, Maine named her polished stone jewelry business after her dog Abby. At her booth I discovered my love for a beautiful light blue stone called beryl, which is native to Maine. I’ve been wanting a right hand ring since my left hand got all the glory last September. Due to my ridiculous ring-size (3.5) Lisa and her assistant told me I could special order a beryl ring from them. I can pick out the shape of the stone, the setting, and it’s at no extra cost (most of her rings are a very reasonable $30!). This is a definite for my birthday wishlist this December. I’m really excited about this one.

My new best friend, beryl, at Abby's Cabs.

Love this oval stone on double banded setting from Abby's Cabs

Austin had a pretty successful show this weekend. He also was featured in Down East Magazine’s 133 Maine-Made Gifts article in their December issue. I’m so proud of him, and glad he can rest for a bit now until it’s time to get ready for the next show!

Austin Smith