by Lisa Millette
If we had lost sight of our sense of community during the digital age, perhaps a silver lining of the COVID-19 pandemic may be that we are once again finding value in these connections. It’s ironic that this is happening during a time of social distancing, and yet the state’s artists and makers are just one example of a community of people stepping up to fulfill important needs during this time.
While none of us were ready for a pandemic, Maine makers have skills at the ready to help pitch in and support those on the frontlines in the struggle against COVID-19. Distilleries are making hand sanitizer, glass artists are making ventilator splitters, and graphic designers and illustrators are helping to get the message out that staying at home is crucial. Other makers are confronting the current shortage of medical-grade face masks.
Flowfold, a company that started on Peaks Island and now operates in the bustle of Westbrook’s manufacturing scene, has suspended the production of their line of bags, packs, wallets and accessories and shifted their efforts to making medical face shields. With equipment, labor skills and processing already in place, they are able to test and produce large quantities quickly and send them to some of Maine’s largest health care providers.
Other Archipelago makers have stepped up to the plate as well. Kurier, a Portland leather-goods business headed by maker Jasmine Clayton, designed and published a pattern for face masks which includes a space for carbon filters, a crucial piece for the safety and security of medical workers. Like many other self-employed businesses along the coast of Maine, Clayton has concerns about keeping her small staff employed and the business afloat. And yet, she is finding the time to make masks and deliver them to a designated drop-off location in her area.
Makers of all kinds of goods are also getting inspired to do their part. Kristy Dennison is a potter with a home-based business, Good Land Pottery, in Montville. She and her family have been working diligently to make face masks and sharing pictures along the way via her business’s Instagram account. Makers are sharing materials, too. Molly Thompson of Pretty Flours, who makes dishtowels, aprons and napkins, has given her seconds to another sewer who is recycling them for face masks.
The ingenuity of Maine’s artists and makers, as well as artists and makers across the country, is encouraging during these uncertain times. History has shown that sometimes the most important artwork comes out of troubled times, arising from the artist’s internal call to process our collective pain.