HANCOCK, Maine — One coiled bunch of rope after another was delivered by the pickup truck load to Coastal Recycling Center on Route 182 on Friday.
Roughly eight hours later, more than 40 boxes, each containing 64 cubic feet in volume, had been filled with the old fishing line, enough to fill a tractor-trailer. The ultimate destination for the rope is the Far East, according to organizers of the collection effort.
Down East Maine lobstermen, having deemed the rope no longer suitable, were selling it for a price of 50 cents per pound, roughly one-fourth the price of what they paid for it but half a dollar more than they would get if they were to throw it away. Several fisherman brought in a few thousand pounds of rope and received more than $1,000 in return.
The rope is being recycled, in a way, though its usefulness for catching fish has passed. About 1,000 pounds of the rope was loaded into a small pickup truck by Michelle Kinerson, owner of Cape Porpoise Trading Co., who was taking it back to Kennebunkport to weave it into doormats.
The rest of it — more than 40,000 pounds — was purchased by Orly Genger, and she wants more of it. The New York City artist, whose large woven-rope landscape sculptures have garnered her critical acclaim in recent years, has a goal of collecting 200,000 pounds in order to have more than 2 million linear feet of rope, which she estimates she will need for her next piece.
Laura Ludwig works for the Center for Coastal Studies in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and manages the buyback program for Genger. She said Friday other buyback sessions will be scheduled in Maine and other New England states in order to collect the amount of rope Genger needs. She said the sessions are expected to be spread throughout the next 18 months.
The rope collected in Hancock on Friday is expected to be shipped down to Brooklyn, New York, in the next week or so, Ludwig said. It eventually will become part of a permanent piece on display in South Korea, she said, but she did not know any other details about the planned artwork.
Genger, contacted Saturday by email, confirmed the rope collected in Hancock on Friday is for a permanent piece that will be installed in South Korea, but said she could not release other details.
Genger said she used to work with rock-climbing rope, but since she began acquiring much larger quantities of old fishing line, her work has changed dramatically. By using the rope in a new, unintended way, it creates an element of potential surprise for people see her work up close.
“It has allowed me to work on a much larger scale than I could before by many multiples,” Genger wrote. “Switching to the reclaimed fishing rope has also added another layer of meaning since it is a material that carries with it a previous life and I am reusing it in a way that it could live yet again.”
Genger said she enjoys working with rope, in part because it is so malleable and yet in large quantities can be fashioned into structural forms.
“I can manipulate the material in my hands so that has an intimacy to it,” she said. “Yet by the simple accumulation of the material and my repetitive knotting process the rope can grow into structures much larger than what fits in my hands. It is a great way to build.”
Channon Jones, a lobsterman from Trescott, brought in about 3,000 pounds of old rope to the Hancock buyback session Friday. He said he used to get five or six years of use out of the rope he would use between traps on his multi-trap trawls until federal rules prohibited the use of floating rope more than a few miles offshore.
Jones said he needs to use neutrally buoyant or sinking groundlines between his traps, which he said lasts maybe two or three years before it needs to be switched. He said if he tried to use it longer, it would wear through against the ocean bottom and break, causing him to lose traps.
He said he pays more than $2 per pound for new rope, so it’s good to get something back for the old rope he can’t use anymore.
“At least it’s something,” he said of the 50 cents per pound offered by Genger. “And you’re not just throwing it in the trash.”
Jones said it’s not just getting some money back that interests him in Genger’s efforts. He said he and his family drove to upstate New York to visit friends in May 2013, but they traveled to New York City afterward specifically to see Genger’s “Red, Yellow and Blue” rope installation in Madison Square Park.
He said he sold old rope to Genger for that piece, too.
It was rainy when they went to see the work, he said, but it still impressed him. All the rope had been woven into shape and painted in the three bright colors.
“It was quite amazing to see all the work she had gone into,” Jones said.
However, despite his interest in Genger’s work and the personal connection he feels to it, Jones said he has no plans to travel to South Korea to see her next piece.