Handcrafted Maine

It’s no secret that over at Lodestars Anthology HQ we are obsessed with fine print, beautiful words and exceptional photography – if we can find all this in a single publication (one that celebrates creativity, community and the landscape), then our adoration is going to be next level. So, not surprisingly, we were delighted to discover Handcrafted Maine, a new coffee table book that profiles 22 craftspeople, producers and creatives who call Maine home. Focussing on the stunning natural setting as much as their featured personalities, the book is a wonderful inducement to travel, consider the land and possibly even get your own project up and running.

Handcrafted Maine is written by Katy Kelleher – who, as a writer and editor, specialises in stories about creators, culture and food sustainability – and photographed by Greta Rybus, who hail from Buxton and Portland respectively. The tones are soothing, workspaces brim with colour and detail, the coastline, farms and woodland entice, and even the coldest of winter scenes will have you yearning to venture to this unique, north-east pocket of the US. The writing is honest and insightful (it’s wonderful to come across pieces that look at the challenges associated with creative living, as well as the unparalleled joys), and the entire publication is something you want to savour over copious pots of tea. To understand more about Handcrafted Maine we had a chat to Greta and, as you can imagine, fell even more in love with this stunning project (and those it features).

What inspired you to create this book?

The editor of the book, Jan Cigliano Hartman, had the idea for the book and began working with publishers at Princeton Architectural Press. She called me about the project several years ago and I immediately wanted to be a part of it. I had recently moved to Maine from the west, and I was really struck by Maine’s culture of creativity and resilience. Jan brought writer Katy Kelleher on to the team, and she is an exceptional storyteller. Together, we spent a year or two planning, developing, researching, and refining the concept of the book. We broadened the idea of ‘craftsman’ from just artists to other producers and creators, including farmers, wilderness guides, chefs, and fishermen. We wanted to include people who use creative mindsets to work with the land or the sea as well. We then spent a little over a year visiting people around the state, Katy writing and researching as I took the photographs. The book was released in July 2017 and it’s been really heartening to see the welcoming and enthusiastic response to the book.

Do you have a particularly memorable shooting experience from this project?

Working on this book was a beautiful adventure and like all good adventures, it left me with some great stories. Maine is an enormous state; we drove hundreds of kilometres and spent entire days in the car to reach the more remote locations. Sometimes we’d pull over during a long late-summer drive to pick wild blueberries on the side of the road. We both got seasick while going out to sea in extreme January waves while documenting lobstermen at work. Wilderness guide Jen Brophy of Red River Camps taught us how to correctly paddle a canoe and I went ice-skating with the beer makers on the pond at Oxbow Brewery after photographing the brewing process.

What do you enjoy most about shooting in Maine?

Maine is a place with four very distinct seasons. The winters are harsh and long, the spring is bright and verdant, the summer is mild and savoured by both tourists and locals and the autumn is brilliant with colour. The extremity of our seasons requires a certain mentality: this challenging place rewards grit and resilience and a responsiveness to land, sea and weather. In my work as a photographer in Maine I often document strong connections between humans and the natural world. People either make their livelihoods around the environment or find inspiration in the landscape. Like a lot of people in Maine, my own work is really informed by the natural world, but it’s also really informed by the people in my local community. I am able to survive as a photographer here because there are so many people in Maine who are doing innovative and interesting work – and I often get assigned to photograph them!

Has working on this book changed how you view Maine and its creatives?

Working on this book deepened my appreciation for Maine and the people that work here. I also got to understand how special the creative economy is in Maine. This state has a deep connection to art that is woven throughout its history: writers like E.B. White and Edna St. Vincent Millay, painters like Winslow Homer and Marsden Harltey, and entrepreneurs like L.L. Bean all based their creative enterprises in Maine. Those traditions have never left Maine and it’s a part of everyday life here. Painters still flock to Monhegan island to paint en plein air. You can buy lobsters  directly from the lobstermen on coastal wharves. You can walk into any bookstore and see entire shelves filled with books by Maine writers. Most Maine highways, like Route 1, are dotted with art studios open to the public.

The book gave us an opportunity to have deeper conversations with the people that continue these traditions, while forging new innovative paths within their craft or field. We wanted to create a book with a lot of substance, so we made sure to [capture] both the beauty and struggle of creative work. We talked about the freedom of being self employed and financial burden of operating creative business. We discussed the how racism and sexism can impact artists. We documented the satisfaction an artist feels when making something truly unique, and the joy of creating in a landscape like Maine’s.

You can see more of Greta’s images here – and order a copy of Handcrafted Maine by clicking here.

“Creativity isn’t just about painting or building or writing … creativity is forging new pathways. It’s coming at a problem from a new direction. It’s building bridges where you see chasms. A creative is someone who conceives of a new solution. A maker is someone who turns that solution into a physical reality.” Katy Kelleher, p. 22. 

Georgina Skinner

Meet Georgina Skinner, the photographer behind our soon-to-be-released New Zealand cover. A rather talented lass who splits her time between Aotearoa and the UK and who has a knack for capturing light and life. Prepare for a little dose of Southern Hemisphere wanderlust … (fun fact – you can pre-order our New Zealand magazine here
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When did you start taking photographs? 
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Photography started out for me when I was a kid with my parents film cameras, but as soon as it was introduced to me as a subject I could take for school it very quickly went from a hobby to something I wanted to make a living from. 
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How would you describe your photographic style? 
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It took me a few years to find my style and to settle with one look, but it was one day in Paris – I found myself consistently shooting in a specific way. I was drawn to the lighter colours of the city and buildings and from then on I always shot this way and applied my style to all my work. I often get asked if my work is a photograph or a painting, so I suppose that would be my style!  Occasionally I will have a day and find myself shooting dark scenes and situations with a hint of colour, but rarely.
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Is there a particular New Zealand area or subject that means something special to you? 
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The whole journey from Christchurch through Arthurs Pass to the West Coast is special to me. It was the first journey I took when I moved here from England and it was a complete shock to me as to how somewhere could be that beautiful! Now it is our journey home and it will forever remain dear to me.
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Where is home for you in new Zealand? 
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My fiancé Stephen and I live on the West Coast of New Zealand. It was a massive change from working in PR in the centre of London to being thrown into dairy farming and working on my photography business Print By George from our front room, but I feel so settled here and now we are getting married. This is home for life.
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Do you have a favourite part of New Zealand? 
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When I think of all the places I have travelled [to] within New Zealand, I always get excited to get back to the West Coast and home. It is so quiet and secluded compared to what I am used to and having our two dogs waiting for us makes this the best place.
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Is shooting in New Zealand different to other parts of the world? 
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The light and the landscape is so totally different to the UK. When I lived in Melbourne the light was so warm and the landscape so vast. Going from that to London where you don’t see so much of the sky and the days are short in the winter, it was a massive adjustment. Now living in New Zealand the sky is enormous, with stunning mountains and sunsets. It is the perfect mix of English and Australian light and I love shooting in it! We truly get four seasons throughout the year and the light is so different for each one. It’s exciting to shoot at all times of the year, but when it rains it pours and that is a day to stay inside and get the computer work done!
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Do you have a favourite subject?
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The landscape is a new one. I adore shooting the landscape now that I live in a beautiful one, but my true passion which has stayed with me from day one would be interiors and homes. That is where I started out with photography and I will continue forever to shoot and love them.
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Has there been a particularly enjoyable shoot? 
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A shoot I did recently in my family’s Greek home in Corfu would be a very enjoyable one. It was shot for NZ House & Gardens magazine and it looked beautiful for the issue. It also helped that Stephen proposed to me on this trip – unforgettable!
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You’ve photographed both the North and South Islands – do you find these different in any way?
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The South Island is a lot more rural and you can drive a long way without seeing a property. It is rugged and quite untouched whereas the North is a smaller island and there is a lot more going on with bigger cities closer together. I don’t prefer shooting one over the other, however I see the South Island a lot more and so shooting opportunities come up more frequently.
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What advice do you have for someone considering a career as a photographer?
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Keep at it and believe in yourself. I had many ‘doubt’ days when I started out with my photography. I wasn’t convinced with my style and aesthetic and I didn’t believe that anyone would be interested in it either. It took me a bit of time to gain that confidence and to be able to talk about my work without feeling like I was trying to force it upon someone – once I felt I could do this, the belief and hard work started to pay off and now I can’t believe where my photography has taken me.
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Sam Caldwell

The illustrator Sam Caldwell contributed to our Sweden and Canada issues. Sarah Kelleher finds out more about this talented artist.

Could you tell us a little bit about your background – where you trained/ how you learned and what inspired you to become an artist and illustrator when you were younger?

I grew up in Bolton, a town just north of Manchester. For as long as I can remember I have always been interested in storytelling and have tried to document the world around me. Drawing and painting have always been the most natural way for me to do this.

I moved up to Edinburgh in 2010 where I studied painting at the Edinburgh College of Art. I initially went to study illustration but switched over to the art department in the first week as it seemed a lot more fun!

I moved to South-East London after graduating and have since been chasing a career in freelance illustration.

You’ve lived in a number of places, from Lancashire, to Edinburgh to South-East London.  Have the locations you’ve lived in influenced your work in any way?  Are there any landscapes that are particularly important to you?

Yeah absolutely, place is very important to me. I think growing up in a post-industrial town has had a huge influence on the kind of images I make. I love the moorland around Bolton, the old terrace streets and disused mills still loom large for me.

Discovering the Hebrides and the Highlands of Scotland were a big thing too – looking back at the work I made whilst living in Edinburgh, so much of it was inspired by windswept Scottish landscapes and the idea of North.

It has really only been in the past few months that I’ve seen London seep into my work. Since moving down here I have struggled to figure out how to make a living from drawing and have tried on a few different creative hats in the process. It is only recently that I have started to look around me again and make pictures based on my surroundings. I’m really interested in trying to document some of the struggles living in this city throws up.

Looking at your work, it’s clear that you enjoy creating and referencing comic book art.  Are there any comic book artists whose work you particularly like or are inspired by?  Are you working on your own comic-book projects?

Comics are a fairly recent interest for me. I read the Beano and the Dandy as a kid but it’s only been in the past couple of years that I have started drawing my own and really thinking about it as a medium for story telling. My way in was through Chris Ware’s Jimmy Corrigan as well as the first few Nobrow anthologies. Jon McNaught has been a big influence on how I’ve thought about comics – he has an incredible knack for creating a sense of place through these slow, often uneventful stories.

I just finished ‘Hubert’ by Ben Gijsemans which I would highly recommend to anyone who likes the quieter side of comics.

The main comics project I am working on at the minute is a collaboration with a writer based in Austin, Texas called James McNulty. He sent me a screenplay a few months ago and we are working on adapting it into a graphic novel. It’s tonally similar to something like ‘The Missing’ or True Detective’. The story is set in small town America and focuses on a series of kidnappings. It is pretty dark stuff but it had me totally gripped on my first read through!

You’ve produced work for a number of publications and shows, and although there is great variety in your work, it’s also possible to tell that each piece was created by you – how have you developed your own personal style over the years?

That’s very kind of you to say so! I don’t think it is a particularly conscious thing, hopefully it is something which has happened naturally. That said, I have always found it useful to draw quick versions of other artist’s work. I think it is a really useful way to learn how people you admire use line and shape and space.

I used to draw pretty obsessively, filling sketchbooks with drawings of photographs I would find on blogs and in books as well as invented characters and scenes. I still try to get at least one drawing down every day. Style is definitely defined to some degree by what materials you use too. I find that I draw completely differently with a pencil than I do with a brush and ink for example.

The pieces you’ve worked on for Lodestars Anthology have been related to the cultural life of the different countries covered by the magazine, and you have been very adept in referencing the books and films from the written pieces in your art.  Do you have a strong interest in literature, film and music?  How does this play out in your work?

I definitely have a real interest in all of those things, anything which tells a good story or seems to have a unique perspective on the world always grabs my attention. Although I definitely don’t read as much as I would like to, I do often find inspiration in fiction and poetry. I’ve been working on turning a series of Simon Armitage poems into comics recently actually. Film is a pretty big influence too; I will usually have to dig back through movies to take screengrabs or photos of particular scenes and shots. I love work which nods to or references its source of inspiration in some way. Inspiration can come from almost anywhere, you just have to learn to be receptive to it and always carry a notebook!

You use pen and ink, ink wash, pencil and digital art to create your work – do you have a favourite medium to work in?  Do you like to experiment with new mediums?

I love working with physical materials. I feel as though I am in a constant battle with Photoshop and my tablet, always trying to make my images more print friendly and contemporary. Working digitally is great for tight deadlines and getting a clean finish but I always seem to find myself going back to my trusty set of watercolour paints. I really like the unpredictability of using a watery wash of paint or ink, building images up from loads of thin layers allows me to get colours and textures I just can’t achieve working digitally.

I enjoy trying out new mediums from time to time, drawing with a dip pen and a pot of ink is fairly new to me and something which has really changed my approach to making pictures. You can’t mess around too much with ink, it forces you to roll with any mistakes and work a lot more confidently than you would in pencil for instance.

Your work encompasses both landscape and portraiture – do you enjoy working in both these areas?  Do you have a favourite?

I like both equally I think. I am really interested in the idea of place and how people relate to and are to some degree defined by their surroundings. I like to think of my pictures as stills from a film. I want my pictures to evoke some sense of narrative and to have a definite character. I think you can get just as much character from a landscape as you can from a portrait.

Your work is very atmospheric – often with a muted, or deep colour palette that can seem quite ominous, and we particularly saw this in the illustration you did for ‘Let the Right One In’ in the Swedish Literature piece for Lodestars.  Do you enjoy creating works of art with a slightly darker feel?

That piece was fun because I got the chance to read up on a film that I am almost certainly not brave enough to actually watch!

Without sounding too gloomy, I am definitely more drawn to things with a darker feel to them. Not so much horror but I have been told that my pictures often have a certain feeling of melancholia to them. I guess I just find that kind of thing more intriguing. It is probably a bit of a hangover from my teenage years spent reading Philip Larkin and listening to The Smiths! The films, books and pictures that really resonate with me usually have a similar tone to my illustrations. Generally speaking, I am interested in depicting characters who seem to have a complex story surrounding them. I think that often darker stories are more engaging than light-hearted ones.

Your portraiture and people work is very expressive – how do you set about conveying a sense of emotion or character through your artwork of people and personalities?

It’s all about the eyes and eyebrows, these are undoubtedly the most expressive parts of the face. If you can get those right, then the rest of the portrait usually follows pretty easily. I always start with a loose layout in very faint pencil. Once I’m settled on the composition I will tighten up this pencil layer and sketch in some of the facial features. The bulk of the working out is done at this stage. I then get the ink pot out and draw the face. I always start with the eyes. I like to do this stage fairly quickly; faster lines almost always look better than laboured ones. Once I have inked out all the line work I go about blocking in the first layer of watercolour. This is undoubtedly a backwards way of doing things but I often find my colour palette is influenced by the feel of the drawing underneath.

Do you have any illustrators whose work you particularly admire and follow?  If yes, then why these artists?

I admire tons of people’s work, the list is endlessly growing.

Ben Shahn is my absolute all time favourite painter. His pictures really capture a particular time and place and are an endless source of inspiration for me. As far as current working illustrators go, Dadu Shin, Roman Muradov, Patrick Leger, Sam Bosma, Eleni Kalorkati, Lizzy Stewart, Benji Davis, Thomas Haugomat, Matt Rockefeller, Adrian Tomine and Jordan Crane are all excellent, to name but a few. Closer to home, anyone reading should check out the work of Seamus Killick, Tom Brice, Jamie Johnson, Mark Connolly, Sarah Sheard, Laura Griffin, Efa Dyfan, Kyle Noble, Tiina Lilja, Gwen Kehrig-Darton, Herbert Green, Ben Hall and Supermarche.

 

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