Maine Attraction

wharf ex2The first time I ever visited the northeast part of the United States was in 1985. I was accompanying Lou for his 35th reunion at Phillips Exeter Academy in New Hampshire and I fell in love with the area’s natural beauty and temperate climate. I decided right then and there that if I were to spend any time away from “my old Kentucky home,” this would be where it would be. Little did I know that four years later we would find a spot on Penobscot Bay in Maine to do just that. It was the beginning of my second venture into collecting miniatures after a 13-year hiatus and, unbelievably, there were two miniature shops within a ten-mile radius. They were filled with some of the most wonderfully hand-crafted miniature items I had ever seen and my imagination was on fire!

_DSC7025One of the shops was owned by an extremely talented miniaturist named Ginger Graham. I had never seen everyday items like brooms, mops, and other kitchen utensils look so true to life. She had a natural feel for perfect 1:12-scale proportions and fabricated her own materials with which to make items, not relying on manufactured products. The way she could drape curtains to create just the right ambiance was in itself so impressive that I just knew I needed to hang out with this woman. I wanted to learn from her. I wanted to create with her. And that is exactly what we did that summer.

Ginger was well known for reproducing miniatures symbolic of Maine and as I browsed through her studio, I noticed miniature chunks of “rock” that looked exactly like the life-size blocks used along the bay to form the breakwaters. They were my inspiration to re-create a scene depicting a working lobsterman’s wharf. I commissioned Ginger to make the interior of the red clad structure on the waterfront which would include an office, living quarters, and shed, and she agreed to help me create the surrounding dock and base with water, sea life, and other activities that would be taking place in that atmosphere.

waterFor three weeks straight I worked until the wee hours of the morning with Ginger in her extraordinary coffee-fueled creative chaos. She taught me to age flooring, to make cattails, and to form granite out of her secretly mixed wood pulp recipe. She showed me how to use kitty litter for barnacles and how to paint lichen for seaweed. I collected driftwood from the beach to make pilings and paddled epoxy “water” until every single tiny air bubble was eliminated. Before I knew it, I had shingled a roof, built and aged a wooden dock, and added character to granite rocks. It was a work in progress, but the stunning results were already becoming obvious, so we decided to enter it as such in the Camden Miniatures Show.

We had so much fun choosing items for the unfinished piece to give it a vintage wharf-like ambience. Many of the pieces like the food, accessories, and furniture had already been created by Ginger and reflected life on the waterfront. She and Amy Robinson, another Maine artist of All Through the House, made the fabulous lobster traps. Ron Stetkewicz made the marine brass items; the hand-painted baskets were by Al Chandronnait, the sea gulls by Frank Balestrieri, and the outdoor shower was crafted by Frank Balestrieri, to name just a few items included in the exhibit. You could literally spend hours examining all the little bits and pieces. That must have been how the judges felt because we took first place at the show in the WIP category!

_DSC7052While being awarded that honor was, indeed, special, I have to say it was the time spent with Ginger that was my greatest gift that summer. When I look at the structure with its propped-open windows and to-scale holes and impeccably aged imperfections, I am filled with warmth and the knowledge that Ginger will always reside in that piece.

IGMA Guild School is just around the corner and I know many of you will leave there with the same feelings of astonishment and accomplishment that I felt working alongside someone with immense talent and creativity. Cherish their generous gifts and enjoy the beautiful Maine coast. Both are awe-inspiring.Kayesignature

Posted on June 1, 2015 in Collecting Miniatures