By Laura Serino | Photographed by Clayton Simoncic
From our December 2021 issue
FOR ARTS BUFFS
1. Marsden Hartley: Adventurer in the Arts
The Delta variant narrowed the window to see the Bates College Museum of Art’s major Hartley exhibition this fall. But Maine-art aficionados will pore over this hefty exhibition catalog, featuring close to 200 reproductions of the Lewiston-born modernist’s paintings, drawings, photographs, postcards, and other keepsakes from his travels. Essays explore how the self-proclaimed “painter of Maine” drew creative energy from both his homeland and his nomadic spirit. $70.
2. The Isolation Artist
When the enigmatic pop artist Robert Indiana died at his Vinalhaven home in 2018, he left behind a trail of mysteries and minor scandals as motley and provocative as the assemblage art he was known for. Maine author Bob Keyes’ new page-turner, exploring what shaped and plagued the artist behind the famous LOVE statues, will captivate any art lover. $22.
3. Three Little Words Prints
When Emily Foran took part in Instagram’s #isolationcreation, which encouraged stuck-at-home creatives to make art every day, the result was Flowergrams: hand-sketched botanical artwork, colored digitally, that Saco’s Three Little Words mail to your recipient (with a personalized note on an accompanying, telegram-ish card). Foran offers a variety of affordable artwork, from State of Maine ABC’s to limited-edition folk-art prints. $15.
4. Maine Museum Swag
Museum gift shops are underrated shopping destinations. They tend to be well-curated — no surprise there — and filled with locally made creations. Plus, each purchase directly benefits a Maine institution, whether it’s a fleece-lined beanie from the Center for Maine Contemporary Art ($20), dolls of Arctic explorers Robert E. Peary and Matthew A. Henson from Bowdoin’s Peary-MacMillanArctic Museum ($35), or the Farnsworth Art Museum’s lovely post-card book ($9).
5. Portland Symphony Orchestra Passport
When the pandemic changed the way we experienced the arts, Portland’s renowned orchestra launched the PSO Passport, a subscription with an all-digital tier, enabling listeners near and far to stream classical and pops concerts on premiere nights and for 30 days after — and to bone up with neat interactive program books. The PSO’s season includes nine concerts in 2022, running a musical gamut from Shostakovich to Stevie Wonder. $90.
6. Dahlov Ipcar Vinyl Rug
The late, great Maine artist and children’s-book author and illustrator Dahlov Ipcar — the first woman and youngest person ever to have a solo exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art — drew constant inspiration from her midcoast surroundings. The boutique shop Classic Rug Collection, Inc., prints six of her animal designs on vinyl mats with cushioned backs. They’re designed to withstand heavy foot traffic, even if they seem too beautiful to step on. $205–$249.
7. Rackliffe Pottery Bean Pot
Every Mainer has their own take on how much molasses or brown sugar or pork to add to baked beans, but we all agree on the importance of a good pot. This one, made in Blue Hill from clay sourced on the Rackliffe family property, is a handsome way to prep and serve any recipe. Dennis Rackliffe’s work has a reputation for durability, and the family-run pottery studio offers plenty of complementary pieces. Available in blue, yellow, and off-white. $80.
8. Cup of Sea Seaweed Tea
There are more than 250 species of sea veggies in the Gulf of Maine, and Portland’s Cup of Sea harvests a bunch of them — dulse, kelp, bladderwrack, and others — then dries them and blends them with spices and tea leaves. Full of potassium, magnesium, essential amino acids, and antioxidants, seaweed tea is a great gift for the health nut in your life. $13.
9. Skordo x The Lost Kitchen Spices
It’s Maine’s toughest dinner res: the Lost Kitchen, in Freedom, where would-be diners mail a postcard in the spring to be entered in a table lottery. This co-branded gift pack from Portland’s Skordo kitchen store puts chef-owner Erin French’s spice-rack faves at your disposal: herbes de provence, Maine sea salt, juniper berries, and poppy seeds. For home cooks and fans of French’s bestselling memoir or cable reality show. $24.
10. Hearth and Harrow Organic Cloth Napkins
Add an artful touch to any table with hand-drawn, hand-printed cloth napkins from Hearth and Harrow, in Rockport. Each neat design (like these Scandi-esque sardines) is printed with eco-friendly inks on flour-sack cotton. Hearth and Harrow opened its first brick-and-mortar in Camden this summer. $40 for a set of four.
11. Baxter’s Fine Candies
Ever wonder what an Arnold Palmer tastes like in candy form? Try the black-tea-and-lemon hard-candy flavor from Falmouth’s Baxter’s Fine Candies, where confectioners use herbs, teas, and extracts (no corn syrup) to craft Victorian-style drops with a 19th-century candy roller. The five-flavor sampler makes a great gift and includes creamsicle-y orange anise and oh-so-Maine-y maple spice. $25.
FOR OUTDOOR TYPES
12. Tripphammer Hiking Cook Kit
Everything you need and nothing you don’t, made by an honest-to-god blacksmith. Joel Tripp, who’s been taking a hammer to hot iron for the past 30 years, forges each of his pieces in his Saco studio. The kit includes a seven-inch folding-handle frying pan, a utensil set, and a folding trivet. The whole package comes in just under two pounds, so cooking a killer campsite meal won’t weigh you down. $155.
13. Mainers Extreme Cold Mitts
For the serious winter adventurer, the price tag on these puppies reflects the serious engineering that goes into them. The Mainers mitten brand was spun off from Tempshield, a Trenton-based company that outfits NASA scientists with gloves for handling absurdly cold substances. These waterproof mitts have multiple insulating layers plus an interior designed to wick sweat away from skin, plus an extra-long drawstring gauntlet that fits over jacket sleeves to keep snow out. $195.
14. Ken Wise Canoe and Kayak Paddles
A veteran woodcarver and woodturner from Brunswick, Ken Wise uses traditional hand tools to render elegant, functional paddles from spruce, poplar, and other Maine-sourced woods. We found ours at the Maine Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association’s new Freeport store (which also has a selection of Wise’s bowls, flatware, and spinning tops), but Wise will make custom paddles, with a month turnaround, to match your recipient’s taste, height, and paddling style. $80–$300.
15. Evangeline Vintage Pocket Knife
A stylish, perfectly weighted little penknife . . . from a blanket company? Portland’s Evangeline is first and foremost a textiles manufacturer, but the company’s vintage-styled pocketknife, made from a Damascus-steel blade with a bone handle and tiny brass inlays, merges form and function as well as any of their rugged, timeless throws. $85.
16. Wild Design: Nature’s Architects
This brand-new, coffee-table–friendly tome from science writer and essayist (and Down East contributing editor) Kimberly Ridley reflects on wondrous patterns of engineering and design in the natural world — from mineral structures to birds’ nests to underground fungal colonies — accompanied by way-cool vintage scientific illustrations. Readers won’t see a beaver dam or a mushroom the same way again. $25.
17. Linnea Company Dolls
Long handy with a sewing machine, Warren’s Kate Tallberg launched the Linnea Company earlier this year, after having a tough time finding plush-not-plastic dolls for her daughter that reflected a real-life range of skin tones, dress, and hairstyles. Now, her limited-edition runs sell out quickly. Follow @the_linnea_company on Instagram to be among the first to know about Tallberg’s next drop. $118.
18. Salty Rope Swing
The durability of polypropylene rope knows no bounds, which is why lobstermen use it to secure their traps to their buoys. Paul and Wendy Christopherson, husband-and-wife proprietors of Salty Rope Rug Co., use this seafaring staple to create a number of functional products, including this fun, kid-proof swing. Hang it from a tree and leave it up year-round — there isn’t an element it can’t handle. $50.
19. WubbieWorld Felt Creatures
Miniature stuffed critters from the mind of Gardiner’s Isabelle Files, think of Wubbies as less tacky, more fantasy-genre-ish Beanie Babies. Choose from among colorful wubbiecorns, wubbiesaurs, wubdragons, and more, each hand-sewn and sized just right for collecting or kids’ imaginative play. $8–$40.
20. Milling Around Bobbin Kaleidoscope
As Maine’s once-booming textile industry shifted overseas, all kinds of bobbins — spools that held thread and yarn — were left behind. Consequently, antiques store Milling Around, in Newcastle, reputedly holds the country’s largest collection of wooden bobbins, many of which have been repurposed into creations like this kaleidoscope. Owners Ann and Dirk Poole are closing their physical shop but continuing to sell kaleidoscopes online. Simple as they are, they have an heirloom quality. $16.
21. Elise Marie Designs Tie-Dyes
Tie-dye is enjoying a comeback, and designer Elise Marie’s mostly bichrome, none-too-splashy collection is especially stylish, with every item hand-dyed in her Windham studio, no two alike. Marie’s pieces run from baby onesies and bibs to beanies for older kids and crop tees, hoodies, sweatpants, and other loungewear for teens (and adults). $16–$50.
22. The Maine Oracle Divining Cards
An out-of-the-box, non-digital gift idea for a creative teen, this tarot-like card deck relies on Maine imagery (lobsters, lighthouses, blueberries, and the like) to seek insights about the future from the spiritual realm. Designed by Gorham artist Dorette Amell with novice card readers in mind, Maine Oracle cards are fun to flip through and admire even if you’re an occult skeptic. $45.
23. WinterKids Membership
The gift of getting outdoors: an annual family membership with the nonprofit WinterKids entitles active kids to deep discounts (even freebies) on lift tickets, trail passes, admissions, and gear rentals at ski hills, trail systems, skating rinks, and other cold-weather outdoor hubs all across the state. Your recipient just downloads the WinterKids app to scan close to 80 partner orgs across Maine that offer perks for members. $40.
24. Ann Quigley Studio Botanical Press
Keep those heavy books up on the shelf — there’s a better (and cuter) way to preserve your favorite flora. Made by hand from birch or poplar by Portland’s Ann Quigley, these simple, sturdy presses are designed to sandwich flowers, leaves, or ferns between layers of cardboard and let wingnuts and time do the rest. Perfect for amateur botanists. $55.
25. BlueJacket Model Boat Kits
The country’s oldest model-ship company, Searsport’s BlueJacket Shipcrafters was founded in 1905 by renowned model-builder Horace E. Boucher — the Smithsonian has his work in its collection. Plenty of BlueJacket’s projects are for experienced hobbyists only, but the Red Baron lobsterboat kit is geared towards beginners and includes everything a would-be boat-builder needs — tools, glue, paint, etc. — to make a wee Holland 32 (complete with traps), modeled after a legend of Maine’s lobsterboat racing circuit. Ain’t she cunnin’? $180.
26. Heritage Skills for Contemporary Life
Know anybody who dreams of quitting the rat race, downsizing, taking up beekeeping, and making their own soap? Beth Miller, author and rug-hooking maven, went and did it. Two decades ago, she quit working for a defense contractor to run a small homestead in South Paris. Her new book, Heritage Skills for Contemporary Life: Seasons at the Parris House, is part how-to and part autobiography, an homage to what’s possible with a little learning and a lot of grit. $35.
27. Heidi Boyd Whimsy Stitches Kit
Brunswick’s Heidi Boyd is a crafter par excellence and a Better Homes and Gardens vet who’s written more than a dozen books on stitch projects, beaded jewelry, paper art, and more. No less a DIY authority than Martha Stewart has shouted out her Whimsy Kits, informed by years of making tutorials for novices. Each one, like this loon-design needlepoint and appliqué hoop project, comes with a template, supplies, and an illustrated instructional booklet. $20.
28. Flowfold Tool Roll
Hammers and screwdrivers, knitting needles and scissors, pencils and brushes — whatever tools your favorite maker has piling up, Flowfold’s light, stylish Comrade tool roll can help them keep things organized. With eight pockets and an elastic loop to keep it neatly bundled, the roll is durable and water-repellent, made from the recycled, inspired-by-sailcloth fabric that Gorham’s Flowfold is known for. $30.
29. Acorn and Artisan Jewelry
Kelsey Champagne-Smith picked up jewelry making only a couple of years ago, but the boho earrings and pendants that come out of her Dixfield farmhouse studio are among our favorite Maine-made accessories. Champagne-Smith uses polymer clays and scratch-resistant resin, plus the occasional funky stone or angular metal dangly, to make one-of-a-kind pieces that are pretty and versatile. $14–36.
30. Slack Tide Salt Tin
For those times when bland food could benefit from a discreet sprinkle, the In a Pinch salt tin holds half an ounce of pure Maine sea salt. Slack Tide Sea Salt founders Lauren Mendoza and Cathy Martin, a niece-aunt duo, harvest it in their greenhouse in York, pumping in seawater and letting solar evaporation leave the snow-white crystals behind. Jars come in flavors like lemon-rosemary and ghost pepper, but they’re less purse/pocket-friendly. Tins $5; jars $9–$16.
31. Maidenhair & Moss Small-Batch Soaps
As pretty to look at and nice to smell as they are to use in the bath, these made-in-Cushing bar soaps benefit from botanicals that soapmaker Lynn Pushaw Spence harvests from around Muscongus Bay. It’s hard to pick a favorite, but we’re fond of Warm Flannel, with its notes of patchouli and vanilla, and Maine Woods, a piney scrub. $8.
32. Schoppee Farm CBD Pâte de Fruit
The organic-hemp farmers of Machias’s Schoppee Farm are the eighth generation to work their family land down east, formerly a dairy farm and a haying operation. For grownups seeking a little relief from stress or insomnia, their Old World–style fruit squares are luscious little treats in six flavors, including Maine wild blueberry, with 20 milligrams of CBD extract per square. A classier alternative to workaday CBD gummies — and Schoppee makes some elegant little chocolates too. $25 for a box of six, $45 for a dozen.
33. Cast & Carve Cribbage Pegs
For those who can articulate Colvert’s Rule by heart — and, okay, for players who take their cribbage a little less seriously — these hand-sanded maple pegs offer dozens of options for personalizing one’s game: a whole menagerie of animals, lighthouses and lobsters, tiny dirt bikes and snowboards, even (for some reason?) a little hand flipping the bird. Each set is made in Winthrop, where Cast & Carve’s woodworkers will do custom designs too. $12.