by Ardeana Hamlin
of The Weekly Staff
BANGOR — Maine by Mainers, which began in the basement of St. Michael’s Catholic church in Cherryfield, now has a shop in Bangor. The purpose of the shop is to support programs that aid young people in Down East Maine who are dealing with issues of hunger, homelessness and suicide.
It has taken more than three years for Maine by Mainers to arrive at 96 Harlow St. in Bangor, said Oonah Ryan of Veazie, one of the organization’s founders. The shop is housed in the Smaha Building, diagonally opposite the Bangor Public Library.
“It’s the kindness of artists and photographers who have donated prints of Maine for use on fabric and tile that has made this possible,” Ryan said. “We could not have done this without their help.” The prints on fabric are used in making quilts and quilted items sold at the shop.
Currently, more than a dozen artists and artisans have work available for purchase at the shop. Items include hand-dyed silk scarves and onesies, paintings, prints, quilts and quilted items, tiles, fabric purses and tote bags, photographs and slender tables made of cherry or maple embellished with a tile set in the center. The store carries items made by hand by artists and artisans from Bangor, Harrington, Hope, Lincoln, Old Town, Sullivan, Milbridge, Prospect Harbor, Swanville, Veazie, Dover-Foxcroft, Newburgh, Eddington, Unity and Lagrange. Prices range from $3 to $375.
Ryan, 81, who came to Maine from Michigan in 2004 to be near family members, brought with her a background in screen printing, marketing and a job training program in Detroit. After arriving in Maine, she found a job with the EdGe, or Ed Greaves Education, named for a wealthy summer resident of Addison who endowed the program. EdGe is an afterschool youth development program of the Maine Sea Coast Mission for students in grades four through 12 in the coastal area of Washington County, where the rate of unemployment rate often is high. She worked for the program in Cherryfield for a year, helping students learn how to make screen printed totebags.
It was at that point, having observed how a lack of work adversely affected families in the area, that she “wanted to do something to enable people to survive on their own,” she said.
It was after she met Joan Height of Cherryfield, and Height’s friend Joyce Sawyer of Harrington, that the idea for Maine by Mainers began to grow. The three women acquired sewing machines and taught unemployed women to sew, enabling them to produce Maine-themed fabric bags and pillows in their homes. Ryan applied for and received a grant to train the seamstresses in marketing the items they produced.
When Ryan, Height and Sawyer began their endeavor, Ryan said, they all were beyond the age of 75. “I learned you’re never too old to make a difference,” Ryan said.
When Ryan met quilter Rosalita Feero of Eddington at a fiber arts show held at the Bangor Public Library several years ago, she arranged for the Down East seamstresses to visit Feero’s studio to learn quilting and other sewing techniques.
Feero now is one of the people who volunteers at the Maine by Mainers shop. Marilyn Roselle, Nancy Waldron, Cathy Gosslin and Ryan also volunteer at the store.
Ryan said she began a year ago to want a store for Maine by Mainers after having spent time vending the organization’s handmade items at street fairs and craft shows. “Marilyn [Roselle] saw a ‘for rent’ sign, she called me and said, ‘Come now. Store available.’ It all happened that quickly,” Ryan said. “It all went together in three days.”
Future plans call for quilting classes that Feero will conduct, and screen printing classes that Ryan will teach.
Arts and artisans represented at Maine by Mainers includes Ann and Paul Breeden, Maine prints;
Maine by Mainers members, quilts and tiles adorned with photographic images donated by Kevin White, Roger Stevens, Paul and Ann Breeden, and Jan Kilburn; Tom Small, walking sticks and pen and ink watercolors; Lois Gopin, oil paintings and prints; Roger Stevens, mirrors and cards; Unity Pond Pottery; Nancy Waldron, quilted bags; Cindy Godwin, handbags, baby knits and tea cozies; Sabi Press, cards; Dianne Horton, watercolors; Sister Mary Norberta, photographs; Marilyn Rozelle, sachet scarves, children’s clothing and bags; Tera Fey, wallhangings; and Rosalita Feero, art quilts, hand-dyed onesies and silk scarves.
Maine by Mainers had its Grand Opening on April 20. Store hours are 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 10 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday. After entering the Smaha Building, a series of yellow footprint cutouts leads shoppers to the store entrance, which is handicapped accessible.
For information, call 942-3222 or go to mainebymainers.com.