BAR HARBOR – Celebrating its 30 anniversary this year, Island Artisans is a vibrant shop that showcases the works of more than 100 Maine artisans.
The cooperative got its start with a group of just 11 local artists, who found strength in numbers.
The store is currently owned and managed by five of the original artists: Cherie Magnello, Chong Lim, Sue Hill, Abigail Goodyear and Margaret Bundy.
The galleries are cornucopias of fine work.
There is Carole Beal pottery, handmade and handpainted with images that reflect a birch forest or a silhouette of the mountains and islands of Acadia. Atlantic Art Glass is hand-blown glass made by Linda and Ken Perrin.
There are scarves handwoven in silk and wool blends by Lucy Tracy, bags by Pam LeBlanc, felted work by Jodi Clayton, tapestry bags by Erda, and handwovens by Janice Jones, Laney Lloyd, and Elsa Fletcher.
Chong and Judy Lim of Island Designs in Bar Harbor focus on embossed and handmade paper. Cheri Magnello, who markets her work under the name cherbijoux, offers contemporary jewelry designs in precious metals and gems. Sue Hill makes handspun and hand-dyed yarns. Richard Hill fabricates clocks from copper and enamel. Beth Herrick makes handpainted porcelain, and Anne Wheeler makes natural wood boxes and wall art.
Garlic baskets are crocheted out of colorful raffia by Libby Mitchell. Kathie Krause, of Monhegan Island, makes wire and shell wreaths from periwinkles and other natural materials gathered on Monhegan Island.
Gerald Neptune Jacobs, of Morrill, weaves baskets from hand-pounded and split brown ash, incorporating birch bark strips and pine cones scales. There are lobster trap floating rope baskets, wall sconces, handblown glass, wooden serving and mixing spoons, good-luck Japanese dolls, woven copper tapestries, and other works by jewelers, weavers, potters, basket-makers, printmakers, sculptors, and more.
Abigail Goodyear and Cherie Magnello are two of the founding members of Island Artisans.
“It originated as the Island Artisans Cooperative, in the mid-1970s,” said Magnello.
The cooperative started out in the Gull Building, in a space that became too small for the group’s needs. In 1982, the founding members incorporated and bought half of a storefront building on Main Street, a great spot for catching tourist traffic.
“It gave us a lot more presence than an individual artist can have, a lot more impact,” Magnello said of the cooperative. “The kind of work that we’ve always tried to display in here has, over the years, built a pretty big reputation for this store. I think that was part of the impetus then – to have a collection of really good-quality art.”
Over the years, said Goodyear, the membership has grown to include not only local artists but those from throughout Maine. The cooperative has made a point of welcoming emerging artists, she said. And 12 years ago, the cooperative opened a branch gallery in Northeast Harbor.
In the 1970s, said Magnello, the Bar Harbor arts scene was vibrant among the people participating in it and living in the area.
“But it hadn’t been hugely visible,” she said. “Bar Harbor was still relatively sleepy. There was stuff going on, but it changed radically in 10 years. It was really the 1980s when it started to hit its stride. So there was some comfort in numbers, in having this to do with other artists.”