Finding "fine works" of art

By Diana Graettinger, Of the NEWS Staff

Twinkling gold jewelry, intricately carved eagles and finely woven clothing. The descriptions roll easily off the tongue while viewing the work of a new group of artisans who have called themselves, appropriately, “Fine Works.”

They were artisans and friends first, now they are business partners as they approach their first show from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday Nov, 18, and noon to 4 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 19, at the Daylily Studio on the South Princeton Road in Baileyville.

And the show will present the very best in American Indian and non-Indian artwork. Their work touches each aspect of art: handcrafted beadwork, hand-woven articles, dyed clothing, fine art, woodcut greeting cards, Christmas cards, sterling silver and gold art objects, baskets, finely crafted jewelry, wood carvings, quilts, tote bags, handbags and leathercraft.

Master carver Pete Moore is a member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe at Indian Township. His carved eagles look real enough to take wing and fly. He also does extensive leatherwork and creates works of beauty and function from baby-sized moccasins to traditionally carved walking and talking sticks.

A talking stick is used in a talking circle and is passed to each person in a group. The person who holds the stick dominates the conversation.

Moore, his strong hands peeling away slivers of wood on the walking stick he was creating, talked about his artwork. “Eagles signify our strength and [our connection] to our ancestors. They are a sacred bird to us,” he said. He said it takes about a week to carve a walking stick.

“It depends on how much I put on it. I’ve been working on this eagle for two days,” he said.

Former Pennsylvania native Nan Sepik has been weaving, sewing and dyeing for 25 years. From her Daylily Studio in Baileyville she offers hand-woven scarves, jackets, vests, hats and her line of uniquely dyed women’s clothing. Sepik urges her customers to let themselves be pampered by the buttery-soft chenille scarves she creates and the one and only Daylily Bloomers. In the old days they were called tie-dyed underwear. She also produces hand-painted vest fabrics.

“All of us are into some form of traditional crafting form that we’ve worked years and years to perfect. It’s not something we learned from a kit,” she said.

Gal Frey, a member of the Passamaquoddy Tribe, is known for her intricate and unique beadwork. She is an apprentice basket maker to nationally renowned basket maker Sylvia Gabriel, also of Indian Township. “I’m local, I’m not transplanted,” Frey said with a laugh as she contrasted her ties to Washington County with those of her friends.

Working at her home at Indian Township, surrounded by pictures of her mother, Jeannette Moore, and her grandmother, Mary Moore, she used a sharp needle to pick up tiny beads of many colors. She was creating a dragonfly. It soon will be part of a necklace.

Frey’s talents come from her ancestors. She said her mother and grandmother made regalia, the leather dresses tribal women wear for ceremonies. Her grandmother and mother were basket makers. Frey said she recalls as a little girl making baskets with her mother and father, Fred. “I remember weaving baskets — they were so big I would have to spread my legs [to hold them],” she said.

Scott Withers, formerly of Boston, Mass., lives in Cooper and is a silversmith. He makes fine jewelry in silver and gold with and without gemstones. He also crafts large silver hand-raised cups and bowls using the same technique of that other New England silversmith, Paul Revere.

Sue Martell of Fabrications, the only other Washington County-born artist in the group, has been playing with fiber creations since childhood. Over time the former Down East native’s interests have broadened to include sewing, quilting, basket making and a newly developed passion for weaving. Her collection includes functional items for home and personal use such as quilts, tote bags, baskets and hand-woven dish towels in many beautiful colors and designs.

Beverly Runyan, formerly of Pennsylvania, has been a graphic designer for 10 years and an artist all of her life. Her business, Drawing Room Graphics, develops printed marketing materials for small businesses. She makes hand-printed greeting cards for each season of the year, and hand-pulled woodcut prints, framed and ready for the home.

Withers explained how the group formed. He said they met regularly, and one day they discussed a way they might be able to promote their art. The idea for an art co-op that began as words evolved into an actual project.

They had thought they might be able to rent a summer storefront in Bar Harbor, but the $20,000 rent scared them off.

So they decided to begin at a smaller level. In addition to annual shows, they eventually plan to market their works nationwide.

Frey said she wanted to be a part of the group because she believed it would help get her the necessary exposure for her work. “We have our own business, but I wanted to get involved to have a wider audience,” she said. She rejected the word ‘craft,’ which conjures up images of painted mugs, and crocheted handiwork. “We are artisans, trying to come out. …We do a lot of ‘fine work,’ ” she said playing on the group’s name.

Withers said there was only so much in the way of sales that a single artisan can do. The group also said they wanted to remain in Washington County and they hoped that the Artisan Co-op would allow them to do that. They plan to develop a catalog of their work and sell over the Internet.

For more information about the group or the show, call Sepik at 427-6070 or Withers at 454-7210.