Blog Archives

Toast the New Year

With a Westport Island styled glass of bubbly

wooden glass of bubbly champagneHappy New Year! It’s time to pop the cork on a bottle of champagne and toast family, friends and neighbors that make our world a better place.

A holiday, a season, a celebratory occasion or a unique piece of Maine or Americana is marked on Westport Island by a mailbox finial at the home of Ken Shepherd and Cheryl Anderson. Today, as we celebrate the dawn of a new year, our creative Anderson-Shepherd partnership is marking the day with a glass of bubbly.

Ken Shepherd and Cheryl AndersonKen — an electrical engineer by profession and a highly skilled wood turner by passion — designs and crafts the novelty wood mailbox finials, and Cheryl — a multi-talented craftsperson — paints them. Their creations include: the Boon Island Lighthouse, Mickey Mouse; a train, a plane and a motorboat; a Valentine; a football; Uncle Sam’s, a Puritan’s, a witch’s and a leprechaun’s hat; an American flag; a Thanksgiving Day turkey; Santa Claus; a snowman; an angel; a Christmas tree… the list of fun novelties goes on and on… and always turns heads when passing through the 200 block of the Main Road.

Ken’s father was also a wood crafter, and his grandfather was a watchmaker – a skill he has also mastered. His creative engine never stops; he is always thinking of new ways to create with wood, and is always taken with the challenge of wood varieties and aberrations. Ken is a member of the American Association of Woodturners; a member and former president of the Maine Woodturners; a woodturning teacher and a 21-year volunteer at the Maine Maritime Museum where he also uses his wood crafting talents to enhance displays.

A visit to the Anderson-Shepherd house is like going back in time to Santa’s workshop when everything was made of wood and handcrafted with love – Christmas tree decorations, vases, housewares, goblets, candleholders, fire bellows, and more…

Thank you Ken and Cheryl for sharing your talents and giving us a Westport Island icon that makes me smile.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Squire Tarbox Inn Reawakens

A new season in the Inn’s life has begun

Inn view from the barnRenovations were completed last year, and the historic Squire Tarbox Inn has begun its newest island life. Tyler, the innkeeper is in residence, the rooms and dining spaces are ready and welcoming, weddings are booked, and a schedule of special events is underway. Today’s Inn is a blend of bed & breakfast; special event site; and venue for community workshops and exhibitions.

To get a flavor of the workshops offered by the Inn, here’s a peek at participants’ fare at this season’s first workshop in June — “Foraged Floral Workshop” with Floral Designer John Sundling of Plant Office in Portland.

John Sundling began his professional life as a set designer and became an accidental floral designer when he moved to Maine. An artist by training, he had worked as a set designer in Chicago, New York and Maine; but discovered his new artistic passion while working in a floral shop in Maine. Now, he John Sundling leads workshopis a floral artist who operates the “Plant Office”, a floral shop offering services that range from blending flowers and art to create “full service florals” for weddings, special events, and theatrical set design — to providing tailored fresh floral decorations for businesses and restaurants or floral design workshops — to creating full-scale floral art installations.

Sundling came to Westport Island to provide a workshop for 14 participants in creating floral arrangements from the trees, shrubs, grasses and flowers around us — with a dash of farm raised flowers for color, because the local variety were not yet in summer prime. His philosophy: nature is beautiful. Be fluid, think balance — it doesn’t have to be perfect, it can look a little weird, because “nature is both beautiful and weird”…

Participants toured the inn, foraged the grounds for raw materials, had fun and were all successful under the tutelage of Sundling in creating beautiful floral arrangements.

Note: The following opening event has been postponed to a date yet to be announced; but the art exhibit will still be open from 12 pm to 6 pm through the month of August. …The Inn’s next event will be a solo exhibit showcasing the artwork of Brien Kliewer on Friday, August 2, from 4 pm to 6 pm. For more information and to view a sampling of his work, see “Brian Kliewer Solo Art Exhibit.” The event is free, open to the public — and a great opportunity to check out the beautiful Squire Tarbox Inn.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Highlighting Westport Island Crafts and Goods

Taking note of local talent

Crossroads CoffeeIf you missed the Westport Island Crafts Show on September 16, just a quick pitch to support our artisanal resources. There were 13 booths this year — seven of which showcased Island talent. Our “home-grown” crafters and artisans were: Ann Cole-Fairfield, Instant Comfort; Pam Shockley, PS Designs; Jill Cooney, Island Crafts; Sandy Besecker, A Little of This and a Little of That; Jeff Foss, Jeff’s Crafts; Steve Arsenault, Crossroads Coffee; and Libby Fairfield, Effing Illustrations. Refreshments were provided by Westport Island Chief Cook and Bottlewasher, Nita Greenleaf.

Instant Comfort specializes in hot/cold comfort packs designed to relieve stress or pain and cool neck ties to keep the exertion of running,
happy craftershiking and biking more comfortable. PS Designs provides fashions, pet toys and children’s cuddle toys in soft fleece. Island Crafts creates quality home decor and collectibles to seasonably decorate your home. A Little of This and a Little of That specializes in quilted items, including totes, gift bags and purses. Jeff’s Crafts repurposes vintage vinyl record centers for distinctive coasters. Crossroads Coffee roasts artisanal coffee blends on Main Road, Westport Island for coffee connoisseurs. And Effing Illustrations‘ Libby Fairfield pens and paints natural science illustrations and still life prints and cards.

Many of Westport Island’s crafters and artisans will be at the 2nd Annual Brunswick Arts & Crafts Show at Coastal Performance Center, 14 Thomas Point Rd. (Cook’s Corner) in Brunswick on October 21 and 22; and at the 24th Annual Made In Maine Christmas Craft Show at Mt. Ararat High School in Topsham on November 18 and 19.

For those who want to support local crafts and businesses “on island”, stay tuned for the continued development of the town website which is planning a directory of your neighbors’ goods and services. And, on September 15, 2018, Westport Island Artisans Guild will celebrate 20 years — plan to be a part of the celebration.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Westport Community Association’s 60th Anniversary Celebration


On Sunday, August 16, the Town Hall was dressed for a party — with quilts papering the walls, and arts and crafts decorating the walking space. People were admiring, smiling and saying hello. The Community Church was alive with music. It was a fitting way to pay respects to the the role the Community Association has played through the years in defining the word “community” for our town.

Here’s a peek at the celebration honoring a community institution that has “roots in the rock”…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Super Bowl Trophy Heads Back to New England

…The Westport Island football has optimistically been waiting

wood crafted football mailbox finialCheryl Anderson has said her husband, Ken Shepherd, sometimes wakes up in the night and heads to his CAD program to bring his wood crafting ideas to life. The latest addition to the Shepherd mailbox finial collection, however, was Cheryl’s idea. In anticipation of the Super Bowl, she suggested a football — which her talented master woodturner husband made happen.

Ken is the craftsman who designs and crafts the objects which adorn the family’s mailbox; and Cheryl is the finish painter. Together, they bring us mailbox toppers with tidings of the seasons. Thank you neighbors. Go Pats!
DSCN1542 (800x599)

Westport Island: A Christmas Frame of Mind

December and the Christmas season are underway. Think local – it’s a low-stress option – creative gift ideas are a neighbor away — save a couple of fill ups, and forget the parking mambo.

Westport Community Church at night with Christmas wreathesTo celebrate and say hi to neighbors, the Community Association’s annual Christmas Sing is 7 p.m. Sunday, December 9, at the Westport Community Church. A meet and greet will follow at the Old Town Hall. Bring a donation for the Island’s Food Pantry – organizers are hoping to fill the Pantry for holiday needs.

Now to shopping local…Maybe decorate your house or gift a Christmas keepsake from Jill Cooney’s Island Crafts. Know someone who likes poetry? Hit the internet for a second-hand copy of Jerry Day Mason’s Speaking to Strangers – my coolest book find of the year. Know a writer. Think about a journal from Joelle Webber’s Mermaid Bindery.

Woodcrafts? Bruce & Suzi Whittemore (Studio 78) craft wood coasters, bottle stoppers, and kitchen ware. The bottle stoppers are available at Treats in Wiscasset. And…no one turns wood finer than our own Ken Shepherd, president of Maine Woodturners, where some of his work is showcased.

For foodies who like locally grown fresh greens, how about a couple of windowsill micro-pots of microgreens from Judy Hughes’ MicroMainea? Better yet, put the microgreens in a whimsical pot thrown by Nancy Shaul, Westport Pottery. And, for our friends from away, lobster and fresh seafood are always a hit from the North End Lobster Co-op or Cromwell’s Crustaceans — call Mike, 380-5885, for on-Island delivery. Need help with holiday desserts? Call Daphne’s Cakes and Pies, 882-6652.

If the people in your life are stressed, how about a heated neck wrap to tenderize tense muscles from Ann Cole-Fairfield’s Instant Comfort. Or, take stress relief to the next level with a gift certificate for a massage to Sarah Rhinelander’s Kingfisher Healing Arts.

Other options: A scarf or shawl from PS Designs; some notecards from Ann Springhorn; or gift certificates — for dinner at the Squire Tarbox…piano lessons with Carol Blake…or maybe pet sitting from your friend or loved one’s favorite pet sitter…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Happy Thanksgiving!

A Westport Island Moment of zen…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Sea Pottery: McCarty Cove “Treasure”

Island “treasures”

While walking the tidal flats of McCarty Cove this past winter with trusty beagle Chloe,I landed on “unburied treasure”. On several occasions, I found old pottery shards alongside low-tide stones and shells. A mystery from the past — could they have come from the nearby ship’s chandlery; better yet, might the shards have come from a shipwreck?…or might the terracotta pieces be remnants from Wiscasset Brick and Pottery, which operated on Birch Point Road in the 1800’s?

Stymied in my own research, I contacted Laurie LaBar, Chief Curator, History and Decorative Arts, Maine State Museum; and this is what she said:

What a fun collection of ‘sea pottery’ you have found. There’s quite a variety of pieces. Because the whole coastal plain has nice deep pockets of iron-rich clay, there were redware makers in pretty much every other town, starting in the early 1800s. Unfortunately, there’s no real way to know whether Wiscasset Brick and Pottery made the terra cotta pieces, unless one had a few intact specimens for comparison, but that’s a strong possibility!

The (redware) industry had pretty well died out (in the late 1800’s ) in favor of more durable stoneware (your 2-gal crock); and later in the century, ironstone (your white shard). If I just had the terra cotta, I’d suggest a mid-1800s date. However, the transfer-printed pieces, together with the stoneware and ironstone, suggest a late-1800s date. Add in that there was a local redware manufactory nearby at that time, and that’s probably your time period.

England produced millions of tons of transfer-printed ceramics for local use and for export. Stoke-on-Trent in North Staffordshire was the center of this industry, as it was until the mid 1900s. The pieces you found suggest to me a typical middle-class household of the area, engaging in what in my archaeology days we called “casual Euro-American dumping practices.” Should you excavate the family privy you might find more pieces of the same pots, or at least of the same services.

That said, the pieces may not be related at all if you found them scattered in disparate places. Of course, they’d still speak to the sort of community one found along the water at the turn of the 20th century, even if they came from several families. If the pieces were found within a 15-20 yard area as you suggest, the pieces are probably all from one family. The shards represent the range of everyday ceramics one family might have.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

The Westport Island Quilt: A Piecework Story

Quilt presentation at the Old Town Hall (04/11)

Quilt presentation to the community (04/11)

Stories are told in many ways – ballads, books, ballets…blogs. Westport stories have been told in song, poetry, and prose: on canvas and through the lens. The most recent notable story of the Island took the form of a community quilt completed last year.

Eighteen women: twenty pieces of a story. The artists were women with generational roots on the Island as well as women originally “from away”. All came together and shared their personal pieces of Island inspiration, sewing tips, and mutual encouragement. Although they didn’t start with an overall design, there were no duplicate images crafted. A 19th woman donated muslin to the project. With the deft skills of Jill Cooney and Sandra Besecker, the various pieces were sewn into a whole that provides an inspired narrative of “Island soul”.

The Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum in Colorado had donated fabrics to the Island’s History Committee which were incorporated into traditional blocks on the reverse side of the quilt. The donated fabrics were reproduced from vintage fabrics on an historic Westport quilt in their collection — adding to the new quilt’s historic significance.

Thank you to those women who shared their time, their artistry, and their inspirations for the benefit of neighbors and the generations to come…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

A Westport Top o’ the Morning

St. Patrick's Day GreetingOnce again, Ken Shepherd, master woodturner, offers up some Island spirit of the day.

The Irish — and Scots — had a notable influence on the early settlement and culture of Lincoln County. Cora Tarbox writes of one such influential Westport family in her recently published history, Westport Island Maine 1605-1972: the McCarty family like others of “Scotch/Irish ancestry…enjoyed music and dance. Fishermen were known to enjoy music and a little dancing after a long day or when a full catch had been obtained. The art of playing an instrument had been passed down from one generation to another. A fiddle was the most common instrument used.” A little fiddling and dancing at the old Town Hall might be an apt celebration of St. Patrick’s Day today — with thoughts of spring that the day portends in these parts…

In the 2000 census, about 15% of Island residents identified themselves as Irish.

Note: Cora Tarbox’s history of Westport Island is available for purchase at the Westport Island Town Office Building.