If we had lost sight of our sense of community during the digital age, perhaps a silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic may be that we are once again finding value in these connections. It’s ironic that this is happening during a time of forced or self-imposed social distancing, and yet our state’s artists and makers are just one example of a community of people stepping up to fulfill important needs during this uncertain time.
Maine prides itself on the fact that its residents haven’t lost various skills of self-sufficiency: felling trees and chopping wood, tilling soil, and making things with our hands. While none of us were ready for a pandemic of this size and scope, Maine makers have skills at the ready to help pitch in and support those on the frontlines in the struggle against COVID-19. Distilleries are making hand sanitizer, glass artists are making ventilator splitters, and graphic designers and illustrators are helping to get the message out that staying in is crucial. Other makers are confronting the current shortage of medical grade face masks.
Flowfold, a company that originally started on Peaks Island and now operates in the bustle of Westbrook’s manufacturing scene, has suspended the production of their line of bags, packs, wallets, and accessories and shifted their efforts to making medical face shields which are in short supply. With equipment, labor skills, and processing already in place, they are able to test and produce large quantities quickly and send them out to some of Maine’s largest health care providers.
While Flowfold is able to make masks on a large scale, they are by no means alone in this effort. Other Archipelago makers have stepped up to the plate as well. Kurier, a Portland leather goods business headed by maker Jasmine Clayton, designed and published a pattern for face masks which includes a space for carbon filters, a crucial piece for the safety and security of medical workers. Like many other self-employed businesses along the coast of Maine, Jasmine has concerns about keeping her small staff employed and the business afloat. And yet, she is finding the time—in between fulfilling online orders for bags and clutches and facilitating home-school for her children—to make masks and deliver them to a designated drop-off location in her area.
Makers of all kinds of goods are also getting inspired to do their part. Kristy Dennison is a potter with a home-based business, Good Land Pottery, in Montville. A newer maker to Archipelago, her birch mugs have already become a favorite of our customers. She and her family have been working diligently making face masks as well and sharing pictures along the way via her business’s Instagram account. Makers are sharing materials too. Molly Thompson of Pretty Flours, who makes dishtowels, aprons, and napkins, has given her seconds to another sewer who is recycling them for face masks.
The ingenuity of Maine’s artists and makers, as well as artist and makers across the country, is encouraging in these uncertain times. Our creative and often empathic spirit not only allows for us to think, “How can I use my skills to contribute now?,” but history has shown how sometimes the most important artwork comes out of troubled times arising from the artist’s internal call to process our collective pain.
Archipelago and the Island Institute would like to recognize all of Maine’s artists and makers for their contributions during this time—three cheers!
Thank you for your efforts to support our communities, our medical workers, and each other.
Thank you for sharing your sketches, photographs, paintings, and wooden boxes.
Thank you for showing us that our community is stronger than ever, and just how much we need each other now and in the times to come.