The Brooms at Wiscasset’s Village Handcraft Will Sweep You Off Your Feet

Shopkeeper Eric McIntyre’s handmade brooms are designed to be displayed and used.

Broom making is a surprisingly physical art, says Eric McIntyre, owner of Village Handcraft. His workshop participants need some dexterity (not just for the cleanup).
Broom making is a surprisingly physical art, says Village Handcraft’s McIntyre. His workshop participants need some dexterity (not just for the cleanup).
By Adrienne Perron
Photographed by Tara Rice
From our October 2022 issue

Chances are you don’t think much about the aesthetic appeal of your broom handle. Eric McIntyre does, though — and not only that, the 29-year-old woodworker and broom maker thinks about comfort as well as beauty, steering clear of twisty wood that feels unnatural to hold when he harvests saplings to carve into handles. “I want people to see my broom hanging on their wall and want to use it,” he says.

Last October, McIntyre opened Village Handcraft, in downtown Wiscasset, where he makes and sells his artful brooms and other handmade wooden home goods. He learned to carve as a kid, but his interest in handcrafts deepened in 2018, during an internship with Bristol’s Maine Coast Craft School. He made his first broom shortly after, to use around his apartment. At the time, he was teaching forest ecology at Wiscasset’s Chewonki outdoor-education school, and when he told his students about it, they wanted to learn to make their own brooms too. Last summer, when he saw the empty storefront, he decided on a whim to take his hobby full-time.

Now, McIntyre hosts beginners’ classes in both broom making and woodworking. Students can make their own hand brooms — small brooms without wooden handles — or cobweb brooms, which have long, thin stalks of broomcorn, for getting webs out of corners. McIntyre sells both styles at Village Handcraft, along with traditional kitchen brooms and kid-size brooms and elegant bowls, spoons, vases, and more. In the front of the shop, his handmade sawhorse sits surrounded by shavings from various projects. When visitors come in, he’ll often demonstrate carving for them, and he can pick up any of his old shavings and say which project it was planed, gouged, or chiseled off of. “People love seeing messes,” McIntyre says. “And I’m a professional mess maker.”

Tell Us More
Eric McIntyre

What goes into making a broom?
After I carve a sapling, I leave the bark to dry for several months. Then, I carve it again, using a draw knife and a sawhorse, to become a broom handle. Next, I take layers of broomcorn stalks that have been soaked in water for several hours, to be soft and pliable, and I attach them to the broom by weaving the outermost layer and binding it to the handle.

Why a brick-and-mortar store?
I don’t sell online, so people have to come in and see and touch my work before they buy it, so that they know it’s a good fit for them. I also wanted to have a place where I could teach — workshops are a good place to find a sense of belonging and celebrate craft together.

Any future plans for the place?
I want to host a visiting makers series so people can watch other makers at work. I hosted violin maker Jacob Brillhart last winter, and I’ll be hosting bowl turner Zachary Chrisinger in October. I’d also love to make furniture. I named my store a broad name on purpose — maybe I’m a broom maker and spoon carver this year and a basket weaver next year. I don’t know how to weave right now, but I believe in my ability to learn.

What would you say is special about a handmade broom?
Every time I pick up a broom to sweep my shop, I think of the sapling at the cabin I helped build last summer that’s now the handle of my broom. Sweeping becomes an experience of remembering. I’m certainly not saving the world by making brooms — but I’m not making it worse, either.

Brooms $19–$100, classes $70–$100. 52 Water St., Wiscasset. 207-814-8720.