Monday, March 7, 2011

down the bay mitten tour

Last Friday was a gloriously frosty day to head down the bay for more Ice Harbor Mitten visits. I was feeling so hearty I even stayed on the upper deck of the Island Romance, my favorite little Casco Bay Lines vessel. The car ferry's out of service for most of March, and commuters are happy to huddle in the lee.

For those who can't do without a car, here's your alternative: the Lionel Plante barge.

I no sooner arrived in Portland and then headed back out on the Aucocisco with author Robin Hansen and the gracious Patty Temple, Long Island's children's librarian, and Christine McDuffie, who escorted us to our next destination. Talk circled around knitting and lambing season. Here's what Christine's working on, a pair of Middle Eastern socks with wool from a fondly remembered sheep, Patrick.

We arrived at the Long Island community center, which also houses the library, a gallery, and the school, with two classes of students. One is K - 2, the other 3, 4 and 5. Look, they post the titles they've read on a mitten board!

Unfortunately, I couldn't get my slide presentation to connect, about the making of art for Ice Harbor Mittens. We told our story anyway, and Robin guided a couple of kids in an orienteering activity. Compasses do come in handy.

I met some students later, when they tried some pastels. Here's Abigail Dunnigan and Kiera Horr drawing their own mitten patterns.

Abigail's brother, Jake, shared his sketchbook with me. He knows his boats! Here he is with Caleb Hansen, no relation to Robin, the author.

I love coming across a young artist who draws from observation. Documenting and observation skills are useful in many fields other than art. Keep up the good eye, Jake!

Speaking of boats, we had to hustle off to catch the mail boat going to our next destination, and were in the good hands of Penny Murley. Small world: her son is friends with the father of my model for Josie. Follow?

It sunk in that Ice Harbor Mittens is about these people, in coastal places relying on boats, at the mercy of weather, hanging in together. One boy asked if the book is "real" and in many ways it is. But, it's a fiction drawn from an observed slice of icy life in Maine.

Next stop, Chebeague Island Hall, where children's librarian Sheila Putnam made us feel right at home.

This time, my presentation connected, thanks to Deb Bowman. These book gigs are a continuing education, for sure. We had a bit of time to browse the bright library.

  There was a fun display about mittens. Someone found evidence of compass mittens from way back.

More Small World facts: Mimi, who found this photo, let me know she is the mother of David Tyler, a writer who came to my house last January to interview me for a piece in the 2010 Island Journal about Peaks Island children's book illustrators. I'm telling you, the connections are quite the ball of yarn.

I brought this unframed original to show what kind of materials I use, such as very rough pastel paper.

One of the boys drawing at the table said he gets to band lobsters like this on his dad's boat. This is Isabelle, who did a lovely pastel of a boat. Yup, this is my kinda crowd!

Meanwhile, Robin was in her element, talking mittens with the Chebeague Island Ladies Auxiliary, many of whom could be Aunt Agnes in the story, the elder knitter who weaves in good faith with every mitten. The young lady in yellow, below, is Lydia, who comes from a long line of knitters, including her mom, Misa.

We had time for a little tour of Chebeague. Heard a story about this wreck. Not all tales have a happy ending.

We made it just in time for our water taxi back to the mainland.

The captain's puppy, Whiskey, made sure we were duly welcomed aboard and well-licked.

It was a choppy ride through Hussey Sound, but well-worth the time saved. We beat the ferry back to Portland by at least a couple of hours. Gave me time to check out the MECA senior illustration show at Art House.

Something about the bright lights brings out the happy shadows in this work by Cyndi Norrie.

Who doesn't love a comic touch? Joe has it with this polar bear, balancing like a circus act on the last piece of ice. This totally relates to my current book project about climate change, another Small World detail.

After this, I ventured home to Peaks on my fifth boat ride of the day, a record.

I was back for more action the next day, at Knit Wits, in Portland. Robin did a knitting workshop and I
stopped in to sign books with her.

There was some serious yarn talk, which I can't translate.

Seven of the original pastels from Ice Harbor Mittens will be on display (and some for sale) for the next couple of weeks.

Here's Robin, signing books. It's her lot to be paired with a compulsive documentarist such as myself!

And it's my good lot to have been paired with her, plus her devotion to folklore, coastal Maine stories, and the communities from which a good yarn has sprung.

Thanks to Robin, DownEast, Long Island, Chebeague Island, and Knit Wit Yarn Shop!

1 comment:

craftivore said...

Hi Jamie, I met you at Chebeague and the girl in the yellow shirt is my daughter, you're welcome to use her photo. I loved hearing about your process and the all the crafts that you prepared for the kids, it was truly a special day, thank you. I have been meaning to do a blog post about the book but haven't had a chance. I knit a pair of the same socks that Christine is working on.

-Misa Erder