When it was time for ceramist Alison Evans to “get real” about her life, she “naturally” gravitated back to a community where she spent much of her youth: Boothbay Harbor.
“It’s one of the most beautiful places in the entire world,” said the 46-year-old owner of Ae Ceramics and Ae Home Store at 93 Townsend Avenue. But the community’s beauty wasn’t the biggest reason she was drawn here. It was the community’s embrace of entrepreneurship.
“I love how there’s so many small businesses,” she said. “There’s so many mom-and-pops. There’s a lot of people who are entrepreneurs here. I think for me, when I was younger, trying to figure out my life, I was really inspired by all the people here who had made a life for themselves by having their own businesses, whether it was like landscaping or fishing or whatever it might have been. It just seemed like a place where you could come and build your own business, if you wanted to.”
At age 25, Evans was creating ceramics for other people in New York City, but was miserable. Maine tugged at her.
“I was too scared to do it for a while. I didn’t think I could make it on my own like that,” she said.
She decided to just go.
“The fear of not doing it became greater than the fear of doing it,” she said.
She found herself a waitressing job, connected with a local ceramist with whom she traded labor for use of his equipment, and slowly began building her own ceramics business.
At the heart of her work are marine life-inspired designs, most notably her Oyster Series of platters, plates, and bowls.
“I refused to be a starving artist. That was one of the decisions I made: ‘I am gonna do this and I’m gonna do this well,’” she said.
To that end, she knew she had to find a design that would appeal to a lot of people.
“I chose something that I knew people would love,” she said. “I knew oysters would speak to people other than myself.”
After a short foray out of state, she returned to Boothbay Harbor with her growing family, setting up house, studio, and more recently, a home goods store, on Townsend Avenue within sight of the Opera House at Boothbay Harbor.
She initially was nervous about being able to meet her I-won’t-be-a-starving-artist goal because of the seasonal nature of retail in Boothbay Harbor, but most of her sales are wholesale to home goods stores all over the U.S.
“That has carried me and helped me build the business to what it is,” she said. “And then, along the way, the world changed, and the internet became the place where people shopped.”
From her early waitressing days to today, the support of the people in the community has been a constant fuel to keep pursuing her own small business dream, she said.
“They believed in me… and that was super powerful for me,” she said. “There are just so many cool people around here that have been a part of my life and inspired me to just not be scared to do it.”