Given that so many artists were hard hit economically over the COVID-19 virus, Penobscot Bay Pilot puts a spotlight on the hard-working artists and entrepreneurs in Maine. So each week, until Dec. 25, we will bring you this series until you can’t take it anymore. Ready. Set. Go.
The Original Lobstah Trap Beer Caddy
The back story: The Lobstah Trap Caddy is handcrafted in Maine constructed from authentic Maine lobster trap material. Joe Hamilton has family members that lobster fish and buys the same galvanized wire that lobstermen use when constructing their own traps to make a caddy. “Everybody asks me if I use broken traps and I always tell them, no it’s new: otherwise you’d never get the smell out of the stuff,” he said. He is the first in Maine to make these types of beer and condiment caddies having started in 2010. “I was a woodworker for quite a few years and I built a wooden caddy to hold six craft beers and one day I thought I’d make something different out of lobster wire,” he said. Now, retired, Joe works 20 hours a week in his shop and sells them all over the country to individuals, retail stores as well as to restaurants in the U.S. and overseas. He just sold his first order to a cruise ship this year.
Cost: $39.99 in blue, black or green wire. FMI: Etsy
In his words: “With COVID-19, I actually had better sales since people are shopping online. I probably sell 20 of these a week.”
Smyrna Mills, Maine
The back story: Jack Lilley, a woodworker who owns 623 Woodworks created these solid cherry bookmarks that have been re-sawn, sanded smooth, and then laser cut for uniform size and shape. These are high-quality solid cherry pieces, not plywood. “I got the idea some time ago when I was in L.L. Bean and saw wooden bookmarks and so I acquired a laser engraver and was just coming up with a way to make something from the scraps from Shaker boxes and wood-turned bowls. He said he also creates engraved bookmarks, but it’s his blank cherry bookmarks that are the biggest seller. “They are solid wood and that’s hard to come by these days.”
Cost: $10.00 FMI: Etsy
In his words: “ I have a construction business; that’s what I do for a living but my Etsy shop is probably selling 300-400% higher during the pandemic.”
Fisherman’s Net Air Plant Hanger
The back story: Dana Bettez, a macrame artist, is the owner of My Mini Maine. Her niche features Bohemian-style products like this macrame air plant hanger. “The knotting of this cotton macrame string reminds me of a fisherman's net and each one is anchored by locally sourced driftwood,” she said. “My family and I gather the driftwood on walks we take along the coast. We cut and sand the ends. I use thin macrame cord made from recycled materials to knot in a nautical-style pattern what looks like a net. An air plant is the perfect “catch”—a lot of people say air plants look like something that grows underwater (they don’t!). The plant tucks right into the net and can be removed to water it.”
Cost: $15.00 FMI: Etsy
In her words: “When the pandemic first hit, there definitely was a surge of online sales for awhile, but it has quieted down for the past couple of months.”