“Handcrafted Maine: Art, Life, Harvest & Home” might launch another wave of migration from Brooklyn. With its lush photography by Greta Rybus, it’s the kind of coffee table book that makes you want to run off to Maine to weave baskets or make leather goods or at least, bread. (Oh, wait, we already live here.) Shortly after the book arrived in our mailbox we called up the author, Katy Kelleher, for a conversation about how she and Rybus chose the Mainers profiled within. We also learned about that time she successfully begged for an internship at one of the hottest websites around, and discussed her obsessions with the North (beyond Maine even) and ghost stories.

PICKING PROFILES: The book includes profiles of the co-owners of Tinder Hearth bakery in Brooksville, two women who run a sporting camp in northernmost Maine, and the family that owns Tide Mill Creamery in Edmunds. There are 22 in all, culled from an extensive list by Kelleher and Rybus. “We had about 250 names at first and we whittled it down.” Geography was a factor; they didn’t want to focus too much on say, Portland. Or have too many people in the same field. “We wanted this book to feel like it really showcased a lot of different sides of Maine.” Narrowing it down wasn’t easy. For instance, “there are so many amazing painters in Maine,” Kelleher said. They decided on Dozier Bell, a Bath native who makes haunting sea and sky-scapes (with lots of birds) in Waldoboro. “That was one of the most incredibly thoughtful conversations I had.” It went beyond brush strokes to “philosophy and Greek auguries and how they used to look up at birds to try to find omens.”

THE NOTEBOOK: Back to the 250 possibilities for a minute; where did they come from? Kelleher started as the online editor at Maine Magazine in 2012 after about a year at Dispatch Magazine (now defunct). One of her favorite tasks was writing the magazine’s monthly “48 Hours” feature, in which she’d soak up a Maine location for two days and try to do and see everything. “I absolutely adored them. That is how I like to travel. I love getting really immersed. It was such an amazing way to get to know Maine.” She had a notebook devoted to “48 Hours” and every time she met someone intriguing, she’d jot down their name. This happened over and over in all manner of spots, not just galleries. “I collected this huge notebook of names.”

ON THE MOVE: It stayed with her when she moved onto the position of managing editor and then when she left the magazine in 2015 to pursue a freelance writing career (she still writes for Maine Magazine). She wanted more time to scout stories, she said. “I realized that my favorite part of writing was talking to people and being in the field. And having that sense of constant curiosity and being on the move. You can’t do that when you are editing a magazine.” One of the writers she’d worked with regularly at the magazine, Jaed Coffin (author of “A Chant to Soothe Wild Elephants,” had heard that editor Jan Cigliano Hartman was looking for a team to produce a book about Maine makers. He connected them, and she and Rybus, whose work is also seen regularly in Maine Magazine and who wrote about and photographed many Maine makers in a blog for the Portland Press Herald called “Who I Met.”

SEA SICK: Once the duo had picked their subjects, they paid visits to them, usually more than once, sometimes out of necessity. They wanted to photograph and observe lobstermen in winter, so they headed out with a crew from Stonington in the dead of winter. “We wanted to show that the lobstermen are so tough that they are out there in January. That Maine is not just summer.” But 10 miles offshore in huge winter waves? “I was incredibly sick. And we were pitching so wildly that Greta couldn’t focus her camera.” They had to return in milder weather. The lobstermen only teased Kelleher a little about being sick. But that was OK. “I would rather be teased than pitied.”

ADOPTED STATE: Kelleher, 30, got her start in journalism when she was at Bard College. She’d started reading the website Jezebel and became a fan of its feminist slant and strong writers (founder Anna Holmes is now a regular columnist for the New York Times Sunday Book Review). “I read it every day.” She’d been taking courses in gender studies, including during a study abroad program in Budapest. “I decided I am just going to write to them and tell them that I am obsessed with your website and please let me be your intern.” She did and they said yes. She did a year of interning and then picked up some weekend editing jobs. “I wrote tons of blog posts, 15 things a day.” She ended up in Maine on something of a whim; she and her husband were living in Cambridge and shopping for a more permanent home. The other Portland was a contender, as was Denver. When she landed a job editing Dispatch in this Portland, their decision was made for them.

TIME AND MONEY: The book was edited by Hartman and published by Princeton Architectural Press, with funding by the Robert P. and Arlene R. Kogod Family Foundation, for which Kelleher and Rybus were grateful. “That was huge, because neither of us are independently wealthy.” The two women already had some experience working together, and they had a lot in common. Both grew up doing a lot of things outdoors – camping, canoeing, fishing, waterskiing – Rybus in Idaho, Kelleher in New Mexico and in the summers, in the Adirondacks. They also share a love of northern climes, and this winter traveled together to an artist’s colony in Norway, above the Arctic Circle. Rybus had been there before and suggested it to Kelleher. “She knows that I am obsessed with the North.” And Kelleher had a collection of ghost stories she’s been working on; the time she spent time talking to Norwegians about their mythologies should feed into that nicely.

GETTING BY: They also share a love of “back-to-the-land culture and the makers revolution.” Is it a revolution? “That is one way to put it. It is definitely a movement. There is something happening there.” Part of the point of the book is to show how Maine craftspeople, chefs, builders and artists get by, both in a tough climate and a tough economy. Kelleher could relate. “I work so much. I work every single day.” Right now that includes writing about food and sustainability for the new Boston-based magazine “To Market,” as well as freelance editing for Islandport Press. She also takes teaching jobs, including at Portland’s Telling Room and Maine Inside Out, which introduced her to teaching poetry to the young people at the Long Creek Youth Development Center earlier this month. “It was one of the best things that I have done with my life.” As for “Handcrafted Maine?” When she held it in her hands for the first time, “I immediately started crying. I couldn’t help it. It has been so long in the making.”

Mary Pols can be contacted at 791-6456 or at:

[email protected]

Twitter: MaryPols

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